Is that just an accent nail, or are you happy to see me?
July 23, 2015 12:40 PM   Subscribe

Most people are familiar with the handkerchief code, which uses different colors of bandannas[NSFW: sexual language] to signal coded messages between queer people. Mostly the province of gay men in the 1970s, today femmes of all gender identities are bringing flagging back in a new movement known as "femme flagging", a way to use style to fight heteronormativity and invisibility in the queer community. While most femmes "finger flag" with nail polish, Queer Fat Femme offers a few more suggestions as well as some conversation starters in the event you see someone else femme flagging.
posted by Juliet Banana (44 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is that just an accent nail, or are you happy to see me?

This is the problem - pretty much nobody is walking around with a hanky in their back pocket unless they're deliberately flagging, but women paint their nails and wear scarves in their hair all the time. So I feel like this is a recipe for awkward blank looks from straight girls.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:48 PM on July 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


I wish there were some universal flagging system for people of all genders and sexualities. I know my social life would be a lot easier if there were a way to signal "gender non-conforming girl wants to peg boys in the butt without D/s overtones"
posted by picklenickle at 12:51 PM on July 23, 2015 [41 favorites]


That's what the internet's for.
posted by jonmc at 12:53 PM on July 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think this is a great idea but I couldn't find (in any of the links) an actual listing of which nail polish colors/fingers mean what.
posted by overglow at 12:54 PM on July 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


overglow - People are still using the old hanky code colors. Click the "different colors of bandannas" link.
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:56 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I know my social life would be a lot easier if there were a way to signal "gender non-conforming girl wants to peg boys in the butt without D/s overtones."
posted by picklenickle at 3:51 PM on July 23 [+] [!]


Is there a name for that particular niche? Because if not, I think "picklenickleing" is pretty evocative.
posted by The Bellman at 1:00 PM on July 23, 2015 [49 favorites]


I would have been all over this back when I identified as a lesbian (high femme), but things (like sexuality) change and I am looking forward to noticing the trend around town.
posted by Sophie1 at 1:04 PM on July 23, 2015


Huh, that's fascinating. I've definitely worn accent nails, but that was from influence on MUA and polish blogs a few years ago instead of signaling. In particular it's a really efficient way to wear some of the more out-there glitters without being overwhelming or having to break out the foil removal method when it's time to change.

I don't do it so often anymore -- I don't agree with Sasha from Bunheads or anything, it's just that like all trends it's died down. Now I'm wondering if that's just as well, since with this information it becomes something that seems appropriative.
posted by rewil at 1:04 PM on July 23, 2015


This is the problem - pretty much nobody is walking around with a hanky in their back pocket unless they're deliberately flagging, but women paint their nails and wear scarves in their hair all the time. So I feel like this is a recipe for awkward blank looks from straight girls.

Yeah, I've seen teenaged Tumblr users wail and gnash their teeth about "appropriation", and it's just like sit down, kiddo, fabulous straight black ladies were doing this shit in the 80s, you get on out of here with your sense of outrage and your sloppily painted stubby nail beds and ragged cuticles. Plus, I'm not down with femme-shaming at all, but we used to make fingernail jokes about "lesbian" porn for a reason, so specifically picking nail art as a sign for femme lesbians is just like, uhhh, are you deliberately trying to play into the ignorant stereotypes about femme sexuality?

Blah blah kids these days, my lawn, etc.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 1:11 PM on July 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


(People always said the handkerchief code was an actual thing, back when I was a kid -- but that was in the Midwest in the 1980s, and you couldn't really be sure. But hearing now that it was real all along is cool to see what was to us an urban legend be confirmed retroactively. </derail>)
posted by wenestvedt at 1:12 PM on July 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


Kids at my junior high school in the 70s used hanky flags. The pocket indicated gay or straight, and IIRC, hanky colors indicated things like whether you were going steady or not, and maybe what bases you'd gotten to.

Also, the hankys were neatly folded and then ironed into the pocket so there was one neat little point.

As with other flags, this was applicable only in that particular context. Probably only in that exact school. It didn't mean that if you saw some adult out working on his car with a blue flag in his left pocket, he was going steady with a boy and had gone to third base. (Or whatever. I've forgotten so many of the things I learned in school.)

You don't get to just unilaterally invent a code and apply it to the world at large. This is very very cool for people who want to use it in limited contexts, but don't do this.
posted by ernielundquist at 1:15 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


So I feel like this is a recipe for awkward blank looks from straight girls.

Yep. Accent nails are popular enough, and there are enough polish geeks who enjoy nail art for its own sake, that in practice it's probably not an effective way to flag.

I do like to start conversations about people's nails, but in a "oh my gosh I love that color is that one of the fall Essies?" context.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:16 PM on July 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


If only they could establish AR overlays so that people could flag in a way that really can't be misinterpreted.

Of course that would likely mean that the users were using something like Goggle Glass which basically consigns you to laughingstock status so it's got some work necessary for implementation.
posted by vuron at 1:18 PM on July 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I feel conflicted as a femme bi girl who's been doing accent nails before I ever saw this on Tumblr.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:20 PM on July 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


I, for one, welcome our new picklenickling overlords consensual play partners.
posted by a halcyon day at 1:22 PM on July 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


I think "picklenickleing" is pretty evocative.

Now say that five times fast.
posted by imnotasquirrel at 1:27 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


heyyyyyyy so maybe that's why i got the eyebrow waggle from the woman in the checkout line a week or so ago as she complimented my nails. now i wish i remembered what i was sporting at the time...
posted by nadawi at 1:36 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I hear all your "But what about my non-coded accent nails" but that's the whole point; it's the same thing with the hanky code that inspired it: the fact that people are using it NOT for that purpose is why it's done. If you're looking, an accent nail might catch your attention but it's only a flag, not an invitation.

Yes, one could wear a shirt that says I WOULD LIKE YOU TO PISS ALL OVER ME and easily remove all doubt but why not wear a yellow handkerchief in your right pocket like a god damn gentleperson.

But seriously, the hanky code was a good way for gay men to both signal interest and take control of their sexual destinys when the rest of the world was telling them to fuck off and die, and I'm glad the spirit of it continues.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:53 PM on July 23, 2015 [13 favorites]


"If only they could establish AR overlays so that people could flag in a way that really can't be misinterpreted."

That would be great. I remember reading something about how in Japan somebody was selling some sort of device into which you punch in your preferences and then leave it on and walk around and when it sensed another device with your desires preferences and if that device sensed that your preferences matched as well then both devices would buzz and you'd end up meeting somebody cool
posted by I-baLL at 1:59 PM on July 23, 2015


that device is the perfect set-up for an emotional series about the person traveling the world trying to find the one person with their unique preferences

the climactic scene would be on a crowded street in some city far away from their home town

the thing would buzz, but, oh no - the person would be on a bus, and our protagonist would figure out as the thing made sad doppler effect boop booop booooop noises as the bus pulled away

cue taxi chase

we would only find out after the end credits what these preferences were. probably not picklenickling, the movie wouldn't last that long.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:06 PM on July 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


I wear clear nail polish on my right thumb, which femme-flags me as a lazy broad with one brittle fingernail.
posted by datawrangler at 2:16 PM on July 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


I remember reading something about how in Japan somebody was selling some sort of device into which you punch in your preferences and then leave it on and walk around and when it sensed another device with your desires preferences and if that device sensed that your preferences matched as well then both devices would buzz and you'd end up meeting somebody cool.

Not just Japan, but Canada.
posted by The Bellman at 2:17 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


You don't get to just unilaterally invent a code and apply it to the world at large. This is very very cool for people who want to use it in limited contexts, but don't do this.

This. The hanky code arose in a specific context (and still gets used! There's a kinda useful convention at certain parties/events here in Toronto where guys may not be wearing all that much. Some wear a leather cuff or bracelet--same as the hanky code, left top right bottom.), and AFAIK also depends on wearing them in a specific way. Imposing a flagging code on the rest of the world, when the exact same display is used simply as a fashion thing? Is a recipe for disaster, and a lot of disappointment.

It's a cool idea, don't get me wrong. Clever, slides under the radar. The bug is implementation in a non-ambiguous way.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:58 PM on July 23, 2015


oh man, this totally explains why my task rabbit house cleaner thought I was hitting on her.
posted by janey47 at 3:07 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


god forbid queers (possibly, theoretically) ruin something (make something slightly awkward) for straight people

is nothing sacred
posted by Juliet Banana at 3:11 PM on July 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'm a queer who would be terrible at this. I don't paint my nails because I like my natural color, and I also don't stay hyped up enough on social codes to know if a finger flagging meant anything. I would probably just be like 'OOOOOH THAT LOOKS PRETTY WHAT SHADE IS IT." But I'm glad it works for members of the community!
posted by yueliang at 3:20 PM on July 23, 2015


Plus, on reflection, part of the context of the hanky code isn't that you're just wearing jeans and a tshirt and happen to have a navy blue hanky in your left pocket, there's other clues. It's... how do I put this? It's a thing where the idea that you want to get nekkid with men is pretty well established either by the other things you're wearing, or the time and place you're at, and the hanky is just to flag "yo, this is the thing I want tonight." It's like walking into a McDonalds wearing a tshirt with a hamburger on it. Everyone knows you're there to eat, and now they know what you want to eat.

Flagging sexual desires outside of an agreed context where it's known that everyone/mostly everyone there is present for the purposes of getting their nasty on (or at least is potentially interested in your gender/presentation) is... well it's kinda missing the point. Like, even in times and places where the hanky code was super popular, it's not like you're going to see some random dude on the street with a hanky in his back pocket and absent other contextual cues hop on the good foot and do the bad thing. This nail polish thing seems to me to occur outside of those contexts? Am I misreading? Because what ernielundquist linked to suggests I'm not. showbiz_liz and janey47 alluded to this too.

god forbid queers (possibly, theoretically) ruin something (make something slightly awkward) for straight people

is nothing sacred


Decidedly not straight here.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:21 PM on July 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure what my PCB fingernails or Shiny and Chrome Immortan Joe designs signal, other than that I have a laser cutter and know how to use it.
posted by autopilot at 3:31 PM on July 23, 2015 [14 favorites]


Everyone knows you're there to eat, and now they know what you want to eat.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering

... do I have to say it? I don't really want to say it.

I do, however, want a hanky that signifies "barbacoa, no rice, all the salsa, YES I KNOW GUAC IS EXTRA THANK YOU VERY MUCH"
posted by a halcyon day at 3:45 PM on July 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


There are times I regret having a job where I have to have short, unpolished nails. There are times I miss the cold of acetone, scrubbing off colors to try whatever new shade I just bought, and the little tick-tick of the ball inside the polish bottle.

And then there are times when I read that I was apparently mis-signaling myself as a masochistic bottom who likes fisting, and I'm kinda glad I don't polish anymore.
posted by mittens at 4:16 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Autopilot, I believe the left hand signifies "car-play: vehicle" while the right hand signifies "car-play: driver". This link can tell you more.
posted by egypturnash at 4:31 PM on July 23, 2015


The silver lamé is particularly helpful in letting starfuckers know who's a celebrity and letting celebrities find someone who would like to fuck them - a valuable service!
posted by Navelgazer at 4:34 PM on July 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


god forbid queers (possibly, theoretically) ruin something (make something slightly awkward) for straight people

Well, what's your (broadly-constructed) priority, self-righteously lecturing perfectly innocent straight women for doing something that's been going on for decades without any particular queer association, or actually finding other women to make out with/fuck/date/paint your nails with? I mean, say what you want about queer invisibility, but if you think it's a problem you might want to try choosing a solution that's an actual solution.

Decidedly not straight here.

Indeed.

I'm not sure what my PCB fingernails or Shiny and Chrome Immortan Joe designs signal, other than that I have a laser cutter and know how to use it.

Says you have good taste, but need to invest in a better stamper, a shot glass, some pure acetone, a cheap angled eyeliner brush, and maybe even some stamping polish. Your designs will transfer more easily and smudge less if you use one of the squishy stampers.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 4:38 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


" There are times I miss the cold of acetone, scrubbing off colors to try whatever new shade I just bought, and the little tick-tick of the ball inside the polish bottle."

I know this is a derail but I kinda want to get this off my chest: Have you ever looked at the ingredients of nail polish? Holy shit, it's like a pyromaniac's wet dream. Acetone, guncotton, I don't know what else. It's weird.
posted by I-baLL at 4:50 PM on July 23, 2015


Hey, my remark before was a kind of mean snarky joke, not a like, a well reasoned defense for femme flagging! Def wasn't referring to anyone in particular, and I would totally get pissed too if I read that and thought it was referring specifically to me, so I apologize.

I didn't want to go to much into it, since it's my FPP and I don't want to get too GYOB, but I want to tell people, I promise that absolutely no one thinks your classic Cherries in the Snow manicure makes anyone think you're into fist fucking.

Femmes who like femme flagging like fashion and trends too and, while I totally believe that some Tumblr Teens everywhere have gotten super mad about every possible thing at least a few times, I didn't run across a single "stop using accent nails" sentiment in researching this post. I think everyone's aware of larger nail art trends; no one thinks we invented it.

A lot of the links in the FPP discuss consent, not making assumptions, and the Queer Fat Femme link even mentions that you can just ask someone "Are you femme flagging?" as a conversation opener.

It's just really really hard to signal being a femme queer (there are multiple Asks about it!) and while I would never assume someone's sexuality based on their nail art, if they had a rainbow stripe nail or black nail with a little pink triangle on it, I might start getting a clue, you know? It's just a cute fun thing femmes can do, not new rules we made up and are imposing on everyone else.
posted by Juliet Banana at 4:55 PM on July 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


Have you ever looked at the ingredients of nail polish?

Wearing Piggy Paint on your accent nail signals that you are nontoxic.
posted by mittens at 4:57 PM on July 23, 2015


i'm super into nail polish, i've been doing accent nails for years, and i don't see anything offensive or objectionable about this except maybe people won't know that the femmes are flagging anything, but that doesn't seem like something that people who aren't femmes or aren't dating femmes would even concern themselves with, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by nadawi at 5:14 PM on July 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


BUT THEN I remembered that good old Bruce Springsteen album, the one where he accidentally flagged the hanky code for fisting!

Just pointing out that it's actually a red baseball cap in Bruce's pocket on the cover of Born in the U.S.A. -- I can't find that on any of the code charts, but anyone familiar with the opening verse of "Blinded by the Light" could probably take a guess at it.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:26 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


wants to peg boys in the butt

Is...is...there somewhere else to peg them? Man, I need to get out more.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:32 AM on July 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


The back of a Yugo?
posted by Foosnark at 6:29 AM on July 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


well if a dude is blowing your non-attached cock, would that still be pegging? pegging in the mouth? oral pegging?
posted by nadawi at 11:39 AM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


This was a thing in the 80s. At least I heard about it in Houston just as we heard rumor that piercing one ear signaled queerness, specifically in lesbian bars or at pools in Atlanta. I painted one thumbnail and toenail a different color for quite some time.
posted by geeklizzard at 3:37 PM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wait. I can't believe the Wikipedia article leaves out the lesbian hanky code. To the wiki-fixing-mobile!
posted by geeklizzard at 3:39 PM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


pegging in the mouth? oral pegging?

Fauxjob?
posted by mittens at 3:45 PM on July 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


« Older Here comes the Sun.   |   Zippy slices! Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments