Off to College Checklist

By: Katryna Mattern

Off to College Checklist:

  1. Pepper Spray – Check.
  2. Fear – Check.

They’re everywhere. Either you have one hanging on your keys or you see them hanging on a fellow female’s keys. Pepper spray is everywhere on college campuses.

I will never forget my dad making a special trip to the store just to buy me a key chain pepper spray. Yes, I understand the reason and appreciate the intention behind it, but a pepper spray purchase has become its own event in getting ready for going to college.

I just laugh a little though. This little plastic tube is supposed to hold some great feeling of protection or security for me as I venture across a college campus, but in fact it holds a quite frustrating truth. Having pepper spray dangle from my keys does not make me feel safe, it makes me feel a bit annoyed. Here I am, a woman going to college to do her own thing and accomplish her own goals, yet while doing so I also have to make sure that I’m prepared just in case some imbecile decides they want to prey upon me.

Being prepared or having pepper spray is not wrong. Everyone should always feel safe and prepared, especially on their own college’s campus. What is wrong is the fact that this is most female college student’s first purchase or “present” when heading off to college. My safety should not be determined by a plastic tube on a key chain.

Although seemingly little, pepper spray is a symbol of something much greater. Pepper spray does not symbolize the idea of feeling safe or being cautious, because then everyone would carry it, not just women. Pepper spray symbolizes the constant threat of sexual assault.  Women everywhere in the United States are told to not be out too late, to not travel alone, to take all precautions to protect themselves in cities, campuses, everywhere they go. The fear of being assaulted is instilled in us, like it’s just a part of life we must accept. We teach our women to worry and fear. We teach them how they should act so that they reduce the possibility of being attacked. Where’s the teaching that rape is not something that we should accept as an event that happens in life? Where’s the teaching of men to not rape?


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