Healthier nail salons: from feminized to collective responsibilities of care

Publication type
Journal article
Shadaan R
Date published
2023 Jan 01
Environmental Justice
Open Access?

The nail salon is a site in which multiple hazards intersect. This includes exposure to toxicants, poor ergonomics, verbal abuses, and labor exploitation—harms that disproportionately impact newcomer and immigrant women workers. One response to toxic exposures in the nail salon is the Healthy Nail Salon model—a voluntary and incentive-based initiative to encourage salon owners to implement safer practices and products. While initiated with good intentions, the Healthy Nail Salon model reflects the tenets of neoliberal responsibilization. Responsibilities for protection are transferred to consumers, particularly women per feminized responsibilities for care-work and social reproduction. In contrast, this article puts forth the perspectives of 37 nail technicians primarily from Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean communities in Toronto, Ontario. Participants were asked: "How do we create healthier workplaces?" In response, participants shared both individual-level and collective-level solutions—the latter of which have the potential to positively transform the sector. Collective-oriented protections in this context reflect three interconnected "sites of resistance": Addressing systemic inequities in the Canadian labor market, promoting worker solidarities, and emphasizing the state's responsibilities in occupational health protection—all of which reflect a broadened politics of care. These broad-based and worker-defined interventions pose a challenge to neoliberal-oriented attacks on worker protection.