It’s Not the Starbucks Ad I’m Seeing Red Over: Rape Culture is a Bloomindale’s Ad

“Spike  your best friend’s egg nog when they are not looking” reads the tag line of the Bloomingdale’s ad in a recent holiday catalog.

rape ad

A woman is looking away, laugh smiling at someone while a man is leering at her. The words are between them.

Are you f’n kidding me?

What exactly is being sold here or advertised? The clothes? The concept? The season?

Who at Bloomingdale’s thought this up and what team or boss or authority reviewed, approved it and sent it into to circulation?

I don’t get it and the fact that is happened during the same week as people have lost their minds over the Starbucks Holiday cup is making my head spin.

Could someone explain to me why this doesn’t get the same level of outrage?

I know I’m seeing red.

It’s not like an ad is Instagram photo that gets shot and accidentally sent out in the world.

People modeled for the ad. Someone had to think up the tag line, commit it to type, choose a font and color and then share the whole thing. That doesn’t happen with one person and one department in most places.

It usually requires levels of approval.

WTF Bloomingdales?

And if you think they feel all bad for this horrible mistake please read the “apology” that came from Bloomingdale’s.

“In reflection of recent feedback, the copy we used in our recent catalog was inappropriate and in poor taste,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “Bloomingdale’s sincerely apologizes for this error in judgment.”

It’s inappropriate and in bad taste just in reflection of recent feedback? Just in reflection? Does that mean if feedback were different it wouldn’t be inappropriate or in bad taste?


Then there’s the headlines about the story.

Fortune: Bloomindale’s Apologizes for Ad Seen as Encouraging Date Rape

NBC: Bloomingdale’s Says Sorry for Holiday Ad That Seemingly Implies Date Rape

Seen as?


I’m sorry, what else is one supposed to infer about secretly spiking your best friend’s eggnog while out at a holiday party while she’s not looking?

What’s the other less date rapey implication I’m supposed to be taking away that I’m missing?

You don’t have to be a feminist or an activist or a scholar to know what rape culture is in a week like this.

It’s simple: Rape culture is the culture where this ad gets made.

Rape culture is where Bloomingdale’s gets away without a real apology and where those writing headlines don’t know how to be clear.

Rape culture is where Bill Cosby needs to have dozens of women say the same thing for years before one of them is believed.

Rape culture is where perpetrators are seen as victims of attacks when actual victims report crimes.

Rape culture is spiking a drink while a woman isn’t looking and thinking it’s an image great for helping sell shit.

Rape culture is the one I live in and that’s terrifying because I’m female and a sister, daughter and mother.

Rape culture is the one where 1 in 5 females will experience sexual assault just while at college.

It’s the one where 1 in 4 (or 1 in 3) of us females will be sexually assaulted during our lives.

This world.

This culture.

That’s it. That’s how tragically simple and common rape culture is. It’s the one we live in.

Right now.

The one where some of us have to remind others that rape isn’t funny, sexy or a good ad idea.

Where we have to say. Again. Rape is a crime.

Rape is violent, real, serious and not funny.

90% of the time victims of sexual violence KNOW the person who they are assaulted by. Just like in this ad. Which is why the entire conversation about consent is so important.

Which is why it’s hard to know why Bloomingdale’s doesn’t know or care about these facts. Or disregards them.

90% of people assaulted know the perpetrator who is often a friend, teacher, co-worker, boss, neighbor or relative.

That people don’t understand or take this seriously is also rape culture.

The time and place where people still suggest secretly spiking eggnog is a kind of festive druggy flirting thing.

Despite the reality.

And it didn’t get shut down.

That’s rape culture in the present tense of now. 2015. This f’n week.

It’s astounding and there are a fuck ton of us who don’t think it’s even a tiny bit funny, seductive, smart or charming and who are royally pissed off.

We know the real picture behind that picture.

The one not used as an ad where that follows after the non consent or drugging or spiking. We’ve seen or lived the woman who is sobbing and heartbroken and shocked-shattered and limp because she’s been violated and by the “best friend” who turned out not to be the best.

Or is the criminal, offender and perpetrator.

And not a slick ad.

So I’m having a bad day. I’m in a terrible mood. That was true before I saw this ad but the ad tipped me all of the way over into rant-vent-fury.

So maybe no to the ad, to the bullshit apology and to having to explain rape culture in the culture where an ad like this gets made.

No to having to make a case, again and again and again, saying rape is a crime not a joke.

No to the eye rolling people who just don’t want to think or hear about this.

The eye rollers made this ad.

The eye rollers approved this ad.

The eye rollers didn’t listen to anyone who might have said, “Not funny. Not happening. Not a good idea. Not o.k.”

How the hell does this ad even get made?

I can’t even imagine the process. It seems unfathomable except that it happened.

My friend Laura Parrot Perry wrote on her Facebook page:

“So, there’s a marketing meeting at Bloomingdale’s. The ad agency guy, dressed like Don Draper, says, “You know what’s festive and fun? DATE RAPE!” And all the men nod their heads… “That’s a GREAT idea, Don! You sure do have your finger on the pulse of what ladies like!”

I need to believe there was no woman in the room.”

I hear that.

I need to believe one day an ad like this one won’t even be thought of as a good idea by anyone.

Not a single soul.

That we’ll have to dig through archives to prove to others that there was a time when something like this happened.

Because it won’t be believed or believable.

Unfortunately, it won’t be this week.


Rape culture.

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  1. I just learned about this ad now in summer 2017. That is a truly ‘WTF is this???” type of ad, so insane it is hard to believe that it is real. They are selling what, some kind of new brand of nutmeg extract? No, it’s a clothing store. So maybe what they were getting at is something like: “Expensive clothes = social status = sex = economic/reproductive strategy”… which is not a new equation – people have been ‘fashion-conscious’ in that way since ancient historical civilizations. But, this ad is what we would call ‘fashion unconsciousness’ = rape your friends during the holidays ??? Or maybe: “Bloomingdales’ clothing is so attractive, that it will have a coercive effect, equivalent to the rape of any acquaintance”. Any way that you dissect the image and the wording, it is disturbing. It could be that actually: the woman ‘spiked’ the man at the holiday party, and she is laughing about the fact that he will soon pass out cold from having drunk her GHB eggnog. But who is *not looking* in the image, clearly the woman is looking away from the man, not vice-versa.

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