It is not uncommon now to see boys sporting painted nails. How will you respond when your son does? Or if you, a teen, see that your friend has painted his nails? How should you react? What’s the conversation?
#1 The Eruption Reaction:
What kind of foolishness is this? In my day, boys were boys and girls were girls! Now boys don’t even know how to be boys! This new fangled culture is emasculating guys and leaving them effeminate! And it is erasing womanly territory. You should get some turpentine for those fingers. In fact, I have some right here. Here!
#2 The Cool Reaction:
That’s fun. I really like how you are a person with style who is staying up with the times. Of course, this probably says nothing about your gender and I am glad you get that. Who said nail polish is just for girls? Good for you, breaking down stereotypes! You tell em, Charlie!
Do you tend to one of these? Are these our only choices? Let me offer another response, which I want to call…
#3 The Christian Reaction:
This is worth a conversation. Male nail painting is a new trend that means different things for the people doing it. I’d really like to hear your thoughts about your presentation of yourself and your service to others with this move. What does it mean?
Nails and clothing are always about our presentation of ourselves. We always craft an image to others when we dress and go out. Even the “I don’t care what I wear” look is saying something deliberate. So what are you saying with this look?
Think about this further with me. If you want to tear down cultural gender stereotypes, to prove that society’s ideas about gender are wrong, that is a good thing. I can applaud that. So what is a real man to you? How will you show us what being a man really is? If you are not sure, let’s start exploring that together. Because painting your nails is easy. Being a man is not.
If you are trying to tear down the gender binary, I have to ask why that is a good thing? Have you thought about it? If you believe that God’s creational gift of gender is oppressive, why do you think that? Is it the gift or the abuse of the gift that you object to? I believe that gender distinction, as expressed in our bodies, is a precious gift. Can we talk about what the gift does and why God gave us gendered bodies?
Is it a creative statement to some end? On the other hand, are you doing it just to fit in to your group? To make a different point? Maybe I can applaud what you are doing. Because I agree that there is nothing magically feminine about nail polish. But every culture has clothing and body markers to distinguish the man and the woman. Not because they are in themselves masculine or feminine, but they help us to say that there is a distinction. You have to ask, with this choice, are you playing into the wider cultural movement of erasing any and all distinctions between men and women? You are aware of that effort, aren’t you? What do you think of it? How can we stand against it personally?
The Direction of Dress
Secondly, let’s talk about how this serves others: our sisters and brothers, our friends. What does this move do for them? Nails and clothing always present an image but that image should always be for the others God gave us to love. We have an effect on the people around us by what we wear. What is the effect here?
Elisabeth Elliot put it this way:
To do away with mere stereotypes because they have become useless or burdensome can be a healthy thing. But when, in the effort to get rid of them, we mistakenly attack what are really archetypes, we are in trouble. Promising to liberate and illuminate, we have lately limited and obscured the truth of our sexual nature.
Nothing that we do with our bodies or what covers them is frivolous, because our bodies are us. I am so glad your nails have started this conversation with me. Let’s learn together.
What has been your conversation?
This is very well said. Most helpful for sure. Keep writing.
It seems when we take the time to ask the questions from a place of creating a safe place to be real, we open the door for an individual to share THEIR story. This builds relationship where we can then gently infuse them with CHRIST’S life giving story of becoming an Image Bearer.
Ahh, good word. Making a place to be real is where it starts, and allows the exchange to not end there.