Last week, an independent nail polish company called Undercover Colors went viral after countless articles and TV spots about them were shared. What makes their polishes so special? Undercover Colors nail polish changes color to detect date rape drugs in drinks.
Founded by four male North Carolina State University students, the startup polish company was born out of the goal to “empower women to protect themselves” from sexual assault. The formula reacts when coming in contact with commonly used drugs such as Rohyphnol, Xanax, and GHB. A woman would just have to stir the drink with her finger to see if it had been spiked.
— Undercover Colors (@UndercoverColor) August 14, 2014
I have been hesitant to write about this potential nail polish game-changer, since it addresses sensitive and complex ideas. At first, I thought it was a pretty cool invention. Well, I still think it is. But after contemplating more about today’s rape culture, I’m not so convinced it sends the right message. While I am glad that the founders recognize that sexual assault is a crime that we should pay more attention to, I— along with other critics — have some reserves about the quiet implications a product like this reinforces.
In their Facebook description, Undercover Colors describes the goal of their product to “make potential perpetrators afraid to spike a woman’s drink because there’s now a risk that they can get caught”. They put emphasis on “empower[ing] women to protect themselves.”
I wholeheartedly believe that the intentions are noble, but the message that Undercover Colors sends is that it is the woman’s responsibility to protect herself from sexual assault. Most— if not all— rape counseling centers across the country try to convince victims that what happened to them was not their fault. The warped rape culture of 2014 unfortunately still places blame on the victim for what they wear, where they were, what time of night they were out, or not knowing better. Potential perpetrators should not be deterred by the chance of getting caught, but out of respect to women… out of respect to other human beings.
While the first Undercover Colors prototype has yet to actually be developed, they are accepting donations on their website to help fund research on how to make this beauty technology a reality. As I said, I still think it’s a pretty cool invention. If development is successful, I can certainly see women being able to steer clear of a bad situation with the help of the polish, making it invaluable. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the mission of Undercover Colors. I welcome anything that can help people feel more safe, and protect themselves from attacks. I just wish that there was just as much effort spent on convicting said attackers.
What do you think about Undercover Colors? Is it practical?