Femme Flagging II: The Glitter Strikes Back

So a little while ago, I did a post on the difficulties of being recognised as a femme. One of the difficulties with identifying with femme is that you have to come out over and over again because people assume that you are doing the heteronormative thang. As blogger Megan Evans points out, “we mainly slip under the radars of both gay and straight people”. Visibility matters. Though I have to say, Evans’ online campaign for femme visibility is kind of dispiriting since it is only for “those who define solely as lesbian” (where’d I put that pack of gold stars…). But homo-normative femme campaigns aside, how do you let the world know that you’re a [queer/gay/pansexual/lesbian/straight/kinky/bisexual/insert-identifier-here] femme?

Having a go at some femme flagging of my own

Nail polish. I feel naked without it. So you can imagine my JOY when I read this post about femme flagging using the stuff, on the Queer Fat Femme blog. The whole “flagging” thing is meant to be a sexual code that lets your prospective partners know what you are into, and was traditionally practiced with strategically coloured hankies in your back pocket (e.g. fuchsia worn on the left means you’re more of a spanker than a spankee). There’s a pretty elaborate guide to the whole hanky code available here.

But aside from pronouncing your sexual proclivities, it seems that the new femme code of painting one fingernail differently to the rest is more about signaling general femme-ness than anything else. Apparently it all started in March this year, when someone on Tumblr suggested the idea after posting this picture and suggesting that fingernails were the perfect femme version of the hanky code (it’s like Starbucks invented femme flagging…is this just an elaborate marketing campaign?). I have to admit that I got pretty carried away when I first heard about it, as did several femme groups I’m part of online. There was a sense of finally, we can recognise each other! in the air. Though of course we can assume that not all femmes like wearing nail polish, it seemed like a pretty fabulous idea.

SDB sporting some femme fingernails and looking overall pretty femme fabulous. SDB if you’re listening, I think you’re an accidental femme icon

But then, things got tricky. Someone in our local femme group noticed that a contestant Sarah De Bono on the Australian reality singing show The Voice, had been sporting the look. I immediately got on to Twitter to try and contact her, to see if she had done this intentionally. I said I would “vote” for her if I got an answer. An obsessed fan wrote back – nup, SDB is not a flagging femme, she’s just being trendy. This was a double-blow. Not only had SDB appropriated this newly found queer indicator, but I also had to stick to my word and vote for her.

Springsteen: Fist receiver?

Back to the drawing board I thought  *sigh*… BUT THEN I remembered that good old Bruce Springsteen album, the one where he accidentally flagged the hanky code for fisting! I also reflected on the fact that a lot of the time mainstream culture absorbs awesome stuff from the queer community, because it is awesome (e.g. who doesn’t like rainbows?!). And despite Born in The USA, flagging persisted. So why not finger nails too? I’ve decided: I’m going to persist with the nail polish thing. Though I’ll be aware that not all femmes are going to paint their sexuality on their hands and not every person I see with trendy nails is a femmster. Hanky code or no hanky code, I am going to keep hoisting the femme flag, loud, and glittery proud.

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5 thoughts on “Femme Flagging II: The Glitter Strikes Back

  1. As someone who is passionate about gender topics, gender identity, and gender expression I was aware of these subculture cues with the hankie. I didn’t know about the nail polish and found it really interesting. I am more chapstick than femme but appreciated your blog post. My father is a jeweler and told me that the ankle you wear your ankle bracelet on is also a signifier of gay or straight. It is left ankle for gay and right ankle for straight. Another jewelry signifier is guys who get their ear pierced, I believe it is the same side as the ankle to identify sexual preference but I am not positive.

  2. Bruce did not, inadvertently or otherwise, signal being a fist bottom. The hanky code uses hankies (or bandanas), not baseball-style caps, hence the name.

    I know a hetero fella who habitually carries a hankie and keeps it in his back pocket for convenience. One of his coworkers and I wondered whether he knew what he was saying to our town’s not-insignificant queer population, but figured we’d leave it, since he always had it in his left pocket; the worst to happen would be a disappointed bottom/sub not getting fisted/pierced/anally penetrated/etc…

  3. I don’t belie Sarah De Bono appropriated it. Accent nails have been a thing for a while now (WAY before march) among those who enjoy nail polish trends.
    It is unreasonable to make claims of appropriation when the trend was actually appropriated (from fashion to being an LGBTQQ thing) in the first place.
    I think this method of femme flagging, while cute and adorable, may result in quite a few awkward conversations with straight women.

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