In case you haven’t heard, the retailer giant Bloomingdale’s is now promoting rape. The above image of a laughing woman and a leering man with the phrase “Spike your best friend’s egg nog when they’re not looking,” comes from Bloomingdale’s new holiday catalog. That’s right, this isn’t some sexist bullshit from the ‘50s that someone just dredged up to drag Bloomingdale’s “good name” through the mud – it’s an ad that someone developed this year and published this year. And some people think rape culture doesn’t exist.
There is no conceivable way to think of this ad as anything other than the explicit endorsement of rape. At best, it involves getting a woman drunk. At worse, it involves putting Rohypnol (the date rape drug) into her drink. Either way, this ad wants that young man to incapacitate the woman. Why? To have sex with her. Look at how he’s looking at her. He’s halfway out of the shot, meaning that, despite the fact that he’s supposed to be her “best friend,” he’s still not fully in her life. He’s gazing directly at her, focused, his eyebrows lowered in concentration. He is not happy, which is a direct contrast to the woman’s joyful, laughing demeanor. He’s the one planning something, and Bloomingdale has just given him a great idea – as they have to thousands of other fuckboys who would do anything to get out of the fictitious “Friend Zone.”
I would love for someone to try to explain how this is not a rape ad. Why would he need to spike her drink? Why, if it’s just about hanging loose and having fun (which the woman is already doing) would he need to do so while she’s not looking? Why would you ever want to spike your best friend’s drink? Please, Bloomingdale’s, enlighten me. Oh, you can’t? It was “just a joke”? That’s what I thought.
For however many weeks or months it took to make this catalog, no one at Bloomingdale saw fit to pull the ad. Dozens of eyes went over it, and no one even paused. How inured must the publicists at Bloomingdale’s be to rape culture that they don’t blink at an explicit rape ad?
Fortunately, social media means that there are always people willing to be watchdogs and call people out on sexist, harmful behavior. Bloomingdale’s has since apologized, however lamely, for the ad, calling it “inappropriate.” However, that doesn’t excuse them, and it doesn’t indicate that anyone there has actually learned from this debacle. The pervasiveness of rape culture means that endorsement of rape is so ingrained in our society that, even when we apologize for “inappropriate” behavior, we don’t necessarily know why it was inappropriate – meaning that we will commit the same actions again and again and again. This ad certainly didn’t generate as much media attention as Starbuck’s red holiday cup, which is itself a problem. We must learn to take sexual threats more seriously and stop seeing sex as good regardless of how it happened. Consent is good, and it’s important. We need to remember that.