Mashable and The Great Nail Color Fail

Sep 16, 2015

Below is the story of Mashable and The Great Nail Color Fail.

This is a story of a person who didn't think something through, and the many people who were were offended by the result. This is not a story of a racist person with malicious intent. This is a story of someone who didn't think about it, and what a tremendous effect that lack of attention can have.

Brown Chanel Nail Polish 505 Particuliere Chanel - Photo Credit Maria Morri - Hello, Handbag

Recently, the digital media site Mashable ran an article called "How to pull off the ugliest fall nail colors." In the article, a white female author lists four color types that are "ugly" and gives some style advice on how to wear them. The color groupings include "rotten pumpkin orange," "50 shades of ash gray," "sea sick green" and "dirty penny bronze." The author called them all the fall's "muddiest - but must have - trends."

The problem? One color type was "poopy brown" made up of brown shades. Which are nudes for women of color. By labeling them as "poopy" the author was directly relating darker colored skin to feces. Intentional? Probably not. Offensive? Absolutely.

Women of all colors took to social media in protest. This tweet from Christine Fox so perfectly articulates the feeling:

Mashable tried to make amends in two ways, First, this note appeared on the article itself: "Editors' Note, Sept. 8, 2015: This story originally included a section about brown nail polish that many found to be racially insensitive. We agreed with those concerns and have since removed that portion."

Then Mashable's Executive Editor posted this tweet:

While we appreciate the apology, it makes us realize how often major publications speak from a single perspective. In this instance, there was certainly a team of people reviewing the article. The fact that no one removed the offensive aspects before the piece went up leads us to question the diversity represented within Mashable. We're lucky to have social media that allows for diverse expression, but we need more viewpoints represented from within our institutions as well.

Often at this point we place blame at the source, in this case the white female author. Before we start shaming, let's take a moment to review her history. Before this article, she had written about Alexander Wang's work with, a model with a prosthetic arm who finally made it on the New York Fashion Week runway (follow Rebekah Marine here), and a report on the stunning lack of plus sized models in the Vogue September issue. This young woman uses her soapbox to celebrate diversity. In this one instance though, she was thinking from her own perspective. We've all done the same, and we can do better.

By the way, I am a Mashable fan. I receive their "This story is about to go viral" emails daily and click through 80% of the time. I was elated when they covered Madeline Stuart, a model with Down Syndrome who is taking over the world (happy to say I beat them to the punch with a piece called EverMaya and Madeline Stuart Steal Our Hearts). Mashable is also not a company of racist bigots, but they do have a problem with their editorial perspective. We can do better.

As a side note, something that bothers me about this story is that the remaining colors are actually really beautiful. The author may not have thought so, but I'd wear at least half of the colors. Just goes to show that beauty is in the eye of the beholder - and that we should think before we label.

What do you think of this? Is it a forgivable faux pas, or are you boycotting Mashable? I'd love to hear your thoughts, please leave a note below or send me at tweet at @Hello_Handbag.

Photo Credit: Idhren via Compfight cc

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