Stylish cosmetics, accessories enable women to fight back

In order for women to protect themselves against date rape drugs, a team of four engineers have come together to invent a nail polish allowing women to test their drinks. The nail polish changes color if in contact with any drug. (photo illustration | Kandace Griffin | The Collegian)

Fashion and beauty styles empower individuals to express themselves in fun, unique ways. However, they can also be used as important tools in protecting women against violence.

The topic of rape has been a reoccurring discussion on college campuses nationwide. Recently, the state of Kansas experienced some negative publicity after K-State and the University of Kansas (along with 74 other universities) were put under federal investigation for how they handle sexual assault cases, according to the Huffington Post.

The incident on Kansas’ campus has stirred up many questions on how women can be better prepared to protect themselves in threatening situations. As a result, companies have come out with products for women who are looking for discreet safety items to have on hand.

Safety in cosmetics

Undercover Colors, a new company created by four engineering students from North Carolina State University, is working on a nail polish that has the ability to detect date-rape drugs such as Rohypnol, Xanax and gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid. The line of nail polish changes colors when it comes into contact with certain drugs, alerting the user to its presence.

The men behind the product, Tyler Confrey-Maloney, Stephen Gray, Ankesh Madan and Tasso Von Windheim, released a statement on their Facebook page describing their motivation behind the invention.

“In the U.S., 18 percent of women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime,” the post said. “That’s almost one out of every five women in our country … While date rape drugs are often used to facilitate sexual assault, very little science exists for their detection.”

Though Undercover Colors nail polish is not currently for sale, other companies have already released products geared towards helping protect women. The company Women On Guard is an online retailer that has a variety of options for stylish protection. It offers a women’s self-defense package that includes lipstick pepper spray, a perfume rechargeable stun gun and a hairbrush diversion safe that can hide valuable items inside of it. These items are all designed to be discreet cosmetic products that can fit inside a purse.

Jamie Crawford, freshman in elementary education, doesn’t currently own any of these products, but said she would be interested in purchasing them after learning about their discreet protection methods.

“These safety mechanisms would definitely put me at ease knowing that I have some form of self-defense when I am walking around campus at night,” Crawford said. “It is great to hear that they are making these items more inconspicuous, especially with all the news releases that keep coming out about sexual abuse.”

Smartphone apps

Another safety mechanism that is becoming popular is the iOS and Android app “SafeTrek.” If you are walking through campus alone, all you have to do is launch the application and hold your thumb down on the safety button. Once you feel safe, release your thumb from the safety button and type in your four-digit pin. If an emergency occurs and you no longer feel safe, release your thumb from the safety button and do not enter your four-digit pin. As a result, the local police will be called and automatically notified of your location.

Mohri Exline, sophomore in political science, uses the application regularly.

“When I first came to college, my mom bought me the SafeTrek app and made me promise to use it,” Exline said. “Surprisingly, I have used it many times and it gives me, and my mother, piece of mind.”

Even male students said they believe it’s important for women to have the ability to protect themselves.

“I am all for women carrying these items around in case of an emergency,” Nicholas Long, freshman in chemical engineering, said. “It is sad that our society has come to the point where these things are necessary, but I would feel much better knowing that my female friends have options to protect themselves. Especially if they have to walk around campus alone at night. “

With all of these new technologies on the market, women now have a wide variety of emergency products to choose from. Thankfully, all options are tremendously more inconspicuous than the average container of black pepper spray, enabling women to better protect themselves on and off college campuses.