She joins a modern tradition of female politicians transforming insults into slogans.
Since announcing her bid for the position of governor of New York, longtime political activist Cynthia Nixon has conducted her campaign with style and flair. She’s boldly taken on her main rival, establishment Democrat Andrew Cuomo, neatly shut down suggestions that her past in a sexy TV series makes her an unserious candidate, and transformed the description of her as an “unqualified lesbian” into something of a catchphrase.
Now, Nixon’s campaign is selling badges adorned with the already-notorious phrase, used by former New York City Council speaker and one-time mayoral candidate Christine Quinn in an attempt to discredit her. The badges, which cost $5 each (£3.55), can be bought on the Cynthia for NY site and are available for shipping to the UK, although you have to be a US citizen or green card holder to purchase them.
Nixon first repurposed Quinn’s criticism of her at a campaign fundraiser at iconic New York LGBTQ venue the Stonewall Inn. “I just want to say tonight that she was technically right, that I don’t have my certificate from the Department of Lesbian Affairs – though in my defence, there’s a lot of paperwork involved.”
This isn’t the first time a female politician has seized on an insult and transformed it into a selling point (and merch). We saw Hillary Clinton use the same technique when Donald Trump called her a “nasty woman” in a 2016 presidential debate: those two words have since been used to adorn charity T-shirts to raise money for Planned Parenthood, endorsed by Clinton herself.
In the UK, Tory politician Ken Clarke’s description of Prime Minister Theresa May as a “bloody difficult woman” has been roundly adopted by women politicians on the left and the right, and cited as a point of pride by May herself. (Women’s rights charity The Fawcett Society even makes ‘Bloody Difficult Woman’ merchandise.)
In an interview with US Glamour earlier this month, Nixon outlined the areas she would focus on if elected governor of New York: racial and economic injustice, a lack of affordable housing, state education and the public transport system.
She also hit back at the idea that her lack of political experience and TV past meant she wasn’t up for the job.
“We talk a lot about outsiders, but sometimes a little naïveté is exactly what is needed,” she said. “With a jaded system, everybody says, ‘Yeah, well, that’s the way it is.’ You need somebody to come and say, “Why? Why is that the way it is?’”
“Don’t try to tell me that I don’t have a right to stand here and say, ‘I want to be governor, because I think you’re doing a lousy job. Nobody is talking about the things that you’re not doing, so I am going to do it.’”
Main image: Getty Images