Rape Culture in the Media

by Amanda C., Tina H., Imonie K., Jessica P., and Kirsten R.

Rape Culture in the Fashion Industry

This Bloomingdale’s ad is inappropriate and does not convey what they actually sell. Unless they are trying to sell rape. There is no way someone reading this ad would know it was for Bloomingdale’s unless they knew what Bloomingdale’s was.


There are so many things wrong with this ad minus the fact that it’s creepy. First, the man’s face is problematic. He comes across as sneaky or suspicious-like. The picture has him peeking from the edge of the page as if he is keeping tabs on her and with the phrasing that makes it seem creepy. It seems like he is supposed to be portrayed as a rich business man. He could very well be but looks are deceiving. It feels like that’s what the ad is trying to bring across. On the other hand, this man could be looking out for this woman and maybe the creepy guy is out of the picture and because of the phrasing it’s being taken in the wrong context.

Second thing to bring up about this ad is the woman. She looks happy and maybe having a good time at whatever event this could be. She seems like maybe she is talking to someone else because of that she is oblivious to this stranger next to her. It feels like this could be going on at a fancy Christmas party or something. It seems like she could be “rich” business woman. The interesting thing about this ad is that with that phrase the woman is actually dressed decently. She’s not half dressed in a nightclub.

Third thing is the phrasing. There is no need for something like that to be put in a catalogue or magazine. It makes it seem ok to spike your friends drink because you know them but it’s not. If this is supposed to be a holiday ad, how is this have to do with the holidays? Honestly, whoever printed this for Bloomingdale’s should feel either really bad or they don’t have a conscious. If this is meant to be a holiday ad where are all the holiday stuff? It does say something about eggnog but doesn’t mean it’s for Christmas.

The Bloomingdales printed advertisement in its holiday catalogue with a caption that read: “Spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking,”was definitely perpetuating rape culture. This is really difficult to argue. 

But a different question to ask is whether this ad relates or doesn’t relate to the theme of intersectionality. We have talked a lot about this topic, but to be concise, let us define intersectionality as a concept often used in critical theories to describe the ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another.

This ad has two caucasian models. The female model is thin, tall, blonde, and smiling. The male model is only halfway in the picture, but he appears to have a normal build. These two models portray an image of an ideal man and woman, an image created by our society. It shows difference of gender, but conforms to traditional gender roles. There is no minority pictured, the models are the “ideal” size, height, weight, color, and race. The advertisement perpetuates rape culture and also shows no trace of intersectionality. We already discussed how the ad could stop perpetuating rape culture, but let’s take a closer look at how the Bloomingdales printed advertisement could relate more to intersectionality. The ad should not exist as it is, but let’s  say that we have already changed the ad to reflect a more friendship oriented, or consensual relation between the man and woman. 

 So under this pretext, how could we make it more inclusive? We could see a gay or lesbian couple, an interracial couple, or a see raced minority couple. There could be a bigger woman or a shorter man. Maybe the ad could be of a family dinner where everyone is wearing their clothing, with a bunch of different couples (gay, straight, divorced, etc) of different sizes, ages, and races, something like the images.

An interesting ad that Bloomingdales could try to mirror in the future would be the Kohl’s commercial called “Celebrate Togetherness,” shown on the right. First, we see and granter in the kitchen, cooking. She opens the door to a bunch of family, of different ages, and some puppies, too! There are some minorities represented in this ad by an older black man, a gay interracial couple, a larger woman, pregnant woman, et cetera. There are many ways to advertise the holidays which are inclusive and relate well to intersectionality. 

Hopefully Bloomingdales will change its marketing strategies and portray people in a better, more intersectional way. 

Rape Culture in the Music Industry

Music is shareable! Even through there are various genres depending on personal preference, music is a way to bond with people no matter religious beliefs, body weight, ability, so forth. It’s a collection of work containing sound, lyrics, and passion. Expanding pass the lyrics is the actual performance. This gives an artist the ability to bring their work directly to their fans, but with that also comes the exploration of intersectionality. In the instance of Robin Thicke’s multiple performances of “Blurred Lines”, I will examine male domination, sexualization, and beauty of women.

I viewed Thicke’s “Burred Lines” performances at the 2013 BET Awards, 2013 MTV VMA Awards, and The Voice Finale- Australia; witnessing a somewhat similar pattern. I then thought of the targeted audience, factoring in age, gender, popular culture, and then chalked it up to [him] just giving what’s wanted/expected, but also understanding it can come at the expense of possible minimization of others.

During every performance, Thicke wears a suit, leaving the spectators focused on his voice, versus what he is wearing or how he looks. The suit was also a symbol of his dominance above the half-naked dancers, who are barely dressed. They now are no more than sexualized props, seen slowly rubbing themselves and even grinding on Robin, before returning to the back where they’re seen and not heard. In Beauty and Misogyny, author Shelia Jeffrey argues, “how could male dominance have any existence without a clear difference making who is the dominant class and who is not.” Another part examined was the notion of beauty. All the women were tall, slender, young, dressed revealing, and no one darker than a caramel skin tone. This not only goes hand in hand with the notion of today’s beauty standards set by society, but displayed samples of colorism and ageism. Jeffrey’s also argues “beauty practices can reasonably be understood to be for the benefit of men…They gain the advantage of being sexually stimulated by ‘beautiful women’…” This guided me back to the isms previously mentioned. By not having women too dark or too old, made me wonder if it was the vision Thicke had or what it was assumed the audience [men] would find beautiful or sexy, then delivering that.

I’m not here to say Thicke’s performances were created to dominate, sexualize, or reinforce beauty standards, but when exploring intersectionality, I couldn’t help but come across the various demographics. One without the other, in my opinion, would be non-existent. These overlapping characteristics intertwined and shaped the identity of the performances: for better or for worse is for one to decide on their own.

Robin Thicke’s hit song from 2013 Blurred Lines is somewhat of a rape anthem, and his music video doesn’t make it any better. Thicke had made two versions of his controversial video, one explicit or unrated video(pictured below) that features nude models and one with half clothed models that I guess is considered more appropriate(pictured to the right). There are several problems with these two videos to go along with the rapey words.

The first problem with this video is the lack of diversity.  As we stated earlier intersectionality is a concept that is used to describe oppressive institutions that are interconnected and cannot be examined separately.This video features two pale white women and one very light skinned black woman. These women are tall and extremely thin.  The men on the other hand are very well dressed in suits which we agreed earlier helped show their dominance over the naked or half naked women. The second problem with the video is what the women do and the how the men treat them. The three women prance around naked being treated like objects by the men. They are used as props like tables to show things off on. They are sexualized while the men pull at their hair and rub up on them. The women dance around and shake their breasts and butts while the men stand back and watch. Their creepy stares are similar to the Bloomingdale’s advertisement. The worst part about this video is the stop signs. At the seven seconds mark in the video you get a close up glimpse of small toy stop signed placed on one of the women’s perfectly rounded bottom. I guess that sign wasn’t clear enough or maybe the men viewed that “stop” as a “go.” In an interview with GQ magazine Thicke said they tried to do everything taboo because he felt the three men (Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and T.I.) were the perfect group to make fun of [SL13] this because they were married men. Thicke said he had fun degrading women because he never gets to do that. I guess he thinks that somehow justifies his degrading video.

This kind of video is somewhat common in today’s music scene. If you were to go watch the Blurred Lines video, YouTube would suggest very similar videos just like it. Whether it is watching Miley Cyrus swing half naked on a wrecking ball or Jennifer Lopez singing about her “Booty” while shaking it around, these videos are almost inescapable. It is hard today to find anything in the music industry that isn’t sexualizing women.

Robin Thicke’s summer hit Blurred Lines addresses what  sounds like a grey area between consensual sex and assault. The lyrics in this song, place the song into a real-life context. Let’s begin. “I know you want it.” Thicke sings “I know you want it,” a phrase that many sexual assault survivors report their rapists saying to justify their actions, as demonstrated over and over in the Project Unbreakable testimonials. “You’re a good girl.” Thicke further sings “You’re a good girl,” suggesting that a good girl won’t show her reciprocal desire (if it exists). This becomes further proof in his mind that she wants sex: for good girls, silence is consent and “no” really means “yes.”  Calling an adult a “good girl” in this context resonates with the virgin/whore dichotomy. The implication in Blurred Lines is that because the woman is not responding to a man’s sexual advances, which of course are irresistible, she’s hiding her true sexual desire under a facade of disinterest. Thicke is singing about forcing a woman to perform both the good girl and bad girl roles in order to satisfy the man’s desires. Thicke and company, as all-knowing patriarchs, will give her what he knows she wants (sex), even though she’s not actively consenting, and she may well be rejecting the man outright. 

Do it like it hurt, do it like it hurt, what you don’t like work? This lyric suggests that women are supposed to enjoy pain during sex or that pain is part of sex: The woman’s desires play no part in this scenario – except insofar as he projects whatever he pleases onto her — another parallel to the act of rape: sexual assault is generally not about sex, but rather about a physical and emotional demonstration of power. “The way you grab me. Must wanna get nasty.” This is victim blaming.  Everybody knows that if a woman dances with a man it means she wants to sleep with him, right? And if she wears a short skirt or tight dress she’s asking for it, right? And if she even smiles at him it means she wants it, right?  Wrong.  A dance, an outfit, a smile — sexy or not — does not indicate consent.  This idea, though, is pervasive and believed by rapists. And women, according to Blurred Lines, want to be treated badly. “Nothing like your last guy, he too square for you. He don’t smack your ass and pull your hair like that.” In this misogynistic fantasy, a woman doesn’t want a “square” who’ll treat her like a human being and with respect. She would rather be degraded and abused for a man’s gratification and amusement, like the women who dance around half naked humping dead animals in the music video. The part of resistance of the non-censored version of Blurred Lines is this lyric: I’ll give you something to tear your ass in two. What better way to show a woman who’s in charge than violent, non-consensual isonomy?  Ultimately, Robin Thicke’s rape anthem is about male desire and male dominance over a woman’s personal sexual agency. The rigid definition of masculinity makes the man unable to accept the idea that sometimes his advances are not welcome. Thus, instead of treating a woman like a human being and respecting her subjectivity, she’s relegated to the role of living sex doll whose existence is naught but for the pleasure of a man.

See document for our detailed references.

Sarah Liu,
Dec 15, 2015, 12:24 PM