Four male students from North Carolina State University recently made news headlines with their invention of a nail polish that can detect a number of drugs commonly used for date rape.
The polish changes colour after being submerged in a drink where such drugs are present, thus alerting the wearer that their drink has been spiked.
The idea for this product was ignited by the good intentions of its creators, who were seeking a way to empower women with a tool that could prevent them from being drugged and possibly assaulted.
While the team behind this product was well-intentioned, the resulting message raises some concerns. One consequence is that people will wear the polish and assume they are safe.
Wearing the nail polish could create a false sense of security when there are still risks present.
While the polish is potentially helpful when drugs such as Rohypnol or GHB are present, it can’t provide protection when the drug is alcohol itself.
This also markets itself as a way to put a stop to sexual violence, but only really addresses drug- and alcohol-related assaults. In reality, many acts of violence occur without the presence of either.
The use of the word ‘empowering’ when it comes to gender-based violence is problematic, too, because it places the emphasis of responsibility onto women to protect themselves from sexual assault, instead of focusing on the people committing these crimes.
This perpetuates the cycle of victim-blaming rhetoric where violence is justified because of the way a woman dresses, talks or behaves, and it’s a cycle that continues to shame survivors into not reporting incidents of sexual violence.
It also contributes to maintaining the status quo: the lived existence (or fear) of gender-based violence wherein self-identified women take a number of precautions in their day-to-day life in order to feel safer.
However, these habits aren’t empowering, but rather coping mechanisms for a patriarchal society.
This includes (but isn’t limited to) wearing baggy clothes, crossing the street when someone approaches you, having your friends watch your drink at a bar, carrying keys in your fist and having a buddy system when going out.
The root of the problem lies within the patriarchal idea that women’s bodies are commodities and men are entitled to them.
The emphasis of discussions on sexualized violence and sex-positive education should be on equality and respect for not only women’s bodies, but everyone’s bodily integrity.
The responsibility of rape prevention shouldn’t be on the potential victims, but on the perpetrators.
There are a number of resources in Kingston if you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault or domestic violence.
The Sexual Assault Centre Kingston provides non-judgemental support to survivors of sexualized violence through emergency, crisis and supportive counselling. The Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Program at Kingston General Hospital has a nurse on-call and can provide urgent medical care, testing, collection of forensic evidence, and counselling.
You can call the SHRC for more information on these resources and more at 613-533-2959 or come by the centre in the JDUC, room 223.
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