My Nail Polish? It’s called ‘Anti-Rape Red’
When I was little, I used to watch this show called ‘Totally Spies’.
In a nutshell, it was cartoon copy of ‘Charlie’s Angels’; three girls, kicking ass, with a generic male voice to answer to. Now, I’ll admit, it wasn’t without flaws in terms of logic and gender assumptions, but I did love the cool gadgets they were given – disguised as everyday items, such as laser lipstick or ‘Swiss Army’ charm bracelets (I know, amazing).
But I sure as hell never saw any date-rape-drug-detecting nail polish on their list of gadgets.
Well, four male students from North Carolina State University have created just that.
The nail varnish works when the wearer stirs their drink with a painted finger (which sounds neither subtle nor hygienic, but never mind) and the colour of the varnish changes colour as it comes into contact with known ‘date-rape’ drugs, such as Rohypnol, Xanax, and GHB (Gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid).
Speaking through their Facebook group, the team posted, “In the U.S.,18% of women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. That’s almost one out of every five women in our country. They are our daughters, they are our girlfriends, and they are our friends.” (Well, yes, but they’re also first and foremost human beings – you shouldn’t have to relate them back to men in order to sympathise with them, but hey).
Ankesh Madan, one of the Materials Science and Engineering undergraduates behind the concept, has said of their self-defense cosmetics: “We wanted to focus on preventive solutions, especially those that could be integrated into products that women already use. And so the idea of creating a nail polish that detects date rape drugs was born.” The nail varnish is just part one of an intended wider range of products, called ‘Undercover Colors’ aimed at “empower[ing] women to protect themselves from this heinous and quietly pervasive crime.”
Unfortunately, though their intentions appear to be well-meaning and the technology they have created is innovative, the product itself fails to equate to the empowerment of women. Once again, avoiding sexual assault remains a short term solution: the responsibility of the potential victim.
Rebecca Nagle, a co-director of the activist group ‘FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture‘ has pointed out: “As a woman, I’m told not to go out alone at night, to watch my drink, to do all of these things. That way, rape isn’t just controlling me while I’m actually being assaulted — it controls me 24/7 because it limits my behavior. Solutions like these actually just recreate that. I don’t want to fucking test my drink when I’m at the bar. That’s not the world I want to live in.”
Solutions like this seem revolutionary on the surface, like Pepper Spray Cameras or, Anti-Rape Wear.
I get it, nail polish is cute and will go mostly unnoticed. Though, the reality is, no woman wants to have to put on their lockable pants, wiggle into their inflatable armour dress, pack their photographic pepper spray and paint their nails with drug-detecting polish to feel like they are safe enough to leave the house. What the people who invent these products fail to see, is that the majority of sexual assault is carried out by people the victim knows or is close to. In cases where assault is committed by strangers, these kind of solutions only serve to perpetuate the idea of ‘make sure they rape someone else and not you’, instead of establishing the root of these problems.
“The problem isn’t whether a woman knows there are roofies in her drink, but the fact that someone put roofies in her drink.
– Tracey Vitchers, Chair of the Board at Students Active For Ending Rape (SAFER)
In fact, the likelihood of the perpetrator actually using any of the above ‘date-rape’ drugs is very small, and often the use of alcohol is enough. However, despite its failure to address important social questions, such as whether the product will be free or whether they had considered that men are victims of rape also, ‘Undercover Colors’ has received over $100,000 in grants and donations to further their project.
Isn’t it about time we teach people not to rape, instead of coming up with chemistry kits disguised as cuticle care? I just wonder whether their future products will include mens hand cream that will stop their hands from touching women without their consent.
Excuse me while I go and watch Totally Spies and try to forget that rape culture exists.