By: Naeema Bawa
‘Tis the season for holiday fun, but American department store Bloomingdale’s steered us in the wrong direction with their recent Christmas advertisement that sparked a worldwide conversation about rape culture.
A young man is fixed on a laughing young woman who is unaware of his anchored gaze. Between them lies the caption, “Spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking.”
To think that this advertisement made its way through a team of marketers and advertisers and managed to be authorized right through to its publication speaks loudly of the issues regarding rape culture. Spiking someone’s drink is illegal, yet this retail powerhouse assumed that it could be part of holiday festivities. The emphasis of the words “best friend” makes it clear that Bloomingdale’s is not concerned by the fact that 82 percent of sexual assaults are committed by non-strangers. It condones the cause of 75 percent of all reported rapes, which are committed by a date or an acquaintance, and the 25 percent of rapes that are facilitated by drugs, with alcohol being the most common.
After the company received immense backlash through social media, they apologized with the most poorly deficient tweet they could craft:
“We heard your feedback about our catalog copy, which was inappropriate and in poor taste. Bloomingdale’s sincerely apologizes.”
To describe the endorsement of drug-facilitated sexual assault as being in “poor taste” belittles the entire concept of date rape even further than the advertisement succeeded in doing. It is advertisements like this that take us backwards in making any progress to help men and women truly understand rape and consent; and yes, both genders would benefit from education on the matter. While consent may seem to be straight forward enough, many are still in need of clarification of standards like affirmative consent (which is relying on a clear and enthusiastic ‘yes’ from a partner) and continuous consent, to better grasp the legalities of sexual assault.
Memories of Bud Light’s appalling “Up For Whatever” campaign earlier this year resurface as another disturbing verification of rape culture. Bottles with slogans reading “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night” stocked the shelves. The campaign perpetuated rape culture, displaying complete ignorance of the strong relationship between alcohol and sexual assault, and invalidating the fundamentals of consent. Bud Light issued a public statement attributed to the company’s vice president, explaining how they regret the campaign’s message and “would never condone disrespectful or irresponsible behaviour.” Multiple other spokespeople acknowledged the mistake made, apologizing on behalf of those behind the campaign. Bloomingdale’s, on the other hand, chose to make a weak apology through an incredibly impersonal and brief tweet that fails to address the experiences of victims of date rape and sexual assault. Since the advertisement is part of a Bloomingdale’s print catalogue, it cannot be retracted. Greater measures should definitely be made to exhibit corporate social responsibility and display a stronger understanding and regret for this insensitive wrongdoing.
A decent apology is a great place to start.