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Anti-date rape nail polish highlights a much bigger problem

Anti-Rape Nail Polish
Anti-Rape Nail Polish
Getty Images

Earlier this week it was reported that four male college students at North Carolina State University are developing a nail polish that will change color when date-rape drugs such as GHB and Rohypnol are detected. Today, women and anti-rape advocates are speaking up on social media about how this new invention highlights an even bigger problem with rape culture in modern society: It’s not a woman’s responsibility not to get raped.

The Facebook page created by the inventors of the product states that they aim to “invent technologies that empower women to protect themselves…With our nail polish, any woman will be empowered to discreetly ensure her safety.” The problem isn’t that women need to be empowered to defend themselves from rape but that people need to be taught not to rape and that severe crimes have severe punishments.

Products like this one also inadvertently perpetuate victim blaming. What was she wearing? Was she drunk? Why didn’t she buy that nail polish? There’s already an overwhelming list of things women have to do in order to stay safe from not going out at night alone to never picking up a drink after you’ve set it down. Writer for the Guardian, Jessica Valenti sums up the issue well when she wrote “I’m appreciative of young men want to curb sexual assault, but anything that puts the onus on women to ‘discreetly’ keep from being raped misses the point.”

But perhaps Kelly Oxford put it best when she tweeted “This new nail polish that can detect the date rape drug is great if you think women aren’t trying hard enough not to get raped.” Products like this one, no matter how well-intentioned, tells women that it’s their responsibility to avoid becoming a victim instead of placing blame where it belongs, on rapists.