It’s Friday night, and your classes are done for the week. You’re 20-something, and just bought that cute new dress to wear.
Going out with your friends is what you’ve been looking forward to all week. So you go out, have a couple drinks and suddenly tall, dark and handsome saunters up to you with a cute smile and a drink — just for you.
You smile and accept the drink, but something feels off. You know that uneasy feeling in your stomach isn’t just butterflies. You decide to first stir your drink and let your fingertips dip into the alcohol. Your pink nail polish turns black on contact and your heart drops.
At least, that’s the scenario Undercover Colors has in mind with their roofie-detecting nail polish, developed by North Carolina State University students Tyler Confrey-Maloney, Stephen Gray, Ankesh Madan and Tasso Von Windheim.
The idea was a good one and has already accumulated $100,000 from investors and lab space through the College of Veterinary Medicine with world-renowned expert on indicator development Dr. Nathaniel Finney working as a mentor.
“With our nail polish, any woman will be empowered to discreetly ensure her safety by simply stirring her drink with her finger. If her nail polish changes color, she’ll know that something is wrong,” reads their Facebook page.
Undercover Colors is still looking for more funding as well, but this idea isn’t really revolutionary. There are color-changing coasters, cups and straws that also test for Rohypnol (also known as “roofies”), Xanax and GHB, or gamma-hydroxybutyric acid. However, the NCSU team said they wanted to integrate this idea into something women already use.
The problem is this just adds to the list of things women must remember for a night out, such as not wearing revealing clothing, traveling in groups, not getting too drunk and, now, not leaving the house without your anti-date rape nail polish on.
This could also be used as a tool in victim blaming. One in five women in college experienced, attempted or completed sexual harassment. Again, one in five. More often than not, their accounts of what happened aren’t taken seriously either. Campus officials publicly defend the victim’s rapist or were told they were “asking for it.”
Another big problem is that the nail polish could cause a false sense of security. According to Feministing.com, usually “plain old alcohol is the most commonly used substance for date-facilitated rape.”
The main issue here, though, is why we need this nail polish at all. Why would we need color-changing coasters and straws and glasses? Why is there nail polish coming out to deal with this? Why does Indiegogo have funding for Personal Drink ID, a tiny, $60 piece of equipment you drop into your drink to detect drugs?
Why is it so much easier to teach women to avoid being raped than teaching men not to rape in the first place? What do you tell your 18-year-old daughter as you send her off to college to explain why you’re tucking pepper spray and a rape whistle into her backpack?
These inventions are great ones and may be the starting steps to recognizing the huge problem that is sexual assault, but it mostly reinforces the pervasive rape culture in our society.
There are ways to address this and get men involved. So far, many tactics to avoid rape are directed toward women, ranging from telling us what to wear to telling us to be ashamed for existing.
Attitudes like this have some men seeing women as objects, not as human beings. In order for this to stop, men and women have to work together to end rape culture in our society.
Countless men don’t understand anything about it because they’ve never been to a seminar or class that discusses this culture. They think that’s for women; they don’t need to worry about it. The only way to coexist peacefully is by working together, and that is why the nail polish, while great in theory, isn’t really helping anyone.