After the fall of Roe v. Wade, big corporations from J.P. Morgan to Meta to Disney to Netflix have rushed to align their messaging with the national zeitgeist—one that largely spurns the unpopular Supreme Court ruling.
But in the niche community of nail artists, a culture war is raging after a direct-to-consumer nail art company—which had amassed a loyal following on social media for its colorful polishes and nail art tools—posted a statement saying it was going to stay “neutral” on the decision. In the fan-led backlash that followed, it’s become clear that a political arena exists not just for billion-dollar brands, but even for small businesses, which are finding it harder to stay on the sidelines when their consumers are out on the field and in the fray.
The embattled company is Maniology, a Honolulu, Hawaii-based nail care service that ships products (polish, manicure tools, and even subscription boxes) across the country. Earlier this week, it reportedly posted—then deleted—a notice on Facebook sharing that it wasn’t going to take sides on Roe v. Wade, in respect for the “different feelings” of its customers. (Maniology did not respond to Fast Company‘s request for comment.)
“As I am writing this message, I am presenting from the viewpoint of Maniology,” the company’s owner, Ren Wu, wrote in the now-deleted, but widely circulated post. “Those of you who love Maniology do not need to agree with somebody else’s personal social belief system . . . No matter what your social beliefs are, we hope to have a place for you.”
But that post drew the ire of a hyper-online nail artist community, which churns out a vibrant stream of glittering, holographic, rhinestone-studded eye candy on social media. On Instagram, a user called ruby_on_nails canceled a partnership with Maniology and argued that the brand was profiting off the ideals of feminism, diversity, and equality (one of its recent posts celebrates Pride Month by showcasing a kit for rainbow manicures) without actually sticking to those causes. Another user, who is among the brand’s ambassadors, urged Maniology to “take a stand, because it matters . . . We are watching.” Other users canceled subscriptions, and one began drafting a list of Maniology’s competitors for a boycott.
The criticisms were so overwhelming that Maniology first closed its Facebook comments section for a day—which was announced with a quip about taking a break for a “new manicure,” further roiling some customers—and then posted a response to the turmoil on Tuesday.
“Firstly, I want to express my empathy and sincere apologies to Maniology’s fans and associates who find my original message on the community insensitive or hurtful,” Wu wrote. “With my limited knowledge of the Roe vs Wade case, my personal stand is in support of the women’s right to choose. However, I feel it is not appropriate for me to impose my personal stand on a free entity, in this case, Maniology. It belongs to our employees and everyone who simply loves creativity and finds nail art as a way of self-expression. This inclusivity is a core value.”
But despite Maniology’s purported embrace of inclusivity—and the grander ideology of an art that transcends differences and unifies the human experience—it’s clear that in trying to avoid alienating any customers, Maniology actually alienated a great deal of them. Meanwhile, its apology seems to have done little to restore good will.
It might have been the canary in the coal mine for a new brand playbook—one where the sidelines have been swallowed up by a moment of deepening political division, and companies have no choice but to get in the game. And in its corner of the internet, the nail art world is playing the referee.