Women use the #ManicureMonday Twitter hashtag to educate people about hand and nail care, share their nail art and expertise, and look at various hands. Beginning in 2013, the scientist Hope Jahren organized a hashtag hijacking in which scientists who were not in control of or associated with #ManicureMonday disrupted individuals' collaborative conversations about manicures, tried to educate participants, and expressed the scientists' values and interests. The scientists argued that what women's hands do is more important than how they look and that women and their manicured hands are constructed as passive objects on the Twitter feed. Jahren and these other scientists have identified Twitter as useful for their conversations about science and extended their own social capital by microblogging. They also use Twitter as a way to instruct women about objectification and other feminist issues and to intervene in women's interest in their nails, which these scientists believe is frivolous and disempowering. In this article, I address the diverse ways in which these ideas of usefulness, useful media, instruction, and social capital are articulated through #ManicureMonday by performing a close textual analysis of the manicure tweets and the hashtag hijacking. My reading is based on the relationship among feminist inquiries about viewing positions and objectification, the literature on useful media, and conceptions of social capital. I argue that we need to attend to the ways the #ManicureMonday hijacking and other instances of media education may not be useful for all participants.
A photograph shows three fingers and a blue highlighter on a wooden surface. The highlighter has been messily applied on the nails and past the cuticles. When scientist Hope Jahren posted this photo to Twitter in 2013, she included the hashtag #ManicureMonday (figure 1).1 Individuals interested in beauty culture were already using this tag on sites such as Twitter and YouTube. Jahren thus hijacked the #ManicureMonday Twitter feed with images of unpolished nails and encouraged her scientific colleagues to follow suit. She told them that this was her “first #ManicureMonday” and that “Next week will be better.” By producing this image and text, Jahren appropriated nail artists and enthusiasts' #ManicureMonday methods of showing their nails against polish bottles and other surfaces and stressing their interest in improvement. She used highlighter to make light of #ManicureMonday practices, thereby intentionally dismissing the values of nail polish bloggers (most of whom are women). In response to Jahren's photo, InBabyAttachMode, a scientist and mother, tweeted, “You know that your nails stop at some point along your finger right?”2 Her response emphasized her friendly affiliation with Jahren while implying that the blue highlighter nail application, and to some extent the related nail practices that are included in #ManicureMonday, is a joke. InBabyAttachMode and numerous other scientists have responded to Jahren's tweets on the topic. Bloggers and the mainstream press have featured her critique of nail polish culture in venues ranging from the web-based Slate to USA Today.3 Jahren's tweets thus call attention to and critique various aspects of #ManicureMonday.
Through Jahren's hijacking, which began in November 2013 and is still part of her and other scientists' weekly practices, individuals who are not in control of or ordinarily associated with the #ManicureMonday tag disrupt participants' collaborative conversations about manicures, post information that is different than what is expected, try to educate contributors, and express their values and interests. Jahren initially envisioned this effort as one of scientists “taking over” Seventeen Magazine's hashtag and subverting it with pictures of hands doing science.4 Many people and institutions use #ManicureMonday, but Jahren saw posts from Seventeen and presumed that the magazine controlled the hashtag. Her intent was to “contrast real #Science hands against what @seventeenmag says our hands should look like.”5 Jahren's project thus includes a feminist inquiry into the ways women are represented and the work of women scientists is understood. However, she does not recognize specific aspects of the #ManicureMonday nail polish culture, including how participants actively produce their nails and inventive applications, how nail artists mentor the work of other participants, and the ways people are invested in this creative work. Instead, she aims to increase the visibility and emphasize the importance and values of women scientists.
Nail artists and enthusiasts use #ManicureMonday to educate people about hand and nail care, share their nail art, and validate their creative work. They identify #ManicureMonday and the Twitter microblogging application as beneficial. These women create a supportive culture and advance their prestige as nail artists. In doing so, they expand their social capital, or the benefits that are derived from family, community, work, and other connections. While such diverse sociologists as Pierre Bourdieu and Robert Putnam originally deployed the term social capital, researchers now also use it to conceptualize the productive features of Internet social networking sites.6 Participants in Internet social networks, in a manner similar to that of these Internet researchers, believe that the sites offer personal and career advantages. Thus, it is not surprising that Jahren and her cohort identify Twitter as useful for promoting their conversations about science and thus extending their social capital, and as a way to instruct women about feminist issues.
In this article, I address the diverse ways these forms of usefulness, useful media, and social capital are articulated through #ManicureMonday by performing a close textual analysis of the manicure tweets and the hashtag hijacking. I cite the posts of participating scientists, feminist critics, and nail artists and enthusiasts, including their unconventional spelling, punctuation, and identifiers, as a means of surveying #ManicureMonday engagements and the debates that they engender about women's hands and work. I then consider the conflict between female scientists and nail artists in order to elaborate upon the relationship between #ManicureMonday and feminism.
By analyzing Jahren's narrative about real work and hands, I investigate the ways in which she hierarchizes #ManicureMonday participants. Jahren views “painted disembodied hands” and wonders, “who is attached to all those hands and what do those hands do when they aren't posing for a camera?”7 Yet the women are doing something, including constructing ideas about self and body, when they pose for their own images. I concentrate on the various hands and identities that are envisioned through #ManicureMonday as a way of considering useful media and popular understandings of what is useful. My reading is based on the relationship among feminist inquiries about viewing positions and objectification, the literature on useful media, and conceptions of social capital. I argue that we need to attend to the ways the #ManicureMonday hijacking and other instances of media education are useful for only some participants. Jahren and her scientific cohort and nail artists and enthusiasts post to the #ManicureMonday hashtag, but they do not share a set of interests or political intentions. Jahren and her scientific community understand their #ManicureMonday hijacking as a productive way to intervene in women's beauty culture and as a means to think about the position of women in science. However, some of the nail polish enthusiasts and the feminists who are engaged with this culture identify the hijacking as a form of “femme-shaming.”8
THE #MANICUREMONDAY HIJACKING
Jahren considers the hashtag hijacking in her #hopejahrensurecanwrite blog.9 The posts about the hijacking are part of her larger blogging project and, according to her, are “about interactions between women and men and Academia.” They convey her experience as a scientist and are part of a feminist project. She also uses the blog and the #ManicureMonday hijacking to “get noticed as a writer.”10 In one post about the hijacking, Jahren describes what she “learned from #ManicureMonday.” Here she chronicles the mundane but bloggable experience of nearly ripping off a fingernail. While she was tweeting the “important news” about her fingernail, Twitter autocomplete revealed the #ManicureMonday hashtag. She scrolled through the #ManicureMonday posts, associated Seventeen Magazine with the texts, and was disturbed by the “smarmy insipid content” on the magazine's website. Jahren decided to tweet a picture of her unmanicured nails and provide what she designates as a kind of “Screw you” to Seventeen. She found Twitter to be a useful method of intervening because her submission “would stand on equal footing with one of @seventeenmag's professional submissions.”11 In this way, Jahren recognizes that Twitter can be used to intervene in dominant discourses but underplays her own position of power as a female scientist and ignores how the intervention displaces women nail artists. Though conceptualized as democratic, Twitter does not always productively connect diverse constituents and their interests.
On November 11, 2013, Jahren tweeted the photograph of her highlighted fingers and included the #ManicureMonday hashtag, but nothing happened. Jahren made plans to manicure her hands for the next #ManicureMonday but did not do so. Instead, as she reports on her blog, she dismissed what she thought of as the hashtag's conventions and “tweeted ‘Take pic of ur hand doing something #Science & post to #ManicureMonday polish optional.’” Jahren reports being surprised when she started to get tweeted replies. She responds to people's questions about the “rules” of the intervention, which she argues are contrary to Internet engagements and the affordances of Twitter, by noting, “all are welcome.” Through these actions, Jahren denies the expectations of extant #ManicureMonday readers and establishes herself as the authority. Jahren argues that “Everyone” at her lab “read every single tweet and looked at every image.” However, some of their ongoing misperceptions about #ManicureMonday suggest that members of the scientific community posted, and continue to post, to the feed without familiarizing themselves with the hashtag and women's tweets about nail art.12 These scientists think that Seventeen dictates the conventions of the hashtag and represents nail artists as passive objects of contemplation.
Jahren employed her early posts as a method of resisting #ManicureMonday nail art content and Seventeen Magazine. Jahren notes that “Seventeen Magazine is not going away” and identifies it as a problem. But, she writes, Twitter isn't going away, either, “and so you'll find” her “over at #ManicureMonday for the long haul.” By positioning herself in this way, Jahren suggests that participating scientists are more politically engaged and informed than nail posters without considering their own employment of Twitter as a means of self-representation. She identifies Twitter as useful media for scientists but as a method of oppression and objectification when used by Seventeen Magazine and nail bloggers. She describes Seventeen and #ManicureMonday as “one big monolithic male gaze.” Jahren links #ManicureMonday to Seventeen and “teenage” girls, thereby misidentifying the many people who are interested in creating aesthetic and artful applications and making homemade polish.13 In point of fact, numerous individuals with advanced degrees, including scientists and other professionals, had participated in #ManicureMonday before Jahren began the hijacking. For instance, one of the first #ManicureMonday nail art posters, from 2009, identifies herself as an attorney, writer, and model.14
Jahren initially describes the scientific cohort's practice of posting images and texts on the feed as a “take-over” and “hi-jack.”15 This language is repeated in the popular press. I use variants of hijacking throughout the article because it references the ways the engagement is framed, is made to seem useful, and causes contention.16 Varied forms of the term continue to circulate. For example, scientist and feminist Karen James writes, “It's not too late to photo-bomb #ManicureMonday with your science hands doing science pics!”17 James imagines inserting other hands into the feed and making something other than manicures predominant. However, her phrasing also suggests that science hands render representations of scientists and function as objects rather than always being active agents. Hydrogeologist Bernadette Conant describes the scientists' intervention into #ManicureMonday as an “Awesome hijacking.”18 Opposition to these beliefs and the scientists' hijacking eventually caused Jahren to try to reframe participation in #ManicureMonday as not being “a ‘hijack’ or a ‘take-over’” but “a *contribution*.”19 Of course, Jahren's recrafting of the scientific hijacking into a contribution once again asserts the usefulness of the scientists' posts and their position as engaged and accepted members of #ManicureMonday and its nail polish culture.
Participating scientists remain firm in their belief that Seventeen Magazine uses #ManicureMonday to limit young women's opportunities. These scientists relate #ManicureMonday and nail polish to young girls, code it as frivolous, and indicate that people who engage in nail art and manicures are in need of education. For example, a scientist associates these things with “bimbofication culture.”20 Marga Gual Soler, who is engaged in science policy and development, writes in the Huffington Post that Jahren's “take over” helps to “break stereotypes for women and girls in STEM,” or the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.21 Thus, Jahren and her cohort conceptualize their intervention as explicitly feminist in its resistance to such beauty practices as manicures. Jahren writes, “Like other epic feminist struggles, fully wresting #ManicureMonday from the colorful talons of @seventeenmag may take a while.”22 However, some individuals who view nail applications and art on the #ManicureMonday stream describe this scientific intervention as controlling and as a way of “trivializing femininity.”23 #ManicureMonday historically has included requests for information, tutorials, and other shared information on polish formulas, polish techniques, and nail art. Scientists tend to position science education as distinct from these skills and forms of knowledge exchange. Thus, aspects of this hashtag-facilitated education and how it should be conveyed through Twitter and #ManicureMonday remain contested. Scientists continue to post to the #ManicureMonday feed, but most do not comment on or share notable manicures. In turn, #ManicureMonday nail artists do not provide tips to the scientists or engage with their cultural influences.
USEFUL TWITTER AND SOCIAL CAPITAL
The concept of useful media can be used to elucidate the various ways Twitter and the #ManicureMonday hashtag are employed and understood. Kyra Hunting and Andrew Zolides complicate the conception of media as content distributer and emphasize how video games may be “most useful” in facilitating “new and intriguing social dynamics.”24 Andrew James Myers, in his consideration of Charles R. Acland and Haidee Wasson's Useful Cinema anthology, argues that the concept of useful cinema provides a productive “analytic lens” through which to engage “various overlapping categories of non-theatrical, industrial, educational, and orphan films.”25 Myers indicates that the anthology and the term useful media foreground the “utility of film,” the “social functions and purposes” of these films, and the roles and practices of their users. Useful cinema, according to Acland and Wasson, encompasses “films and technologies that perform tasks and serve as instruments in an ongoing struggle for aesthetic, social, and political capital.”26 This concept and research strategy can also be used to address cultural conceptions of the utility of contemporary technologies, the social functions of Internet sites, the roles and methods of individuals who use new media, and the ways these people and technologies generate social capital. Thus, revised conceptions of useful media, especially studies that are attentive to various kinds of usefulness and power differentials among participants, can be incorporated into the literature on Internet social networks. For example, questions about usefulness and agency might further inform research on the ways sites and practices generate social capital.27
The academic study of useful media is different from popular narratives about useful technologies. In each of these cases, usefulness connotes something other than media's position as entertainment. Academics employ the term useful media to describe a category of production, distribution, and/or engagement. These texts have been made and exhibited with objectives, aesthetic conceptions, educational purposes, and interests in social participation and capital that are not, or at least not solely, focused on mainstream entertainment. Popular culture identifies sites and texts as useful media when they are productive and empowering resources. For example, people often use the term useful when describing Twitter. Numerous articles promise to provide readers with “Ways to Make Twitter Useful” and explain the “Ways Twitter is Useful Professionally.”28 The articulation of Twitter's usefulness may be in response to an opposing identification of Twitter as, essentially, useless. Nick Douglas starts his article about how to make Twitter useful by stating, “Twitter is vapid, Twitter is narcissistic” and then refuting these ideas.29 Reporter Angela Hill describes the ways in which “Twitter is both useful and stupid,” or “usepid.”30 She suggests that readers' interests and network connections may determine Twitter's utility. Attending to such popular understandings of the term useful can extend and complicate how we research and theorize the functional and social aspects of Internet and media forms. For instance, we might understand how Twitter's “usepid” features influence the structures and conceptions of useful media, including those ideas and texts that useful media wants to renounce.
The social functions and struggles that academics associate with useful media are implicit parts of Twitter and the diverse constituencies that make up #ManicureMonday. The nail artists, scientists, and other individuals who participate in #ManicureMonday assert and contest the aesthetic functions of nail art and women's hands and bodies. They identify different social structures and values in #ManicureMonday. Yet many also identify the social capital that has and can be generated from this forum. For the scientists and some others who participate, this social capital is based on contesting and revising the positions of other women. Useful media and the associated forms of social capital that it helps to produce are thus useless or counterproductive for certain constituencies.
Sociologists Pierre Bourdieu and Loïc J. D. Wacquant describe social capital as the “sum of the resources, actual or virtual, that accrue to an individual or a group by virtue of possessing a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition.”31 They indicate the significant profits and privileges that social capital can afford. Research on social capital often understands it in positive terms, as a way for participants to acquire and deploy resources.32 New media researchers Nicole B. Ellison, Charles Steinfield, and Cliff Lampe indicate that Internet sites, and the ways they “support loose social ties,” allow “users to create and maintain larger, diffuse networks of relationships.”33 From these networks, participants can garner resources and profit from connections. For instance, Internet sites such as LinkedIn encourage individuals to form large support networks and obtain jobs and other advantages from these connections. LinkedIn advertises itself as the “largest professional network,” with a mission to “connect the world's professionals” and “make them more productive and successful.”34 However, the production of social capital through diffuse relationships and Internet social networking may have limits. Research has found that Internet social networking settings are often used to sustain previous ties or for “bonding” rather than for connecting diverse people or “bridging.”35 Scientists' and nail artists' lack of intercommunication provides an example of the ways Internet social networks and their associated participants fail to facilitate bridging.
Jahren references social capital when she writes, “Twitter is useful for five things”: “Meeting people,” “Saying something,” “Expressing rage,” “Setting an example,” and “Exploring your identity.”36 These functions are reflected in the kinds of social capital itemized by the Internet research of Barry Wellman, Anabel Quan Haase, James Witte, and Keith Hampton. Jahren enacts what they describe as the “Network capital” of comradeship, emotional support, and information exchanges.37 Twitter's sign-in page, which directs participants to “Connect with your friends – and other fascinating people,” suggests the wide-scale reach of tweeting.38 However, Jahren envisions Twitter as a means of bonding with fellow scientists and a way of sharing the “small victories of lab-life with the handful of other people in the world who ‘get’ what it's like to piss yourself with delight over the growth of a new leaf.” Her comments that this is “invaluable” and “has improved” scientists' “lot immeasurably” allude to the power and social capital that accrue to her and her cohort because of these practices.39
Jahren also engages in what Wellman, Haase, Witte, and Hampton identify as “Participatory capital” and “Community commitment.”40 Her involvement in politics and organizations, including her activity on Twitter and the #ManicureMonday hashtag, enables Jahren to connect with other female scientists and articulate her expectations and aspirations for women's representations. Jahren activates and builds her social capital through a community-oriented sense of belonging and her resistance to some women's disenfranchisement. Jahren's comments on the usefulness of Twitter are linked to #ManicureMonday when she advises readers of her blog to “Paint your nails and tweet a picture, you never know what might happen.”41 While Jahren encourages scientists to tweet pictures of their nails, she dismisses nail artists for pointlessly tweeting photographs of manicures. Her vision of the transformative aspects of Twitter, which can also deliver advantages to interventionist participants, are supported by scientists' tweets that indicate “@HopeJahren has changed #ManicureMonday forever.”42 Her intercession is seen as productive, empowering, and educational.
Hashtags contribute to the usefulness of Twitter and the possibilities and problems of employing it as a method to generate social capital. Twitter hashtags are prefaced by the number or hash sign and can be invented and deployed by any participant. Individuals engage with a community of shared interests by reading and posting to conversations that are organized by hashtags. People can read about such things as nail art manicures without establishing a more formal relationship to a participant or deciding to “Follow” someone, as Twitter describes these relationships. Individuals can also read hashtag message streams, or feeds, without getting an account. These distinctions in the means of access are echoed by the diverse ways people conceptualize hashtags. Various constituencies have developed and used the same hashtags. However, Axel Bruns and Jean E. Burgess's research on Twitter indicates that participants “will often work to resolve such conflicts” and try to “keep ‘their’ hashtag free of unwanted or irrelevant distractions.”43 This may explain why Seventeen Magazine started to use the extant, and more commercially focused, #ManiMonday hashtag when scientists began posting to #ManicureMonday. While people often include a hashtag in an attempt to address an “imagined community,” the individuals who follow hashtag-using participants are also introduced to these frameworks and posts. People from a poster's network, such as members of Jahren's scientific community, become part of and further define the initial conversation when they use the same hashtag. However, as seems likely from some of the scientists' comments, not all individuals deploying a hashtag read the designated conversation. They may use a “hashtag to make their tweets visible to others following the hashtag,” as Bruns and Burgess describe this process, while reading only tweets from people in their “established network.”44 Twitter therefore enables broadcasting and instructing as well as focusing on individuals and groups.
Jahren and other people use social media and hashtags as methods of intervening in contemporary issues. Twitter has been linked to resistance and such social movements as Occupy and the Arab Spring.45 The terms hashtag activism and hashtag feminism identify political issues that are raised, collaboratively considered, and challenged through Twitter hashtags.46 Rosemary Clark identifies hashtag feminism as the “latest iteration in a long history of feminist conversation-expansion tactics that politicize personal experiences with all forms of patriarchy.”47 Feminist hashtag interventions include interrogations of the murder of the African American Renisha McBride when she was seeking aid after a car accident, using #RememberRenisha; and address how victim-blaming accompanies reports of domestic abuse, employing #WhyIStayed.48 As this suggests, hashtag feminists use social media to intervene in the ways culture understands and represents violence against women and people of color. In a related manner, Jahren envisions speaking back to what she perceives as the oppressive dictates of Seventeen Magazine.
Hashtag feminism, according to Clark, “has unleashed a multiplicity of voices that demand recognition of differences across intersections of gender, sexuality, race, and class, so that more effective coalition building might occur.”49 Jahren also conceptualizes her hashtag hijacking as a method of speaking back to power and engaging other constituents. Yet hashtag feminism is different than Jahren's address because it challenges the limitations of mainstream feminism. For example, Susana Loza chronicles how women of color use social media, including hashtag hijackings and new hashtags, to interrogate the ways mainstream U.S. feminism focuses on the interests of white women.50 Scholars researching these practices and feminists deploying social media also identify some problems with using hashtags for political work. Heather Suzanne Woods demonstrates how hashtag campaigns and the associated “consequences of widespread visibility can be positive, but unwieldy and difficult to control over time.”51 Lara C. Stache argues that hashtags allow individuals to publicly support advocacy and social justice movements, but they may not be great methods for “educating those who are not aware of, or who do not care about the original intention” of campaigns.52 Given the educational intention of Jahren's project, and the different reasons that scientists participate in it, interrogations of hashtag feminism offer ways to consider the #ManicureMonday hijacking.
Jahren's claims that Twitter is open to oppositional positions and Loza's argument that hashtag feminists are “beginning to build coalitions across profound cultural, racial, class, sex, gender, and power differences” are supported by Twitter's “Welcome” and its reference to watching “events unfold, in real time, from every angle.”53 The scientists involved in the #ManicureMonday hijacking have adopted this cultural identification of Twitter as a positive tool for political change. For example, Science Learning Hub associates the hijacking with the “power of Twitter for ‘good.’”54 Similarly, entomologist Robin Rosetta identifies Twitter as educationally useful and the hijacking as a “cool way to sneak STEM science inspiration into girls lives.”55 These scientists argue that the hijacking is about “science & empowering girls,” even though it provides the scientists with more authority and recognition.56 Few posts indicate how individual nail artists and enthusiasts will be empowered or the specific processes through which they will be reached. Many of the scientists assume that the intervention has a clear function and that everyone welcomes their interference.
In general, scientists associate their Twitter use with education. Useful Science's tweets, according to its Twitter profile, provide “one sentence summaries of science for living and learning better.”57 Jahren writes that the “biggest success of #ManicureMonday” is that she “learned something” from the posting scientists, including “that willemite dust glows under fluorescent light,” “a rat liver is smaller than a fingernail,” and the Mars orbiter “MAVEN launched successfully.”58 Jahren “finally saw hands that looked like” hers “next to the Seventeen Magazine insignia.” While she also recognizes “hands that didn't look like” hers, these hands appear to be those of other scientists. Her feminist call for visibility thereby increases the prominence of scientists while ignoring or even displacing the women who use #ManicureMonday to display their nail art. Indeed, she suggests that #ManicureMonday is productive because of her hijacking, implying that previous uses of the hashtag were ill conceived and thus not useful.
The scientists who participated in the hijacking express their concern that the women who post nail art to #ManicureMonday have been objectified, have even objectified themselves, and have been made into a form of visual entertainment. In indicating this, the scientists literalize the distinction between useful media and media's function as entertainment. Jahren sees hands “posing” for cameras. However, nail artists and enthusiasts find the feed to be informative. For example, ♡Fashion Tweets♡ posted a very “useful manicure photo” that she thought would assist other women with their nails. In offering educational content, she too attempts to develop network capital and connections. She imagines a conversational community when asking, “which shape are your nails?”59 Luxie blogs about “#ManicureMonday trending” and how this encourages her to construct a participatory community where she can post “about the latest innovative nail trends.” She articulates shared interests when noting that if viewers are anything like her, they will “hate having bare nails.” Luxie also envisions creating productive resources in the form of applications that she has tried. She hopes that readers “find them useful!”60 While these engagements articulate the productive aspects of Twitter and communities of interest, people also face penalties and jeopardize their social capital by engaging in such settings and dialogues. The not-useful and downright damaging aspects of Twitter may be more severe for communities that are already precariously placed and have identities and practices that are culturally devalued, such as women who actively participate in beauty culture.
Jahren identifies the costs that women face when attempting to have dialogues and perform critiques on sites such as Twitter. Jahren caught her “share of hate” for the #ManicureMonday hijacking, including people debating on Twitter “whether or not women scientists wear underwear.” Such objectification is part of what concerns Jahren about #ManicureMonday, but in this case participating scientists are dismissed. While Jahren was not surprised, it still “hurt.”61 Female scientists were reduced to sexual objects, and attempts were made to shame and thereby silence them. Her blog chronicles the sexual harassment she and other women scientists have faced, including personal and career threats and violence. Early Internet studies research by such authors as Julian Dibbell also describes the violent threats that individuals, especially women, have experienced when using Internet sites.62 Video game critic Anita Sarkeesian, Java programmer Kathy Sierra, reporter Joan Walsh, and innumerable other women continue to encounter threats for being successful and authoritative voices in new media settings.63 Yet many new media scholars, as Emma A. Jane argues in her “E-bile” article, trivialize these alarming experiences.64 Some women persist despite their experiences with insulting and regulating tactics, but the exhaustion and temporal demands generated by trolling and flaming are inequitable taxes on women and other disempowered subjects. They illustrate people's varying experiences with technologies that are culturally understood as empowering and useful.
Insults and threats encourage women to limit their voices and choose self-deprecating methods as a way to perform and thereby foreclose criticism. Jahren implements such understandable tactics when noting that she “said some dumb things” about #ManicureMonday, “much like every other damned day.”65 Terms such as dumb and stupid often appear in Jahren's writing, along with unnecessary descriptions of her limits.66 There are also more encouraging articulations of her ambitions. All of this points to some conceptual conundrums, because Jahren is a critical feminist voice, a dismissed subject, and someone who does not fully engage the positive features and interests of nail artists and enthusiasts. While Twitter and hashtag feminists propose that participants and this microblogging interface facilitate conversations between diverse constituents, posters to #ManicureMonday have not communicated in any detail about their distinct interests and beliefs.
Scientists and nail artists have different understandings of the ways images of women on #ManicureMonday function. Jahren associates #ManicureMonday with objectification and subjectification and decries the ways it controls women. Yet she plans to continue including her conception of useful and visual hands in the Twitter feed. She will tweet “one picture each week of what” her “hands look like when” she thinks that “they are at their most beautiful” as a way of rebutting Seventeen Magazine. She blogs only briefly about the “teenagers who go to #ManicureMonday in order to tweet their homemade nail art. Or to tweet other pictures of what they feel makes their hands look great.”67 As one of the leading posters in the #ManicureMonday hijacking, Jahren might also support the manicures that other women are proud of producing, their confidence in rendering and experiencing their beautiful hands, and the many subjects who eagerly read and produce #ManicureMonday posts about nail art and applications. Such interests are foregrounded when nail enthusiast Brooke tweets that “Looking through the #ManicureMonday tag” is her “favorite” practice.68 In a similar manner, FeeFiFoFum “love[s] looking at #manicuremonday pics.”69 Their pleasurable views, including images of cropped hands and decorative elements, propose feminine, affective, and intimate forms of viewing.
Feminist art historian Griselda Pollock argues that it is politically important to consider the female spectator and the “possibility that texts made by women can produce different positions” within the “sexual politics of looking. Without that possibility, women are both denied a representation of their desire and pleasure and are constantly erased.”70 The #ManicureMonday feed, especially before the hijacking, figured a female spectator. This position is conveyed in the close-up images of manicures that conflate her/my hands. This spectator is also rendered as a producer who receives resources and encouragement from other participants. Many women who tweet to #ManicureMonday share their nail passions with participants and use images and texts to constitute the ways manicures and their bodies are viewed. They establish a visual and textual site where women's delighted views are detailed and skills are celebrated. For example, nail artist Josephine Emilie presents “Feather nails” with applied bird plumage and notes that she is in “love” with the caramel color (figure 2).71 According to the participant m, Emilie makes “it look so good” that she aspires to do a similar application. Emilie replies that m can “just try it out” and she is “sure it will be beautiful!”72 In doing this, #ManicureMonday nail artists such as Emilie and m extend their values and create a support system.
Emilie and m's construction of a community that is focused on feminine nail art production is evoked in Tracie Egan Morrissey's article on nail polish culture. Morrissey argues that nail art is a bastion of female-focused and produced beauty that does not follow cultural norms. Morrissey almost could be rebutting Jahren's concerns when asserting that nail art is the “only form of primping and grooming that isn't rooted in making oneself more appealing to men or exploiting women's insecurities.” Morrissey argues that nail art and related processes allow women to shape their feminine and feminist bodies and culture. Women are “taking pride in the work” they are performing, according to Morrissey, and clients are “serving as enthusiastic art patrons.”73 This production community is expanded on Twitter, where posters such as Emilie and m are addressed as current and future nail artists. Sadly, the hijacking incorporates assessing viewers into the feed. Academic and nail enthusiast quetzalcobra describes her irritation at how the #ManicureMonday hijacking enables “unmanicured men” to “make fun of the stupid wimmenz and their stupid wimmenz nailz.”74
Many scientists and other critics of #ManicureMonday treat nail artists and enthusiasts as if their practices and sentiments do not matter. The technologist brickware presents a hand resting on a laptop and asks, “Who cares about the polish on my nails?” Instead, brickware cares only “about the polish,” aesthetics, and functions of computer “code.”75 Through this tweet, brickware establishes a hierarchy of acceptable and frivolous aesthetics and dictates what is appropriate. Communications specialist jloy refutes conceptions that Twitter facilitates only the frivolous, the personal, and “pictures of what other people had for breakfast.” According to jloy, Twitter “can be an amazing tool for distributing information” and Jahren “employed the old (and correct) adage, ‘Show, don't tell.’”76 These comments by jloy suggest that Twitter can be useful or stupid, and it can offer better things than pictures of women painting their nails. This concept of showing is somewhat conflicted because it is imagined to increase the visibility of scientists by challenging women and the viewable position of their manicured hands. However, scientists' tweeted images of hands are posted so that other people see them.
Marine scientist Skeptical Optimism identifies a “message that needs to be much more prominent in pop culture, that what women do is much more important, much more noteworthy, much more valued, than how they look.”77 Jahren and Skeptical Optimism evoke Laura Mulvey's and other feminists' interrogations of the ways culture scripts women as passive and men as active.78 Considerations of objectification are key to feminist examinations of erotic representations and the ways patriarchal culture renders women as the other, as spectacle, and as its subordinate.79 Yet philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum argues that conceptions of objectification are slippery and variable. Individuals are “regarded and/or treated” as objects as part of consensual sexual relationships.80 Nussbaum's articulation of the varied ways things are treated as objects is enacted in the #ManicureMonday hijacking. For instance, there have been questions about individuals being treated as objects and, in Nussbaum's terms, “lacking in autonomy and self-determination.”81 Scientists imagine that nail artists and other participants are fused with Seventeen rather than having independence. Nail artists' hands are believed to be passive rather than performing creative work and other activities. Seventeen Magazine and all of these hands are thought to be the same. In a similar manner, nail enthusiasts and feminist critics—and I sometimes repeat this reading in this article—imagine the scientists to be a homogenous cohort.
Some participating scientists identify the #ManicureMonday hijacking as a feminist endeavor and as an educational form of hashtag feminism. John McCormack tweets a link about “How feminist scientists hijacked #ManicureMonday.”82 Soler describes Jahren challenging gender stereotypes.83 However, artist mia schwartz argues that there is a “Difference between feminist challenges to media messages and putting teen girls down for a kind of self expression.”84 But schwartz's comments and media use, like those of the other critics of the hijacking, are rebutted. Reporter Kelly Poe argues that the “sci #manacuremonday tweets aren't shaming anyone.” They are “promoting that there's more than one type of woman.”85 Poe suggests that the hijacking resists women's objectification by including multiple individuals and positions in the conversation. Yet schwartz foregrounds the hierarchical aspects of the intervention and the ways social capital and values operate. According to schwartz, the scientists believe that “you can have a manicure if you temper your icky girliness with STEM.” Rather than being a positive inclusive gesture, the “bare nailed” images and “men posting” reject the interests and values of nail enthusiasts.86
When scientists express an interest in nail polish, they often buttress this with claims about their intellectual and scientific work. Jahren notes that she gets “manicures weekly” and is “super smart.”87 Hope Santori has “about 900 polishes and a dual degree in Mathematics and Computer Science!”88 Jahren concludes that this means “We don't have to choose between brains and beauty. We do both!”89 Such descriptions of women engaging in multiple gender and professional engagements are important. However, these values are somewhat distinct from the interests of #ManicureMonday readers. As feminist and artist Elizabeth Simins argues, “why is science the be-all-end-all here? what about the myriad other ways of being smart?”90 There is a missing cultural discussion, as engineer Victoria Pleavin notes, “about how women are discouraged from pursuing science.”91 However, such conversations probably would be more productive in a forum where misconceptions about science are being produced and addressed.
A group of nail polish enthusiasts and feminist critics regularly informs the scientists that there are problems with incorporating images of bare nails and posts from men into a forum where participants are focused on women and feminine interests. Such commentary should resonate with those #ManicureMonday hijackers who are involved in women-in-STEM initiatives, which include commitments to safe spaces and women-only events. Engineer Katie Bates is one of the posters who gets schwartz's and nail enthusiasts' points of view, and she can “see how the barenailtweets could seem like crashing the party.”92 While the scientists and related participants acknowledge concerns, something prevents a substantive change in the ways they engage with #ManicureMonday, nail artists, and enthusiasts. In this way, Twitter and the hashtag practices associated with #ManicureMonday, and perhaps with hashtag feminism, do not facilitate boundary crossings and are not useful.
ACTIVE AND DIRTY HANDS
Jahren and her cohort tweet about the hands of working scientists, but they do not acknowledge how looking and touching are necessary aspects of image production. Their conceptions are antithetical to the ways photographs, films, and other media are associated with seeing and are deeply mediated through the actions of hands and the processes of touching. Roland Barthes, a philosopher and theorist of photography, argues that while the photographer's “organ” is usually believed to be the eye, he believes it is actually the finger.93 The finger controls such things as the camera shutter. Barthes's proposal that the hand is a key instrument of making and viewing is continued and challenged in the photography research of Alan Trachtenberg. He cites the nineteenth-century photographer Shade's engagement with a newly produced daguerreotype image, which was difficult to see because of its reflective surface. Shade held the daguerreotype for hours, perhaps because, as Trachtenberg argues, such images “resembled pictures made by hand” but with an “inexplicable excess” of details and ways of looking and seeing.94 As visual culture studies scholar Lisa Cartwright notes, hands “make possible and are also the receptacle of the photographer's look.”95 She identifies hands, including the hands of early animators and projectionists, as key but undertheorized agents and aspects of media production and engagement.96
Jahren produces gender and class hierarchies by suggesting that women nail artists' hands are objects of the gaze and scientists' hands are active subjects. In one of her often-cited posts, she notes, “#ManicureMonday because it's not about how your hands look it's about what they can do.”97 In tweeting this, Jahren emphasizes that scientists' hands, and her writing about hands, are useful tools and media. schwartz riffs off these narratives about real hands doing real science, asking, “Did you know a hand that has a manicure is no longer a real hand? It is now a fake hand. You imagined the hand.”98 In a related manner, the participant crab in exile supports the interests of manicure enthusiasts and asks people to tell her “what qualifies” as “real hands?”99 They critique the ways Jahren's and her cohort's posts about real hands structure the presence and absence of women and how ludicrous it is to categorize some tweeted hands as more real than others.
Evolutionary ecologist and feminist Ruth Hufbauer overtly challenges the correlation of science with activity and action. She writes, “#Science is more often mental than physical” and provides a self-portrait in which she puts on a bike helmet to “protect” her head during a “commute.”100 While producing another binary, she suggests that scientists' mental processes are more important than their physical engagements. Interestingly, Hufbauer presents an image with implied activity—her imminent bicycle ride—while focusing on the intellectual work that is not depicted in the image or chronicled in her tweet. Evil Lucian, who is an evolutionary biologist, describes the “not exciting” and thus less actively engaging everyday scientific labor of “computer work, prep, and grading.”101 She includes an image of her bronze-polished nails resting on the keyboard (figure 3). The implicit claim that these and other scientists' hands have been stilled while working is undermined by the angle and position of her hand. It is turned about forty degrees from the usual typing position, and her fingers are flat rather than loosely hovering over the keys. In another tweet, Sarah Hörst indicates that she is “Sciencing at the keyboard,” as she often does, and renders an active and expert engagement.102 Yet, like Evil Lucian's, her fingers are flat on the keyboard rather than positioned in a ready touch-typing position (figure 4).
Many #ManicureMonday nail polish bloggers photograph their hands resting on objects as a way to steady them, display their artful applications, and emphasize the kinds of work that they perform. While Jahren identifies fragmented views of hands as a problem, nail artists emphasize the creative and aesthetic work of women and their hands. These practitioners suggest that bodies can be viewed through less traditionally objectified frameworks when women's mouths, breasts, legs, and buttocks are not represented. Since nail polish blogging entails writing and posting images and texts to Twitter, some participants pose their hands in front of computer keyboards. Nail blogger Lisa Gregersen shows her glitter-tipped red manicure in front of the keyboard by viewing her palm and nails and therefore displaying her pose and manicure to viewers (figure 5).103 Beth Holl shows her “floral anchor” nail art by using a similar position (figure 6).104 The scientists direct their hands away from viewers in a pretense of working, but nail bloggers hold their hands out to viewers and the camera. They thereby offer a document of nail art spectatorship and active production that the scientists do not provide. Nail artists' hand poses foreground their production of the look and enact a version of what Cartwright associates with media producers.105
Women scientists also reference dirty hands, because doing so allows them to self-identify as active and laboring subjects rather than as passive objects. Readers are told by scientist Auriel Fournier that “sometimes studying bird #migration requires getting your hands covered in gas and grease.”106 In such narratives, moving and working hands engage with the world and its tactile features. Dirt is productive because it allows these women to refuse cleanliness and its association with normative femininity, including being passive and mannered. #ManicureMonday is thus “hijacked by scientists showing ways to get your hands dirty.”107 Such attempts to show and educate are notable since Jahren and her cohort critique Seventeen Magazine for coercively constructing the female body and femininity. While women scientists use dirt as a means of refuting cultural norms, the association of dirt with the lower class, boundary disruptions, and the promiscuous can also trouble their professional positions.108
The scientists who tweet about #ManicureMonday distinguish between their willingness to get dirty for the sake of science and nail polish participants' straitlaced cleanliness. However, nail artist Sara Sutton presents her “messy #manicuremonday” with “lovely and wonderful” cheetah-print nails.109 Nail artists' numerous celebratory posts about messy manicures indicate their pleasure in getting and staying dirty as part of their self-portrayals and creative practices. They indicate the #ManicureMonday community's indifference to cultural mandates for cleanliness when making such declarations as “whatevs” about sloppy manicures.110 The nail artist mia's “messy” “yingyang” application includes dabs of polish on her skin and a series of numbers and mathematical solutions written in pen on the palm of her hand (figure 7).111 C-C Laukant tweets a picture of her manicure with glitter polish ringing her nails and spotted over her fingers. She writes that it is a “little messy” and then uses a heart to express her pleasure in a practice that does not end at the nail or disavow traces of work.112
Jahren is concerned that #ManicureMonday perpetuates limiting and didactic forms of femininity. However, Jahren and her cohort do not address the numerous Halloween nails that appeared at the same time as the initial hijacking. During this period and at other times of the year, women employ experimental nail art techniques that disturb the clean and proper feminine body. Nail artists depict bleeding eyes, blood splatters, and filthy zombie nails and thus more overtly reference the open and abject body than they do with narratives about messy nails. Kayla Caldwell tweets her “Blood splatter” nail art with veins and pools of blood red streaking across the white polish.113 Nail artist kaila holds her similar “Blood splattered nails” and hand close to the camera so that it appears as a meaty raw fist that is moving toward viewers (figure 8).114 Tina Shirbroun presents a zombie nail art application in which layers of her once-hardened nails appear loose. Brown and ashen filth dapples her fingers. She celebrates the “perfect ‘dirt’ finish.” For her, the “great thing about this mani is” that she “did not have to worry about clean up!”115 Shirbroun and other nail artists use monsters, and monstrous applications, to refute the relationship among femininity, self-regulation, and cleanliness.
AFTERWORD: PROMOTING THE SCIENTISTS AND THE #MANICUREMONDAY HIJACKING
Women nail artists, whose depictions feature a wide variety of skin tones, underscore not only unconventional femininities but also the racial diversity of #ManicureMonday producers. Pam Pastor, who is from the Philippines, argues in a general consideration of nail polish culture that there are “nail polish bloggers from all corners of the world” and “polish addicts of all races, shapes and ages from teenage girls to cool grandmas.”116 Environmentalist Bryan Clark makes a related argument about the hijacking. He thinks that Jahren's “goal to show diversity is great.”117 Our “hands are not invisible,” writes Div.E.Q., to women in economics.118 Jahren also identifies a shift in women's visibility but does not underscore the representational aspects of Twitter. She “didn't see hands that looked like” hers before the hijacking. That has changed; she is “not invisible,” and “More hands is better.”119 This discourse about visibility elides the ways scientists insert a more homogenous culture into #ManicureMonday and displace women who are more economically and culturally marginalized. The mounting depictions of white scientists' hands are not a move toward class and racial diversity.
Scientist Dawn Bazely tweets that she is disappointed that her hands are “missing” from a visual representation of the hijacking.120 Bazely's tweet is in response to scientist Mindy Weisberger's visual review of the #ManicureMonday hijacking on Storify, which is a drag-and-drop story-editing site.121 Becky Wragg Sykes expresses “envy” that another scientist “made it” into the “HopeJahren Video of early images” of the hijacked feed.122 Erin tells fellow naturalist Rebecca Deatsman that her “coyote scat #manicuremonday pic got a mention in Slate's writeup! Nice work.”123 When Deatsman replies with “Oh my goodness,” Erin tells Deatsman, “You're famous!”124 Thus, visibility is legitimized when it is about getting recognition and approval from the scientists who are posting to the hashtag and journalists who are covering this event. The media and hijacking are deemed to be useful in providing more press, prestige, and recognition for science participants. Scientists recognize and actively develop this celebrity status through their tweeting.
Scientists expend a significant effort on informing the popular press about their hijacking, posts, and identities. Jahren asked reporter RyanSloaneCNN “to look at our storify in the hopes that @CNN might be interested” in publishing an article.125 Scientists use such materials to establish a historical and available record for a practice that otherwise requires time and effort to access. Scientist Cameron Thrash tries to share information about Jahren's blog and the hijacking with as “many as possible” and increases the visibility of Jahren and her scientific cohort.126 Jahren asks Thrash to pass it “on to Penguin or Vintage or some fancy place” so she “can get a book deal.”127 Jahren also chronicles her talk with Slate and indicates that Seventeen Magazine did not “want to own” the scientists' hijacking because they “*don't* own” the scientists.128 In response, Not That Kinda Dr. Kline argues that her scientific community has sabotaged Seventeen Magazine's “advertising. Can't sell new shades of science to girls apparently!”129 Of course, this critique of the commodifying practices of the media also can be applied to the ways Jahren and her cohort of scientists use #ManicureMonday as a means to garner recognition. Seventeen Magazine may or may not feel that it can sell science to young women, but the scientific community shows that they can sell visual representations of scientists and critiques of #ManicureMonday to the press.
Scientist Joanne Manaster argues that #ManicureMonday's effectiveness as an outreach mechanism is uneven.130 She also expresses an interest in the scientific, cultural, and aesthetic aspects of nail polish. For instance, Manaster uses YouTube to chronicle her frustration in not being able to wear polish because of the constant hand washing in the lab, and she provides a fascinating study of the use of flammable materials such as nitrocellulose in nail polish.131 After publishing these videos, her YouTube subscribers include women “who do make-up application demonstrations.” She is happy to see these women are “curious to learn more about the products they use, too, from a scientific standpoint.” She sees an “interested audience, one that can embrace a bit of science here and there as long as they feel their creative hobbies are valued, and sense” that “scientists (aka fellow humans), are providing them something of value that can also be appreciated by them.”132 Manaster identifies social capital in engaging with nail artists. She finds points of connection and similar educational goals between this constituency and her own. However, Manaster's proposal to engage with the #ManicureMonday bloggers is not widely followed.
Many #ManicureMonday participants are interested in establishing their work and skills, although they may disagree on the positive attributes of these practices. Their demonstrations of labor and expertise are often achieved by rendering images of women's bodies and hands. Women are more likely to post these representations to the hashtag and to be the audience for this material. #ManicureMonday thereby promotes female spectators and their critics. The hashtag's interconnections also show nail bloggers outdoing scientists. This outdoing includes nail artists who assert the extreme dirtiness—and thus, according to the scientists' hierarchies, the more important and active work—of manicured hands and nail art. When assessed, the similar ways the feed is used by nail artists and scientists complicate the conceptions of objectification that have been used to dismiss women's nail applications. Twitter offers useful ways to convey both nail art and scientific content. But its interface has been less useful for negotiating and complicating the communities and conflicts that are articulated by hashtags. The story of #ManicureMonday thus might contribute to critical conceptions of hashtag feminism, especially assumptions that Twitter and its members facilitate educational engagements and coalition building among diverse individuals. People have not developed social capital by engaging with the breadth of #ManicureMonday contributors. The tweets of participants and this study of the #ManicureMonday hijacking suggest that there are problems with conceptualizing overarching forms of useful media. The usefulness of media and theorizations of useful media should be informed by participants' positions and identities.