This morning, I saw something pop up on my Facebook feed that confused me a little, and the more I thought about it, the more it began to annoy me. Apparently men are posting photos of themselves on social media wearing nail varnish and using the hashtag #malepolish. Silly, right?
Why is masculinity, or should I say the concept of masculinity, so fragile that to make something as innocuous and pedestrian as nail varnish socially acceptable for men,they need their own rebrand? Nail varnish has no gender. Let’s not even get into the fact that gender is a social construct, but also that something that is an inanimate object, a manufactured product, is not innately associated with any gender. So why the sudden trend for rebranding things like hairstyles, nail varnish, makeup and certain fashion styles just to pander to gender stereotypes? Who hasn’t heard of the “man bun” and “guy liner”? It got me thinking, why do we as a society find it so important to relabel products and styles to market to men? Would it not be more productive to remove the gender labels altogether to teach acceptance to everyone for whatever style they choose to adopt?
An object, even by any stretch of the imagination, is not a gendered “thing” If we’re talking linguistics and gendered nouns, the French word for nail varnish is “le vernis à ongles”, which is a masculine noun. In German it’s “der nagellack”, which is also masculine. In Danish? “Neglelak” is neuter. These linguistic assignations are not indications of whether a product is suitable for only women or only men, they are a grammatical tool. So why is it in English, a language WITHOUT gendered nouns, we feel the need to assign a masculine or a feminine pre-emptor to THINGS?
Women and men have eyes, they can wear eyeliner. It’s not applied to your genitals, or it would be called vagina-liner or dick-liner. We all have nails. We can all polish them, just as we can all wear our hair in buns if we have long enough hair to do it. It’s just as silly and pointless as marketing “pens for women” or gendering toys for children. This sort of unnecessary stereotyping is harmful and unhealthy, and we need to stop doing it.