Monday, September 15, 2014

One in every color, please

Amy’s college has a program that allows students to call for a safe ride to and from their dorms any time between 8 pm – 1 am. It’s a no-questions-asked ride, and we encouraged her to take advantage of that service, especially after her late-night theater rehearsals.

But apparently, that’s the wrong approach. According to some feminists, we should have encouraged her to walk by herself in the dark because, “we should be tackling the cultural assumptions at the root of the campus sexual assault crisis,” not simply giving her the tools to keep herself safe.

I started thinking about this when the so-called, “date-rape nail polish” got such negative reviews last week. I do not understand the uproar. This sounds like a great idea to me – puts control in the hands (literally) of women. Brush on the polish, then dip your fingernail in the drink. If the polish changes color, you know someone has slipped you something. Instantly, you have armed yourself with valuable information.

But some activists say this sends the wrong message. It says society has given up on expecting men to respect women so now women have to wear drug-detecting nail polish. Instead of being pleased there is the possibility of alerting themselves to a potential drugging, anti-rape activists are concerned that this somehow hurts women. Tracey Vitchers, the board chair for Students Active For Ending Rape (SAFER), said, “…we need to think critically about why we keep placing the responsibility for preventing sexual assault on young women.”

Why we need to place the responsibility on women? What? This isn’t placing responsibility on women – this is giving them the power to control their encounters. I thought this would be empowering. This enables a woman to be in control of her circumstances to the best of her abilities.

No, no, says a whole lot of women who are active in the anti-rape circles. Rebecca Nagle, one of the co-directors of an activist group called FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, said, "The problem isn’t that women don’t know when there are roofies in their drink; the problem is people putting roofies in their drink in the first place." 

Um, I’m pretty sure it’s a problem when women don’t know there are roofies in their drinks. And OF COURSE we should be teaching and training our young men that any type of assault or abuse is 100% unacceptable. No argument here. But this nail polish is a potential tool women can employ to keep themselves safe. On what planet is this a bad plan?

We’d all like to live in a perfect world where sin doesn't exist and everyone looks out for each other’s best interest. But we aren't in Heaven yet. We’re on Earth where bad stuff happens. It’s our responsibility to train our children to love, honor and respect others. It’s also a parent’s responsibility to teach children to go into the world with their eyes open. If it’s wiser to walk in a group, we teach them to walk in a group. If you have to be in a dangerous part of town, go in the daytime.

And if you’re going to drink at a party where you don’t know everyone in attendance, wear the nail polish that you hope doesn't change colors.

It’s called personal responsibility.

It’s not letting men off the hook or making it less important to get to the “root cause of the on-campus rape culture” (here’s a clue: it’s sin). This is empowering women to make informed choices. Which I thought was something feminists wanted.

We still want Amy to use the safe ride if she’s walking back alone. It’s just smart. Anyone who sees it differently cares more about the theoretical than the practical. And to protect myself and my babies, I’ll go with practical every time.

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