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.

DIY paper your nails with a “Mardi Gras” opinion piece

Take one great story and memorialise it on your fingertips

I recently discovered a great new twist on manicuring – newspaper nails. No doubt this has been around for centuries and I am only just getting on the bandwagon. I decided that if I was going to put print on my nails I might as well make it a little bit political, even if no one else would notice. So here’s how you too can have crazy and mildly subversive nails too:

1. Find a great story or opinion piece in a newspaper that you have lying around and would probably chuck out otherwise. I chose this one.

You could theoretically use any colour of the rainbow for this trick

2. Paint your nails some kind of base colour. I chose white but you could really use any kind of base colour if black ink will be visible on it. Wait till a few coats of the base colour are dry.

3. Dip your first finger in a little bit of alcohol. Apparently people use rubbing alcohol for this, but I found that if you have spare gin lying around, that also works completely well.

I used Tanqueray, but any high proof alcohol will do. I guess.

4. While your finger is still wet with the alcohol, take a small section of your chosen op-ed, etc and place it on top of your nail, rub it down smoothly and hold it in place. The alcohol should bring the ink off the page onto your finger. Oh the miracle of chemistry!

5. Remove the paper after about thirty seconds and the ink should be left on there (albeit backwards). Let this dry and then paint with some clear lacquer.

The finished product. Perfect protest material.

6. And with that you should have the amazing science of fingernail newspaper art complete. While people may or may not be politically moved by the backwards small print newspaper article on your fingertips, at least you’ll know that you have captured something important.

Here’s some nails I prepared earlier —>

I like that my middle finger says “queer mardi gras” backwards. And that’s really all it’s about in the end.