One of the great joys of the digital age are browser extensions that automatically replace one thing with another as you wind your way through the internet — and now, there’s one that replaces Harvey Weinstein’s face with pugs in space. The Chrome extension is called Space Pug Safe Space, and it is both free and cute. However, it also does something really important: In the wake of the numerous allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Harvey Weinstein currently dominating the news cycle, it’s a tool that can help prevent triggering for survivors. (Weinstein "denies many of the allegations as patently false," according to attorney Lisa Bloom; however, he has since been terminated from his position on the board of directors at the Weinstein Company and expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.)
Created by comedian Jenn Welch, SpacePug Safe Space takes its cues from the extension Make America Kittens Again, which replaces pictures of Donald Trump’s face with pictures of kittens. MAKA’s creator, Tom Royal, had shared his code via GitHub; Welch then took the code, tweaked it a bit, and voila: Space Pug Safe Space,which notes directly in its title on its Chrome Store page that it’s based on its predecessor. Welch’s description for her extension echoes MAKA’s as well: For MAKA, it reads, “Replaces images of Donald Trump with kittens, because seriously, f*** that guy”; and for Space Pug Safe Space, it reads, “Replaces images of Weinstein/Cosby/etc. with an image of a pug in space, because seriously, f*** those guys.”
And it works! After I installed it, articles about Weinstein on the BBC looked like this:
The Washington Post looked like this:
And Weinstein’s IMDb page looked like this:
His Google sidebar results changed, too:
And the plugin even extended to video thumbnails:
There are few things in this world that are more precious than space pugs — but the extension is about more than just that. Although it’s definitely encouraging and necessary that the discussion and condemnation of harassment and assault — accompanied by consequences for those who have allegedly committed it — is finally happening on a wide scale and extremely publicly, it can also be something of a double-edged sword: It can also be triggering for those who have survived harassment, assault, and abuse.
According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), 94 percent of women who survive sexual assault experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms during the two weeks following the assault; 30 percent — that’s almost a full third —continue to experience these symptoms nine months after the assault. The majority of survivors “experience professional or emotional issues, including moderate to severe distress, or increased problems at work or school,” regardless as to whether they were victimized by an intimate partner, a family member, or a stranger.
Additionally, experiencing sexual harassment at work specifically — the variety of which Weinstein stands accused, and of which one in three American women reports experiencing, according to a 2015 survey conducted by Cosmopolitan — can have major ramifications for mental health: Recent research conducted in Denmark found that employees were harassed by clients or customers scored more than two points higher on the Major Depression Inventory Scale on average than those who weren’t harassed at all, while those who were harassed by their bosses or coworkers scored 4.45 points higher than those who weren’t harassed. As Bustle’s J.R. Thorpe noted at the time, “The Major Depression Inventory counts any score over 30 as major depression, so this difference matters a lot.”
This is where Space Pug Safe Space comes in: It functions as a buffer of sorts when the widespread nature of the news and discussion surrounding the Weinstein allegations can ambush you at any moment. “There’s this catch-22 when you’re a survivor of rape and assault, where you’re so excited that this is all finally happening and that these predators and abusers are finally facing consequences, but then it’s also incredibly triggering to constantly see the faces of these abusive men all over the news and social media,” Welch told the Daily Dot. “Rape trauma is PTSD, and it can be debilitating. I can choose not to read an article if I’m already feeling triggered, but an image loads without warning, and all of these images in the news lately have been suffocating.” With extensions like Space Pug Safe Space, though, your self-care and trigger prevention techniques can be two-fold: You can actively limit how much you seek out articles about the Weinstein allegations, and you have a safety net in place for images you might randomly encounter just by being on the internet.
The extension isn’t perfect; it sometimes misses things, as seen in this page of Google image results:
And although the description mentions not just Weinstein, but also Bill Cosby and an “etc.” that refers to the numerous other men who have recently been accused of sexual harassment and assault, I found that it generally only worked for pictures of Weinstein. (A Google search for Cosby, for example, yielded pages full of Cosby’s face.)
But even so, it is a useful and valuable tool — and one of which there is great need. Seeking to prevent triggering doesn’t make someone a “snowflake,” and it’s not an indication of wanting to ignore things that upset you; it’s an important way to manage and heal from trauma. The space pugs are just a bonus, no matter how cute they are.