Crystal-studded pepper spray — stylish or offensive?

Get the latest from TODAY

Sign up for our newsletter
SUBSCRIBE
/ Source: TODAY contributor
By Chiara Atik

There are a lot of words people use when talking about pepper spray on the news: “pain,” “tears”, “crowd control” and “self-defense” spring to mind.

Now, a new company is hoping to add “cute” and “sparkly” to the list.

Guardian Girls has just launched a controversial new line of stylish pepper-spray canisters, in the hope of making this defensive substance a must-have accessory for all women.

Alex Anderson co-founded Guardian Girls with his mother, Yvonne, after she was forced to take out a restraining order on an ex-boyfriend. The two wanted to start a philanthropic endeavor that would donate specifically to charities that help women who are dealing with stalking and domestic violence.

So they set out to find a way to raise revenue for their philanthropies of choice. “Basically we were looking to find a product that would be appropriate, that would create funds to help the charity, and that in and of itself it would help women,” Anderson told TODAY.com. “ We knew we wanted to do some kind of personal protective device.”

Dainty — or dangerous?
They settled on pepper spray, which they then commissioned in a variety of canister colors — from purple to gold, from crystal-covered to an “athletic” model for runners. Prices range from $19.95 to $89.95, and each comes with both a replaceable pepper-spray cartridge and water cartridge, for practice.

The dainty canisters look more like tubes of lipstick than potentially dangerous devices, and for some, that’s part of the appeal. Chloe Post, 23, from Connecticut, has carried a crystal-covered pepper-spray canister (though not a Guardian Girls one) with her ever since her roommate gave it to her in college as a present, though she has never had to use it.“I don’t feel weird carrying it around with me or bringing it anywhere because it looks like just another accessory, which is a huge plus, ’cause no one wants to be obvious about carrying around something like pepper spray,” she told TODAY.com.

But some women’s websites have taken offense to the product, stating that women’s protective devices shouldn’t be accessorized or bedazzled.

Finally — something to help you look extra cute while fighting off vicious attackers,” wrote a blogger for the site TheJaneDough.

“If I pull something jeweled out of my purse, I doubt my attacker's first thought would be, ‘Oh no! A weapon!’ ” said one commenter on Jezebel.com.

But for Anderson, making pepper spray more palatable for women is part of the goal, which is why the company currently has an exclusive deal to start selling the pepper spray at an unlikely place: nail salons.

“We want to change the landscape for the way women can buy self-protection,” Anderson said. “Normally they’d have to go to an unfriendly environment towards females. We wanted to bring it into jewelry stores, department stores and salons that are a lot more female-friendly.” But can making pepper spray look pretty really affect a woman’s decision to arm herself with it? Apparently.

“I don't think I would've gotten one if it wasn't covered in crystals,” said Post. “The thought of pepper spray itself is kind of scary and threatening, but for some reason the crystals make the idea of pepper spray more appealing and accessible.”

It just goes to show: It’s all in the packaging.