To the feminists against nail polish

By Stephanie Youssef

Four students from North Carolina State University recently developed a nail polish that changes color in the presence of common date rape drugs. The idea is that by painting your nails and dipping your fingers into your drink, you can detect whether it has been tampered with.

Recently, this product has been subject to criticism, as some feminists call it a misguided approach to prevent sexual assaults.

Katie Russell from Rape Crisis England & Wales claimed a product like this “implies that it’s the woman’s fault and assumes responsibility on her behalf.”

Some feminists like Russell think that raising awareness and teaching men not to rape is the only strategy that should be used to address sexual assaults. They have condemned safety measures against sexual assault  — like self-defense, concealed carry and, now, this nail polish  — as means of victim blaming.

A recent study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly one in five women have been raped in their lifetimes. I, as a woman, assert that with statistics this staggering, all efforts to try to prevent sexual assaults — awareness and protective measures alike — should be applauded and encouraged.

The reality is that there will always be bad people in the world who will hurt others to get what they want  — money, power, sexual gratification, dominance, whatever. And they can still do so with the knowledge that what they are doing is wrong. In fact, research has found that, without accounting for the number of unreported assaults, 39 percent of rapists of adult women are repeat offenders. This means we can try to raise awareness, “punish” offenders and avoid blaming victims all we want, but that won’t always stop people from acting maliciously.

Take our own University for instance. All freshmen are required to attend a First Year Campus Acquaintance Rape Education, or FYCARE, session to learn about rape on campus. But even with this program, an estimated one in six women here will be sexually assaulted before graduating.

In my opinion, it’s narrow-minded for some feminists to assert that trying to teach men not to rape is the only acceptable method to prevent sexual assault, because it’s naive to assume that raising awareness will eliminate the problem entirely. They focus only on stopping criminals before they act and condemn people who take reactionary measures of defense as “accepting the blame.”

Women who choose to use this nail polish are no more at fault for being assaulted than women who don’t. This nail polish doesn’t shift responsibility to the victim, nor does it erase the accountability of criminals.

I agree that in a perfect world, no sexual assaults would happen. There would be no robberies, we wouldn’t lock our doors, security cameras wouldn’t exist, we wouldn’t receive any Illini Alerts and everyone would act morally with good intentions.

But, it seems that some feminists can’t wrap their heads around the fact that we don’t live in an ideal world. In our world, we can’t prevent all crime, and security measures of all kinds exist to try to protect us. They don’t exist to shift the blame from perpetrators to victims.

This isn’t to say that sexual assaults are inevitable. I admit that trying to change society can help reduce the frequency of assaults, but products like this nail polish and other safety measures can also help reduce assaults and, thus, shouldn’t be criticized.

What is shocking to me is that these feminists aren’t retaliating against home security systems, bike locks, car theft systems, Safe Rides or any other measure out there meant to help keep individuals safe. The fact that door locks exist doesn’t alleviate robbers of the blame for successfully robbing a house.

As was put so eloquently by columnist Robyn Urback, “Protecting one’s self or one’s property does not somehow exonerate the unlawful actions of others.”

In the eyes of some feminists, this somehow holds true for every crime except for assaults against women.

For someone to say that they are disgusted that a product like this nail polish exists means they might as well puke at the sight of a door lock.

I can take measures to protect myself from any danger  — rape, robbery or assault — and feel like no less of a woman because of it. In fact, I feel empowered that products like this nail polish can help me take my safety into my own hands rather than be stuck with just raising awareness and crossing my fingers that everyone I interact with acts morally.

Stephanie is a junior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @syoussef22.