I remember when false nails and nail art first came in, pretty much. At the end of the 90s I used to have acrylic nails with airbrush art on. I liked them, they were decorative and lots of fun to look at. I had a magnificent 'Vegas' set once with artwork of dice, playing cards, cocktail glasses etc on them.
But they were a bit, well, disabling. You can't pick your nose very easily, and it's harder to wipe when you've been to the loo. Picking up small things like coins or pins or earring backs is difficult, so is typing and texting. And once you've got the things, you have to commit to regular upkeep or they get uncomfortable. It's not like they are a blatantly sexual thing (and yes, they can make some sexual acts a bit more complicated as well) but does anyone else feel just a tiny bit uncomfortable about the vast number of nail bars around now, given that artificial nails do actually make your life a bit more difficult?
Agree. I had long, false nails when I was very young and stupid but very quickly realized how disabling they were. I don't understand why nail art is so popular now, but I have seen it advertised as an affordable way to be feminine, groomed and artistic. It's cheaper than buying a new handbag...but the cost is also that you can't use your hands in a normal way.
And isn't ironic that young women are encouraged to be artistic via nail art, but actual artists has to actually use their hands to create artworks. False nails gets in the way for that.
My mum insists on having very long acrylic nails and pays a fortune for the privilege of being virtually disabled because of them
The also look bloody horrible
It is a bit odd that there are now a dozen nail art bars on every high street when ten years ago it was quite a rare thing to do. I am quite prepared to hear (because I genuinely don't know) that modern techniques mean that actually you can use your hands just fine with decorated nails, same as having a tattoo or dying your hair is visually fun but doesn't affect your life.
Because decorated nails ie painting your own nails funny colours or in stripes and sticking little bits of glitter on them is fun, self-expressive etc and no one ever got hurt or frustratd because they chipped their nail varnish - but false nails, gel/acrylic etc can really hurt if you bent them back.
I can't understand how people live day-to-day with long acrylic nails. I need to type, use my smartphone etc. - not exactly burdensome physical work but if my nails get slightly too long it is really hard! I just chop them off and file them into shape when they get to this point. I still like to have my nails painted though, but I do it myself rather than go to a nail bar.
I do like (sometimes) nail varnish just in terms of it being a fun, decorative thing to do, same as choosing to wear something that's a bright colour or has an interesting pattern - and my DS likes to have his nails painted sometimes as well.
WhenTheRed: hair extensions? I don't know very much about them; I used to have a handful of clip-on ones that I wore to parties, but are they painful/disabling/a nuisance as well?
Heels, nail vanish and impractical clothes all been seen as essential for a professional woman, While DH just chucks on a clean shirt makes me
So not only does a WOHM have to find time to juggle housework, childcare and work. She also has to find the time and money to attend to pointless grooming and clothes buying.
Oh and change nappies, cook, wash-up, bath babies etc without damaging said nails and find time to shave her legs and go to the hair dresses.
Something has gone wrong with feminism since I was a teen.
I can't comment on nails because I have always been a hopless nail biter but this statement
Something has gone wrong with feminism since I was a teen.
really resonates with me. Despite some things going wrong for women since I was a teen, on the whole, freedom to work and choose when/if to have children, as well as access to higher earning careers has vastly improved (not saying it is perfect now, but it has improved considerably). So you would think, as more women take on "serious" roles outside the home, their less "serious" side (ie their appearances) would become less important. But grooming and appearance is the thing that has actually got worse and more restrictive for women. I don't understand it.
It's a human thing (even some animals seem to have some interest in it) to want to decorate ourselves and our territory as well. In terms of stuff that hurts when it's being done or costs a lot, men do some of that too, and it's not a bad thing to want to mark or decorate or express yourself.... it's just that so much of the stuff that is culturally appropriate for women to do always seems to be not just time-consuming and money-consuming but actually physically inhibiting...
I want to think it's just a fad, kinda thing. Young women and men are much more demanding of themselves (generically) in terms of honed, toned and polished detail.
I do like that women can go to work without makeup or heels, and still be respected (or disrespected, not based on their cosmetics.) This is a big improvement over my career-carving epoch. I don't think women are as constrained by rigid presentation requirements as they were in my day; I'm hoping the pointy nails, scratchy extensions, orange tan, etc, etc, are optional.
I totally get this, it's ridiculous. And there are so many examples. There was one anecdote (no idea where I read it) about a woman on stage receiving her PhD. As she was walking back down the stairs off the stage, she had to be helped down due to her wobbly high heels. At this immensely important point in her life, a sign of her intelligence and achievement, her heels reduced her to a toddler-like state in which she had to be helped to walk. Yet heels are seen as essential for a woman in so many professional settings in order to be "smart", whilst men can wear flat shoes, no nail extensions, trousers...
You don't have to have long false nails though.
I can't afford them at the moment but if / when I'm back in work I will be having shellac nails.
They don't damage the nail underneath and they start out shorter than my natural short nails.
Isn't this all a bit culturally specific? Long fingernails in men are an old tradition in Eastern/Asian cultures. It is also apparently all the rage amongst young Chinese men - something to do with a sign of prosperity, as it indicates that you aren't a manual or agricultural worker.
I have a teenage daughter who thinks these fancy nails are pretty, so she gets hers done. I have a wife who thinks they are a pain, so she doesn't. If men in my office started getting theirs done, I wouldn't, because I am free to choose. What exactly is the issue here?
rosabud that's it exactly.
I have two DDs and they seem to be under far more pressure from society to conform to a perfect vision of womanhood than we were.
Smart, clean, minimal make up and sensible shoes is what my DSIS has worn to the office for the last 25 years.
Now (at least if you are young) you are expected to have short skirt, high heels, perfect nails, perfect make up and Barbie's figure.
In other words corporate dress for women is designed to make you look 'sexy' rather than business like. I think it's a really retrograde step.
It's even percolating down to our sixth form girls, who's idea of 'smart dress' looks like something I'd have gone to a disco in. How on earth it's supposed to make their male peers and university lectures take them seriously as "people" when they look like "fashion magazine adverts" I don't know?
Actually, our six-forms' dresses are shorter and tighter than anything I've ever owned, because I was a teen before Lycra was invented.
I don't know if or how it's relevant but as a police officer I wear the same flat boots & practical (ugly) trousers as the men, to do the same job - and it's stipulated that our hair is tied back, makeup is light, and nails be left short and unpainted. No gender divide in the expectations of work.
There is nothing new about the expectation that women will change their appearance to suit fashion trends in a manner that is never expected of men. It's also not new that changes to women's clothing or to their actual bodies generally mean they are constrained from some activities, or even that their health is compromised.
Girls of the more privileged classes in China had their feet broken and bound to form the desirable "lotus shape" until the early 20th century, which meant they were barely able to walk unaided. Until the same period, European and American women wore tightly laced corsets that restricted their breathing and permanently deformed their internal organs (and those who didn't follow this were often described as "loose" sexually as well as clothing wise.)
Women in the past century have endured toxic beauty treatments, constricting clothing and increasingly, pressure to surgically alter their physical form (or diet to attain an ever-changing ideal shape.) There is a racist as well as misogynist layer to this pressure. Black and brown women were encouraged to use toxic "lightening creams," and use painful often harmful hair straightening chemicals and techniques to achieve something closer to an ideal of "white" beauty.
Nail extensions and high heels, like the bound feet and tight corsets of our great grandmothers, are meant to give the impression that a woman is of high enough status that she doesn't have to do things for herself. She doesn't have to work for a living and has others to tend her daily needs (even if that's not the case - it's important to give that impression of flawlessness.)
Even things that don't necessarily impede movement or activities - like make up and eyebrow shaping - still take up alot of time and cost money. Men are not expected to devote very much of their time to their appearance and less of their disposable income is spent on these things. If anything, men who do spend time and money on grooming may be viewed as "not being very masculine." Products and services are marketed to men to show how they will enhance their masculinity as a way of getting over this.
So yes, this is a means of social and economic control over women and girls. They are socially conditioned to believe their bodies, their appearance are inadequate and only with expensive, time consuming, painful and often permanently damaging interventions can they ever hope to be socially acceptable. The message also encourages women and girls to police the behaviour of other women and girls - condemnation can be severe if you "let the side down."
So the companies make more money from goods and services by keeping women and girls in a constant state of paranoia and wider society also benefits because while they are spending their time and money on beatification and unable to undertake many functions that men can because of the impact of these measures on their lives, they stay "in their place."
Brilliant post KRITIQ
I was going to post that nails are a reforcement of the idea that women's earnings aren't important. They are pin money for frivolity.
You have put my point far more completely.
I assumed people with long nails got used to doing everything with them. I can't get my head around women doing it despite being restricted in what they can do.
Can we add false eyelashes to the list. I see students off to college in them, what a faff sticking those things on every morning.
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