This year has been the year women pushed the many forms of harassment and assault to the forefront of the public's consciousness, thanks to the woman who walked around filming 10 hours' worth of catcalls in New York City to #YesAllWomen to the Columbia student who lugged around the mattress on which she was raped to force others to confront her reality. The end goal is pretty simple: To change the way men think about women and the institutions, like college campuses, that are supposed to keep people safe.
That said, assault still happens. It shouldn't, but it does.
That's why Kat Alexander decided to create a wearable device to help women protect themselves against attacks. Called the Siren Ring, it's a bit like a hefty mood ring that emits a painful piercing sound when the wearer rotates the face, an alarm that's intended to startle and deter an attacker. The issue with a lot of protective items like mace is that they're usually inaccessible, Alexander says; a ring is right there when you need it.
Alexander wouldn't say exactly how loud the ring's sound is or how long it lasts, since keeping that knowledge on the side of the wearer is one more protective step. But she notes that it can be heard from "well over" 100 feet away.
Raised in New York, Alexander developed the idea for Siren in college, where she says she had her "scariest encounter." She started doing market research and developed a business plan, raising nearly $1 million from investors and tapping her father, an electrical engineer, to help her with the technical aspects. All the manufacturing is done in New York and New Jersey at what Alexander says are medical and military-grade facilities, and the team has been working closely with acoustic and electrical engineers to streamline the design and reduce the ring's height and weight.
At $245, the Siren ring is pretty expensive. As their production orders scale, Alexander says she hopes to be able to drop the price point. Right now, the company is running on tight margins to keep the price as low as possible when it launches on November 1.
"We want to find a way that this is accessible across social strata," she says. "It's not meant to be a high-end product, but the cost does make it more challenging to offer at a discounted rate. We would like to align with women’s organizations and networks fighting sexual violence against women."
But, as critics of a drug-detector nail polish designed to prevent date rape have argued, aren't we unfairly putting the onus on self-protection on the woman here?
"It's not that we're putting the responsibility for safety back on the woman, but it's good [to have protection]," Alexander says. "You can get on board with campaigns that educate men and also get on board with being proactive."