Are Furry Nails the New Trend?

Woman holds her hands to her face, the nails each have a tuft of brown fur attached

What we wear is bound to social inequality and capitalist interests. “Fur” epitomizes this (I use quotations to denote that “fur” is a euphemism).

The “fur” industry works hard to make its product appear appealing in the most arbitrary and ridiculous ways. After all, sociologist Pierre Bourdieu reminds us that “taste” and “fashion” are socially constructed, and those in power enjoy most of the privilege in determining them. Most of us obediently follow suit, whether we like it or not, as non-conforming can invite policing or stigmatization.

So here we have it, the new furry nails trend.

I don’t know about this company/designer, but the “fur” industry does put considerable pressure on designers (through free product or funding) to bring glamour to its products and increase sales. Capitalism is all about creating new markets and more reasons to buy and buy more. “Fur,” in many cases, is losing out to more affordable (and less cruel) synthetic materials, but the industry has bounced back by inventing new purposes (such as the popularization of “fur” trim). Actually, fashion itself creates an endless market, with consumers encouraged to have a large wardrobe of many items, all of which must be periodically replaced as they go out of style.

Woman covers her face with her hads, has tufts of brown fur glued to her nails

Fortunately, the nails that made it to the runway were utilizing faux fur.  Nonetheless, glamorizing the hair of dead Nonhuman Animals is ethically problematic given we live in a speciesist world where animals are highly vulnerable to violence when their bodies are viewed as commodities. Furry nails perpetuate the normalization of speciesism, and, really, it’s only a matter of time before some folks graduate to real nonhuman hair.

You can read more about the role that capitalism plays in maintaining speciesism in A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory (Palgrave 2016).


Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is Lecturer of Sociology and past Director of Gender Studies (2016-2018) with Monmouth University. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology with Colorado State University in 2016. She received her M.S. in Sociology in 2008 and her B.A. in Political Science in 2005, both from Virginia Tech. She was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar, 2016 by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She served as council member with the American Sociological Association’s Animals & Society section (2013-2016) and was elected Chair in 2018. She serves as Book Review Editor to Society & Animals and has contributed to the Human-Animal Studies Images and Cinema blogs for the Animals and Society Institute. She has been published in several peer-reviewed academic journals including the Journal of Gender Studies, Feminist Media Studies, Disability & Society, Food, Culture & Society, and Society & Animals. In July 2013, she founded the Vegan Feminist Network, an academic-activist project engaging intersectional social justice praxis. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory (Palgrave MacMillan 2016).

The Sexual Politics of Holier-Than-Thou Veganism

Stella McCartney and dog walking on trail

Stella McCartney

 

Stella McCartney’s vegan fashion line was featured in a recent piece by feminist magazine Bustle in “Fashion & Beauty.” At first, I was thrilled to see veganism presented in a feminist space, which doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should.

It seems the author, too, is aware of the political disconnect between feminism and veganism, as she takes care to buffer readers with a disclaimer. Following a statement by McCartney that her brand is “the most ethical and loving company in the fashion industry,” Bustle clarifies:

The outlet notes that she said that with her tongue tucked in her cheek, indicating that she’s not holier-than-thou about her cruelty-free stance, which isn’t always the case with animal activists.

I find this disclaimer to be quite curious when placed in the context of feminist politics. Feminists generally balk when tone-policed themselves and often chastise celebrities who refuse to identify as feminist. But all’s fair when we’re talking about Nonhuman Animal rights. In other words, feminists determinedly encourage loud and proud feminism in an effort to destigmatize social justice activism, but they can be quick to turn around and vilify those who do the same on behalf of other animals.

Given that 80% of the Nonhuman Animal rights movement is female and given that veganism is extremely “feminized,” the sexist undertones to vegan stereotyping are important to recognize. It is possible that the “holier-than-thou” pejorative assigned to activists and vegans is actually a form of gender policing. In other words, these stereotypes work to shame and silence “uppity” women who dare to get political.

Feminists should steer clear of social justice shaming. Caring about the oppression of others should not be something to be hidden or downplayed. The commitment to ending injustice should be a marker of pride. We should be celebrating activism. It is hard work, it wins few friends, it is mentally fatiguing, and so few people are willing to get involved. Feminists should not be adding to that difficulty when they could be an important source of support. This is especially so since most vegan activists are women and speciesism is so intimately tied to patriarchy.