Heads up, ya’ll: I’m going to be talking about rape whistles, pepper spray, guns, and self-defense here. FYI.
I’ve never liked rape whistles. And I’ve never been able to place why exactly. Pepper spray, guns? All cool. Those weird-ass plastic stabby cat-ears things? If you think you can use it, cool.
Then a few days ago, my mother bought me a rape whistle, I refused to carry it, and I finally figured it out. It’s not just that rape whistles are about paranoia, that they’re this physical object that reminds you of every single ounce of rape-culture bullshit and physical threat you may or may not experience. You see, I’m cool with self-defense weapons.
It’s what a rape whistle says about your response to that oppression. Self-defense weapons are pretty clear in their meaning—“If you attack me I willtake you down, motherfucker.”comes to mind. Are they caving to an often-out-of-proportion paranoia about stranger rape? Maybe. But they’re also refusing to be helpless.
In comparison, a rape whistle is all about helplessness. The ‘fighting back’ that happens with a rape whistle is “Blow real loud and hope somebody comes to save you.” Because of this reliance on somebody else, it’s not only caving to paranoia, it’s reaffirming the cultural belief that women are helpless maidens in need of knights to sweep in and save them.
Which is why I refuse to carry a rape whistle. I am not helpless, and I will not treat myself as such because more ‘civilized’ than what my grandfather did when my mother started commuting, which is give her a gun. That was paranoid and overprotective, but in a way wound up giving my mother actual power. Pepper spray would be reasonable nonlethal equivalent—something that gives you the power to take down an attacker. A rape whistle is, in comparison, simply a reminder that you are, in fact, incapable of defending yourself from an attacker, and need to rely on random strangers to do it for you. Which is, you know, why it’s actually a really, really insulting gift.