If Donald Trump met Elizabeth Bennet he for sure would have called her a #nastywoman. Why? Because she would have openly and confidently spoken her truth to him and about him. She would have her voice with him and dare to openly question and criticize him. And that, to Donald Trump, makes a woman #nasty.
Elizabeth Bennet would not, however, have fallen in love with Donald Trump, because unlike Mr. Darcy, Donald Trump doesn’t know how to give proper respect to a #nastywoman.
In Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice, the main character, Elizabeth Bennet has a voice, a mind of her own and a great many opinions about the world that she shares very generously and openly and when provoked, quite angrily. Elizabeth Bennet allows her self to articulate her feelings and opinions and that is ultimately what allows her to keep her power. With her voice she changes Mr. Darcy and saves her family.
Mr. Darcy is a snob who emits a generally unpleasant character when Elizabeth Bennet first encounters him at a ball in Hertfordshire where she lives with her family.
“He was discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance”(12).
He is not impressed with the quality of the local folk he witnesses and even insults Elizabeth to his good friend Mr. Bingley which Elizabeth has the unpleasant experience of overhearing.
“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.”(14).
Naturally she becomes prejudiced against him at that point and her prejudices are reinforced through subsequent encounters in which he talks down to her and insults her family and friends. Elizabeth Bennet, however, stands up to his behavior and calls him out and as she does, he falls in love with her.
Mr. Darcy wins Elizabeth Bennet’s heart by proving himself worthy of her over and over again. Elizabeth is willing to grow and recognize her own prejudices against Mr. Darcy for his wealth and arrogance. Elizabeth’s own self-reflection around her prejudice about Mr. Darcy allows her to begin to know herself better.
Pride and Prejudice was first published in 1813 and after all this time the character of Elizabeth Bennet yet inspires women to be who they are and speak their truth. They are taught through the example of Elizabeth Bennet that doing so makes them more lovable, rather than unlovable, as culture would have us believe.
Mr. Darcy falls in love with Elizabeth Bennet because of her voice, confidence and power. Not in spite of it. He is worthy of her because he is able to self-reflect and change when confronted by her. Mr. Darcy is transformed in the novel Pride and Prejudice by Elizabeth and her power. He tells her so most willingly. He remains changed whether or not she changes her opinion of him.
Mr. Darcy to Elizabeth Bennet:
“As a child I was taught what was right, but I was not taught to correct my temper. I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit. Unfortunately an only son, (for many years an only child), I was spoiled by my parents, who, though good themselves, (my father particularly, all that was benevolent and amiable,) allowed , encouraged, almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing, to care for none beyond my own family circle, to think meanly of all the rest of the world, to wish at least to think meanly of their sense and worth compared with my own. Such I was, from eight to eight-and-twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What I do not owe you! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you, I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You showed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased”(357).
Mr Darcy is a noble character in that a woman calls him out on his bullshit and he actually listens and changes. As much as this book is a roadmap for women to own their #nasty, it is also a roadmap for men on how to be worthy of women like Elizabeth Bennet.
But, pray . . . “What is a #nastywoman?”
A #Nastywoman Has Her Voice
A #nastywoman articulates her thoughts, opinions and beliefs clearly, efficiently and confidently. That doesn’t mean she is not open for discussion, conversation or even debate. But she is not silent nor is she silenced. One knows when there is a #nastywoman in the room.
Later in the novel, after Mr. Darcy’s initial insult to Elizabeth, he asks her informally to dance a reel. Elizabeth does not answer him immediately.
“He repeated the question with some surprise at her silence.
‘Oh,’ she said, ‘I heard you before; but I could not immediately determine what to say in reply. You wanted me, I know, to say ‘Yes,’ that you might have the pleasure of despising my taste; but I always delight in overthrowing those kinds of schemes, and cheating a person of their premeditated contempt. I have, therefore, made up my mind to tell you, that I do not want to dance a reel at all; and now despise me if you dare.’
‘Indeed I do not dare.’
A #Nastywoman Speaks Truth to Power
It is not only with Mr. Darcy that Elizabeth Bennet has her voice and uses it. Jane Austen makes sure that readers get to witness her being consistent in her behavior throughout.
Upon meeting Lady Catherine we are allowed to see how Elizabeth Bennet does not allow herself to be bullied by her. Hearing that all five of the sisters are out at once (meaning out in society) Lady Catherine exclaims:
“‘All! What, all five out at once? Very odd! And you only the second. The younger ones out before the elder are married? Your younger sisters must be very young?’
‘Yes, my youngest is not sixteen. Perhaps she is full young to be much in company. But really, ma’am, I think it would be very hard upon younger sisters that they should not have their share of society and amusement, because the elder may not have the means or inclination to marry early. The last born has as good a right to the pleasures of youth as the first. And to be kept back on such a motive! I think it would not be very likely to promote sisterly affection or delicacy of mind.’
‘Upon my word,’ said her Ladyship, ‘you give your opinion very decidedly for so young a person. Pray, what is your age?’
‘With three younger sisters grown up,’ replied Elizabeth, smiling, ‘your Ladyship can hardly expect me to own it’”(165).
A #Nastywoman Allows Herself to Feel and Express Her Anger
Then there is Mr. Darcy’s botched attempt at proposing to Elizabeth Bennet in which he repeatedly insults her at the same time as declaring his love for her. Truly Mr. Darcy is most socially challenged, one almost feels bad for him. In a lesser writer’s hands it may seem unbelievable but since in Pride and Prejudice, we are in the hands of a genius of wit and humor, the scene becomes one of our all-time favorites.
Austen gets Mr. Darcy to tell a woman this:
“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you”(188).
Austen then goes on to have Mr. Darcy tell Elizabeth how it is in spite of her family and herself being “below” him. And when Elizabeth calls him out on it, he replies:
“‘Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections? To congratulate myself on the hope of relations whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?’
Elizabeth felt herself growing more angry every moment; yet she tried to the utmost to speak with composure when she said,—
‘You are mistaken Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way than as it spared me the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentleman-like manner.’
And then she lets it rip:
“From the very beginning, from the first moment, I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form that groundwork of disapprobation, on which succeeding events have built so immovable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry”(192).
To let a female character feel anger, to have the writer acknowledge the character’s anger and then allow that character to speak in an angry way, is remarkable, and in the end to have such a character be rewarded for such behavior? We are still not caught up with the feminism of Jane Austen.
A #Nastywoman Does Not Back Down When Someone Calls Her #Nasty Nor Care What Others Think of Her for Being #Nasty
When Lady Catherine shows up at the Bennet homestead because she has heard a rumor that Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth are to be married, Elizabeth Bennet holds her own to Lady Catherine’s abuse.
“‘Though I know it to be a scandalous falsehood, though I would not injure him so much to suppose the truth of it possible, I instantly resolved on setting off for this place, that I might make my sentiments known to you.’
‘If you believed it impossible to be true,’ said Elizabeth, coloring with astonishment and disdain, ‘I wonder you took the trouble of coming so far. What could your ladyship propose by it?’
‘At once to insist upon having such a report universally contradicted.’
. . . ‘and if I am that choice, why may I not accept him?’
‘Because honor, decorum, prudence, nay, interest, forbid it. Yes, Miss Bennet, interest; for do not expect to be noticed by his family or friends, if you willfully act against the inclinations of all. You will be censured, slighted, and despised, by every one connected with him. Your alliance will be a disgrace; your name will never even be mentioned by any of us.’
‘These are heavy misfortunes,’ replied Elizabeth. ‘But the wife of Mr. Darcy must have such extraordinary sources of happiness necessarily attached to her situation, that she could, upon the whole, have no cause to repine.’
‘Obstinate, headstrong girl! I am ashamed of you! Is this your gratitude for my attentions to you last spring? Is nothing done to me on that score?’
. . . ’Neither duty, nor honor, nor gratitude’, replied Elizabeth, ‘has any possible claim on me, in the present instance. . . And with regard to the resentment of his family, or the indignation of the world, if the former were excited by his marrying me, it would not give me one moments concern”(147).
These are some examples of a #nastywoman. A #nastywomenwriter is a #nastywoman who possesses all of these admirable qualities and also dares put them down on paper for herself and her characters to express and for all the world to see.
Jane Austen is a #NastyWomanWriter.
© Theresa C. Dintino 2021
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. (Barnes & Noble Classics. New York. 2003)