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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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73 Responses

  1. ColoradoSal
    ColoradoSal March 23, 2012 at 2:23 pm |

    Wow. It almost makes the beer ads that objectify women’s bodies seem like no big deal.

  2. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage March 23, 2012 at 2:26 pm |

    I do like vodka. I’ve never tried Belvedere before, and this guarantees I won’t.

  3. freshwatermermaid
    freshwatermermaid March 23, 2012 at 2:31 pm |

    Here’s what I wrote to them:

    I want this to be very simple and very clear. I have no complaint with your product, and your commitment to responsible drinking is not in question. Making, approving and launching an ad that celebrates and normalizes rape is never acceptable. I don’t care if you think it’s funny, what happened to me isn’t funny. I don’t care if you have the ‘right’ to express such humour, it’s indecent, violent and in extremely poor taste.
    Your product should never have anything to do with rape. Ever.

  4. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar March 23, 2012 at 2:33 pm |

    Suggested new campaign: “Belvedere: the date rape drug.” That’s not meant to be funny. It’s just sadly true.

  5. Nahida
    Nahida March 23, 2012 at 2:34 pm |

    ^ That is much more coherent than the FUCK YOU!! I wanted to type.

  6. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar March 23, 2012 at 2:39 pm |

    It’s striking even against the usual backdrop of misogyny and rape culture, because it’s not even the usual Seth MacFarlane joke. It’s much more literally, “yeah, we’re for using alcohol and force to make women do things they don’t want to.” It’s very literal pro-rape propaganda with just a veneer of “joke” over it to provide plausible deniability when called on it.

  7. freshwatermermaid
    freshwatermermaid March 23, 2012 at 2:39 pm |

    Oh dear: nearly left a reply to their ‘apology’ on their FB page, but most of the comments are quite ugly. yuck. What I wanted to say on FB but am too afraid of the trolls to mention:

    guys, no-one thinks you don’t advocate responsible drinking. What you need to advocate is responsible advertising that doesn’t celebrate and normalize sexual violence.

  8. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage March 23, 2012 at 2:47 pm |

    Hmmm… seems the province-run booze store here in Ontario carries Belvedere products… guess who’s getting an email later?

    Here’s what I sent to their info email address:

    I have never heard of nor tried Belvedere Vodka before. After learning of an ad campaign involving a picture of what appears to be a scared woman trying to escape someone trying to force her into oral sex alongside a sentence referring to her as someone who doesn’t “go down smoothly”, and the non-apology apology released in response to justified outrage, I can guarantee I won’t be purchasing your company’s product.

    Sexual assault and coercion are not funny. My partner has spent much of her life counselling survivors of sexual assault. I shudder to think how many of Belvedere’s employees have been assaulted by partners when they refused to “go down smoothly”, who now work at a company that makes light of what they have suffered. Trivializing a widespread and highly traumatic form of violence is thoughtless, repulsive, and reprehensible. If I see Belvedere products on the shelves of drinking establishments and stores I frequent, I will make the owners aware of Belvedere’s attempt at a joke and my discomfort at patronizing an establishment that continues to carry the company’s products.

  9. Jadey
    Jadey March 23, 2012 at 2:53 pm |

    What a stupid ad.

    Honestly, when I first read that tagline, I could easily imagine an accompanying visual that *wasn’t* rape-y. Like, hey, oral sex can be tricky and difficult actually! Why not imply clumsy or unsuccessful (but entirely consensual) fellatio or cunnilingus? (‘Cause I’m thinking ladies drink vodka too.) Same basic concept, still crass (seems to be the goal), but suddenly no longer about rape! EASY AS PIE.

    But of course they went with one of the worst interpretations possible. (I say “one of the” because I’m sure they could have made it racist too, if they’d really felt like underachieving.)

  10. TiG
    TiG March 23, 2012 at 3:08 pm |

    Here’s what I sent:

    re: Pro Rape Advertising

    ————————————————————————————————

    “UNLIKE SOME PEOPLE, BELVEDERE ALWAYS GOES DOWN SMOOTHLY.”

    This is wrong, sick, degrading, and dehumanizing. I am a rape survivor and you can guarantee I’ll never touch your product again. Me, or anyone I know.

    Shame on you.

  11. Mallory
    Mallory March 23, 2012 at 3:28 pm |

    I sent the following message:

    It’s astonishing to me that there are still people out there thick enough not to realize that rape isn’t funny. Maybe you guys should become the official sponsor for Rush Limbaugh so the public only has to look in one place for misogynistic assholes.

  12. Falcon
    Falcon March 23, 2012 at 3:41 pm |

    That is just horrible! I have never seen anything blatantly pro-rape before.

    I am really freaking out over it because recently a man tried to assault me but was willing to back off at aggressive self-defense. I am totally freaked because if I had frozen or been smaller I would have gotten raped. On the other hand I feel like I am being a big baby because nothing really happened to me and I shouldn’t be acting like women who really got hurt. Has anyone else ever had anything like this happen?

  13. Jawnita
    Jawnita March 23, 2012 at 4:17 pm |

    Jadey-
    Yeah, when I just read the caption (in the above post; my eyes skipped to it because of the all-caps), I could definitely picture some things in the “just awkward” category. I dunno, maybe somebody with their arm propping them up at a weird angle, or accidentally drooling. There are plenty of ways to be “not smooth” that are not violent transgressions. That photo left no room for fun interpretations, though.

  14. LotusBen
    LotusBen March 23, 2012 at 4:22 pm |

    Maybe people could also consider boycotting LVMH? It’s the 25 billion dollar multinational French corporation that produces Belvedere, as well as Hennessy cognac, Louis Vitton apparel, and other luxury brands. They are the ones ultimately responsible for Belvedere’s advertising, and it’s pretty horrifying that such a prominent institution is putting forward misogynistic filth like this. Here’s some links:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lvmh

    http://www.lvmh.com/

  15. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar March 23, 2012 at 4:24 pm |

    Falcon, there is nothing wrong with being angry, or scared, or shaken, because someone tried to violate your bodily integrity and basic human rights. The assailant is a criminal piece of shit, and it is a big deal, and you don’t owe it to anybody to suddenly be okay. It’s okay not to be okay with rape, or even attempted rape, and I wish out whole culture were not okay with rape or attempted rape.

  16. LotusBen
    LotusBen March 23, 2012 at 4:27 pm |

    Oops. I’m sure people can figure it out. . .but I just wanted to try to correct the links I missed up on.

    LVMH’s wikipedia entry

    LVMH’s official website

  17. Belvedere Vodka: The New Date-Rape Drug « MK Feminist

    [...] taken responsibility for any of this.  This merits angry letters and a Belvedere boycott.  Feministe was kind enough to provide us all with their contact information, so write away, y’all! [...]

  18. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage March 23, 2012 at 4:37 pm |

    Falcon:

    You’re not overreacting – you have every right to feel the way you do. Someone tried to assault you, and that’s a traumatic experience. That you were able to fight the piece o’ shit off doesn’t make it any less traumatizing.

    Does your area have a crisis line for abuse and assault survivors? If not, the Assaulted Women’s Helpline here in Toronto has a toll-free number – awhl.org. Although the site focuses on Ontario, I’ve been led to understand that they get calls from all over Canada and the US.

  19. Marksman2010
    Marksman2010 March 23, 2012 at 4:38 pm |

    At some time before this ad was released, there were a group of marketing people sitting around a table discussing its inception. Surely they must have known this would be offensive. So why did they do it?

    I suppose they considered it a gamble. Sure, they’ll tick off some people, but at the same time it’ll give the ad–and their product–a boost by way of name recognition, even if it’s not a positive delivery. Kinda like Rush Limbaugh’s big mouth.

    Good example: I’ve never heard of Belvedere vodka. Now, because of their negative ad, I have. But unfortunately, the company won’t get anything but a complaint from me.

  20. Emolee
    Emolee March 23, 2012 at 5:12 pm |

    Has anyone else ever had anything like this happen?

    Falcon, yes I have. It was deeply traumatizing.

    I’m so sorry that happened to you. Your reaction seems very normal to me. You have the right to define your own experience, but I would question your statement that “nothing really happened” to you. An attempted rape is definitely something that happened. There is no reason to ignore that because some people have experienced completed rape. Someone has always experienced something worse. It doesn’t mean that reacting to your experience is being a “baby.”

    A close friend of mine (who has said that I can post this here) was recently raped by multiple men. Had she not been highly (and I mean defense/intelligence agency highly) trained in self-defense, she would definitely be dead. One of her trials in dealing with this experience has been (and still is) allowing her simultaneous feelings of extreme trauma and gratitude to be alive. So, in my humble opinion, it’s normal for you to recognize that in even though the situation could have been worse, you still have the right to be “freaked.”

  21. 1ceuponathyme
    1ceuponathyme March 23, 2012 at 5:18 pm |

    Good example: I’ve never heard of Belvedere vodka. Now, because of their negative ad, I have. But unfortunately, the company won’t get anything but a complaint from me.

    So, Belvedere used a rape joke as a marketing strategy and, for that, they won’t be getting a complaint from you? How refreshing…

  22. 1ceuponathyme
    1ceuponathyme March 23, 2012 at 5:19 pm |

    Nevermind, Marksman, and my apologies. Apparently, I cannot read well after a long day at work.

  23. Barb
    Barb March 23, 2012 at 5:22 pm |

    That’s the way those ‘apologies’ always go, ‘sorry we offended you’ (translation: ‘Your fault for being so thin-skinned’), never acknowledging the truth ‘we screwed up’. Infuriating, but typical.

  24. Elisia
    Elisia March 23, 2012 at 5:39 pm |

    I am a bartender, and obviously, know others in the area. Will definitely be having the conversation, with all the other bartenders, managers, and owners I know, about not carrying Belvedere anymore.

  25. Naamah
    Naamah March 23, 2012 at 5:49 pm |

    Falcon:

    When I was 11, a friend of the family who was supposed to be watching me for the day pinned me against an end table and started groping me with no apparent intention of stopping. I very calmly told him that my parents knew he was there, and if he did anything to me, my dad (who was and still is kind of a really scary guy) would kill him.

    He backed off, but I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t been so (in retrospect shockingly) calm. I told my parents I didn’t want him to come over again, ever, and he never did. I didn’t tell them exactly why, because at the time I was genuinely afraid that my dad WOULD hurt the guy, but they listened.

    I came out of it unscathed, no violent conflict, I never had to talk to the asshole again, and it still scared the bejeezus out of me. If I’d been through what it sounds like you went through, yeah, I’d be really really not okay, too.

    You feel how you have to, and don’t feel like you shouldn’t. Seconding the advice that you find someone you can talk to about it, professionally or not.

    *fierce hugs*

  26. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable March 23, 2012 at 6:00 pm |

    Recommendation – drink Chopin instead of Belvedere. It’s better tasting anyway and its at the same price point. Know what? Let them know your plans.

  27. Jadey
    Jadey March 23, 2012 at 6:06 pm |

    @ Falcon

    Something kind of similar happened to me at a party. He claimed he was just joking around and I was surrounded by friends who would protect me, but that just made me feel even worse because it made me feel like it was completely illegitimate that I was so freaked out that he had forcefully kissed me three times (the third time under the pretext of apologizing, which my friends had encouraged me to accept by hugging him). I spent the rest of the party hiding in the stairwell with one of my friends who understood what an asshole he’d been. He made even being surrounded by friends who cared about me a threatening place to be.

    I wasn’t raped, I don’t think he would have raped me in that particular scenario (if he’d happened upon me in a more vulnerable situation? I absolutely think he would have, because he seemed to think that boundaries dissolve in alcohol), and I wasn’t as traumatized as I theoretically could have been, but it doesn’t make the situation or the effect it had on me any less fucked up. When someone shows you just how ‘safe’ you are, it’s frightening, even if it doesn’t become a worst case scenario.

  28. Tracey Prange
    Tracey Prange March 23, 2012 at 6:29 pm |

    I don’t have anything to add to all of the excellent commentary that everyone else has already posted, but I do want to assure Falcon that she is not at all overreacting to what happened. Just because you were able to get away from him, doesn’t mean you weren’t violated. His attempt to do that to you was in fact a violation. That he thought he could do that to you was a violation. I’ve had my own close calls and still shudder, years later, when I realize how close I came to being raped. You have every right to be angry and shaken up about it. I really hope you’re alright.

    I will also add, never heard of this vodka, won’t ever drink it now!

  29. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie March 23, 2012 at 7:20 pm |

    TRIGGER

    Golly, that ad is almost as funny as the guy who forced me to “perform” oral sex. Hilarious.

  30. SunlessNick
    SunlessNick March 23, 2012 at 9:14 pm |

    That may well be the most repulsive ad I’ve ever seen. Certainly the most so in some years.

    How long do you think before someone tries to claim he’s giving her a heimlich maneuver?

  31. Mxe354
    Mxe354 March 23, 2012 at 9:38 pm |

    Wow. That’s absolutely sickening. There’s literally no room for interpretation here. They definitely lost a consumer here.

    Someone has always experienced something worse. It doesn’t mean that reacting to your experience is being a “baby.”

    This is an extremely important point. I know some people who disregard the suffering of certain individuals merely because there are others who are worse off. That kind of deflection is not only moronic, but also deeply hurtful for victims of any antisocial act. Someone who was almost sexually assaulted also deserves unconditional love and emotional support. Anyone who marginalizes the trauma of a victim of attempted sexual assault is a repulsive human being. Suffering is suffering – end of story.

  32. Kat
    Kat March 23, 2012 at 9:39 pm |

    Here’s my email:

    “What the hell were you thinking?”

    Seriously, what the hell were you thinking when you approved the “date rape” ad. I hadn’t realized that you had been trying to attract the frat boy crowd. Do you think that men will continue to order your product in a bar when every woman who sees a man drinking your vodka refuses to speak to him? Do you think that women don’t drink your vodka? I did. I no longer will. I can’t patronize a company that employees people as dumb as the drooling window lickers who thought this ad was a good idea.

  33. Amelia ze lurker
    Amelia ze lurker March 23, 2012 at 10:53 pm |

    Has anyone else ever had anything like this happen?

    To add my voice to Emolee’s: yes.

    TRIGGER WARNING

    As I was walking to the subway, I was followed by two men who begin by harassing me verbally and touching me, and ended by chasing me into the subway station. The aggressor of the pair (the other was more his accomplice) jumped into the turnstile with me, thrust his crotch against me when I turned around to push him away, and, after I slapped him, dragged me out of the turnstile and put me in a headlock. He ran away when I started screaming. It was horrible because I had been thinking a LOT, over the week before it happened, about what I would do in such a situation. And then, when it did happen, I blamed myself for not being “prepared” and handling it “badly.”

  34. faithless
    faithless March 24, 2012 at 7:17 am |

    wait, why let the company know your not going to use their product again, regardless if they change their tune about the ad? I mean once you tell them “I’m never going to buy your product again”, don’t you immediately invalidate them changing? I mean why would they if they know no amount of REAL apology will matter?

  35. Craig R.
    Craig R. March 24, 2012 at 8:49 am |

    Faithless –

    …I mean once you tell them “I’m never going to buy your product again”, don’t you immediately invalidate them changing? I mean why would they if they know no amount of REAL apology will matter?…

    It will matter because there are now hundreds of thousands of people who will have seen this ad will now never *buy* this vodka (at $50/1.75L bottle) at retail, or *order* it in a bar, will encourage bar owners to never *serve* this vodka and complain to liquor stores about *stocking* this vodka. *And* will recommended this same course of action to all their friends

    And the only way this company will know *for certain* that this ad is the reason is if you *tell them so*

    I drink booze very rarely, but I can guarandamntee you that *this* vodka will never be one I will ever buy, order or serve.

  36. Lu
    Lu March 24, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  37. Yada Yada
    Yada Yada March 24, 2012 at 9:25 am |

    The woman in the picture consented to do this, so that makes it ok I would say.
    There are many interpretations we can give to this picture. The lady can look scared at first (as in the picture) but she might end up enjoying wathever happens next, this could be just a little bit of role playing you know and it all ends with great sex!
    It is a very reccurrent scenario in porn to see a woman reluctant at first to engage in a sex act (or she may just look reluctant all the way, it depends on the viewer’s taste); this is very popular and this is ad is probably intented to the many people who enjoy looking at that kind of stuff. This is just an extension of it…. Porn is not taboo anymore, it is very popular and even trendy, it is totally normal that the advertisers will take some aspects of it to cater to their audience. Sex sells you know!
    If you don’t like it, do not find it funny or are offended by it, then just look away. Do you advocate for censorship? What about free speech???
    And really, there are worst things going on out there. It is very easy to come across actual very graphic depictions of complete rape on the internet, this ad looks fade compared to this.
    But the most important thing is that it is all FANTASY, it is not real! Just like this ad, it is fantasy, just a joke, no one has been really coerced! You may not find that funny, but please do not judge other people who do find the ad funny or sexy.
    Of course no means no, but I am sure that everyone participating in this ad were consenting adults.

  38. Angel H.
    Angel H. March 24, 2012 at 9:51 am |

    I filled up about 3 different Bingo cards with just that one comment!

  39. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage March 24, 2012 at 10:31 am |

    I expect to see that one in next year’s edition of FNTT. That’s a doozy of rape culture apologia and silencing language.

  40. checksix
    checksix March 24, 2012 at 10:41 am |

    The word troll gets thrown around a lot on this blog to mean “person I really, really disagree with and don’t like” rather than “asshole just looking for attention through acrimony,” but wow Yada, that’s some of the highest PSI trolling I’ve seen in a while. Outside of youtube comments, anyway. Bravo.

    …Or it’s just sarcasm that flies a little too close to the flame and doesn’t have the benefit of spoken tone. Shrug.

  41. Mxe354
    Mxe354 March 24, 2012 at 11:04 am |

    @Yada Yada

    The woman in the picture consented to do this, so that makes it ok I would say.

    That doesn’t eliminate the pro-rape message that ad projects.

    There are many interpretations we can give to this picture. The lady can look scared at first (as in the picture) but she might end up enjoying wathever happens next, this could be just a little bit of role playing you know and it all ends with great sex!

    Um, no. A man is restraining a woman who looks frightened, and there are captions that allude to someone who doesn’t acquiesce to something easily. Those two things combined make it quite clear that the message is pro-rape, even if it weren’t intentional. And if the creators somehow overlooked the possibility of the ad being interpreted as pro-rape, they really should be fired. Also, your “interpretation” is absolutely repulsive; you could say the same thing about any victim of rape.

    It is a very reccurrent scenario in porn to see a woman reluctant at first to engage in a sex act (or she may just look reluctant all the way, it depends on the viewer’s taste); this is very popular and this is ad is probably intented to the many people who enjoy looking at that kind of stuff. This is just an extension of it…. Porn is not taboo anymore, it is very popular and even trendy, it is totally normal that the advertisers will take some aspects of it to cater to their audience. Sex sells you know!

    Porn isn’t taboo, indeed. But this ad doesn’t and can’t make it clear that it’s merely an extension of that kind of porn (which I think is terrible and misogynistic in and of itself). It thus looks like a pro-rape ad to most people. And that’s what matters here.

    If you don’t like it, do not find it funny or are offended by it, then just look away. Do you advocate for censorship? What about free speech???

    Insulting victims of sexual abuse and everyone who cares about such victims and encouraging rape are not things that should be allowed in any advertisement. And victims of rape don’t deserve to live in a world in which pro-rape messages are rife.

    And really, there are worst things going on out there. It is very easy to come across actual very graphic depictions of complete rape on the internet, this ad looks fade compared to this.

    Again, this ad has pro-rape messages, even if it’s not graphic. That there are far more egregious things out there that encourage rape doesn’t matter. A pro-rape message is a pro-rape message. And such a message is bound to be a cause for another’s suffering, because the message will, at the very least, contribute to rape culture.

    But the most important thing is that it is all FANTASY, it is not real! Just like this ad, it is fantasy, just a joke, no one has been really coerced! You may not find that funny, but please do not judge other people who do find the ad funny or sexy.

    Jokes are not funny when they encourage prejudice and antisocial behavior. And I do have a fucking right to judge people who find a pro-rape message “funny” or “sexy” and have no empathy for rape victims.

    I really hope you get banned.

  42. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable March 24, 2012 at 11:44 am |

    @Lu – that tweet is whole lot of nothing. What actions are they taking to make sure that shit never happens again? i.e. WHO ARE THEY FIRING? and what “women’s support cause” are they giving to?

    Nothing. I’m categorically unimpressed. Drink Chopin.

  43. faithless
    faithless March 24, 2012 at 12:20 pm |

    Craig R.-

    It will matter because there are now hundreds of thousands of people who will have seen this ad will now never *buy* this vodka (at $50/1.75L bottle) at retail, or *order* it in a bar, will encourage bar owners to never *serve* this vodka and complain to liquor stores about *stocking* this vodka. *And* will recommended this same course of action to all their friends

    And the only way this company will know *for certain* that this ad is the reason is if you *tell them so*

    I drink booze very rarely, but I can guarandamntee you that *this* vodka will never be one I will ever buy, order or serve.

    Exactly, so there is no point in telling them because the damage is done already. Your not telling them “fix this or I’m not buying your product again”, your telling them “It dosen’t matter what you do, we are never buying your product again anyway”. So the company has zero incentive to change, because why try to back track and offer a real apology and fire people, etc, when the angry folks are still not going to buy your product?

    If your offensive once, unless there is a road to redemption, you might as well just keep being offensive and make money of people who don’t know or care about the ad.

  44. Jennifer
    Jennifer March 24, 2012 at 12:23 pm |

    Not only did I email Belvedere Vodka, I emailed the founder of The Manhattan Cocktail Classic (big liquor industry event) who is the former director of Astor Wine & Spirits in NYC about discontinuing any sponsorships with the liquor company. I hope she makes an example of them.

  45. Kelly
    Kelly March 24, 2012 at 12:50 pm |

    Done and done! My email to Belvedere:

    To whom it may concern:

    Your recent ad advocating sexual assault is inappropriate, offensive, blatantly misogynist, and completely unacceptable. Your half-assed apology wherein you remind your Twitter audience that you advocate responsible drinking is insincere and utterly missing the point. Rape “jokes” (and this one was barely a joke–really just a depiction of an assault) normalize rape, making it okay to enact sexual violence. Moreover, these jokes are triggering to sexual assault survivors.

    The only way you can make up for this to your customers (especially your female customers) is to fire anyone and everyone involved with creating this ad and to issue a sincere apology that actually touches on the point. Until then, I hope you enjoy losing sales. Obviously, I’ll never be purchasing your product ever again.

  46. irieagogo
    irieagogo March 24, 2012 at 2:58 pm |

    I reply tweeted this to the Belvedere apology:

    @belvederevodka Hoping Belvedere doesn’t hire D. Strauss Kahn for next ad: I don’t always drink when I rape, but when I do, it’s Belvedere!

    Stoli it is!

  47. Anna
    Anna March 24, 2012 at 4:34 pm |

    @Yada Yada

    If you don’t like it, do not find it funny or are offended by it, then just look away. Do you advocate for censorship? What about free speech???

    Um. You do realize that giving a company your opinion is not censorship, right? You realize that no one’s freedom of speech is being violated when consumers and potential consumers decide to boycott a company, right? If you actually think these are censorship or freedom of speech issues, you need to reacquaint yourself with what those ideas actually mean.

  48. LotusBen
    LotusBen March 24, 2012 at 5:21 pm |

    If you actually think these are censorship or freedom of speech issues, you need to reacquaint yourself with what those ideas actually mean.

    Well, I think Yada Yada is censoring our opinions with zer speech about our speech about Belvedere’s speech. How about that Yada Yada!? Why do you hate First Amendment!? You’re just the goddamn thought police: that’s what you are. Censorship! Stalin!! If you don’t like what you read here, then just stop reading it!!! Duh!!!

  49. Nancy Green
    Nancy Green March 25, 2012 at 8:00 am |

    Vodka, by definition, is exactly the same, cheap or expensive. You are buying nothing but the label and advertising.
    And what’s wrong with a nice glass of wine?
    If you want to impress someone, drop some Cape Cod beach plums or some berries into a bottle of cheap vodka, print your own label, sip responsibly.

  50. Brandy
    Brandy March 25, 2012 at 11:45 am |

    If your offensive once, unless there is a road to redemption, you might as well just keep being offensive and make money of people who don’t know or care about the ad.

    Or.. they might think, “hey, a lot of people stopped drinking our vodka because of this ad, so maybe we shouldn’t use ads like this in the future.” They might not win back the customers they lost, but they can sure as hell try not to lose any more.

  51. Godlesspanther
    Godlesspanther March 25, 2012 at 12:20 pm |

    Marksman2010 above, makes a good point. Before this, the name, Belvedere Vodka would not have registered any connection for me. It does have a Limbaugh-esque publicity stunt smell to it. We have an “apology” from Jason Lundy who names himself the SVP (senior vice-president) of global marketing for the company.

    So — Jason? What, exactly, was your role in this particular ad? It seems reasonable to assume that there were numerous people involved in this ad between the drawing board concept and the placement of the final ad on the internet. Is it reasonable to assume that not one of these people was aware of the fact that the ad was utterly tasteless and appalling? Of course not. The offensive material was intentional.

    A large company like this would not do things accidentally. They do cost analysis of every decision. There is a lot of money here. They knew that they would lose a percentage of customers. But — they have brought the name of the product into the public light. There are a percentage of people who will remember the name — Belvedere Vodka — and not know why they remember that name.

    I think it would be interesting to hold Jason accountable for the answers to these questions. How? I don’t know.

  52. Amanda
    Amanda March 25, 2012 at 4:16 pm |

    I’m sure that, due to the flood of emails they have received in reference to this topic (and the fact that they obviously don’t give a shit about sexual violence perpetrated against women), no one at the company will read this email I sent to the company:

    This is in reference to your recent advertisement depicting the attempted rape of a woman by a gleeful man. If you are tempted to stop reading this now, consider the fact that doing so will perpetuate your company’s status as being misogynistic, which obviously is not a major concern for you, and disconnected from and unresponsive to your client base. Unless you are attempting to cater to the interests of the minority of men that commit rape, you are, in fact, degrading both men and women with such a depiction. Furthermore, by insinuating that consumers of your product are (1) male and (2) rapists, you have all but guaranteed that neither (a) females nor (b) non-rapists (aka most people) will wish to be associated with your company. If this was your intent, you have done a fine job, and I congratulate your efforts. You can be assured that, especially in light of your apology/excuse/disinterest regarding the offensive nature of your advertisement, your product will continue to be disregarded among individuals with class/morals.

  53. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery March 25, 2012 at 5:41 pm |

    Exactly, so there is no point in telling them because the damage is done already. Your not telling them “fix this or I’m not buying your product again”, your telling them “It dosen’t matter what you do, we are never buying your product again anyway”. So the company has zero incentive to change, because why try to back track and offer a real apology and fire people, etc, when the angry folks are still not going to buy your product?

    I work in marketing, and, from my perspective, you are completely wrong for a couple of reasons:

    1) Consumer opinion is never a monolith — the people at Belvedere know that for every one person that will ever, ever buy the brand again, there are a few whose opinions are reversible with quick, decisive action.

    2) Other vodka brands have observed what happened to Belvedere, and will take it into account in their marketing decisions, so writing Belvedere off completely still has an effect on the tone of the discussion.

  54. Falcon
    Falcon March 25, 2012 at 11:15 pm |

    Thank you to everyone who answered. Having the support and hearing other stories has been a huge help!

    @Thomas “there is nothing wrong with being angry, or scared, or shaken” Thank you, I really needed to hear that.

    @auditorydamage I am glad to hear that I am not over reacting. I think it probably makes it much less traumatic but I will certainly believe now that I shouldn’t feel bad for being upset.

    @Emolee I am so sorry to hear that your experience was deeply traumatic, it was very helpful to hear that I am not alone. “Your reaction seems very normal to me.” I am not sure why that is so important to me but I can’t tell you how comforting it was to read that. I hope you have gotten everything you need(support and such) since then. Much sympathy for your friend as well, that sounds terrifying!

    @Jadey I would be enraged at my friends if they didn’t back me up. Did you manage to forgive them and stay friends? That sounds hideous. Hell, *I’m* mad at your friends. No one should treat you like that. Some dude forcing kisses on you, hell no!

    @Naamah At 11?! You were an amazing kid to get out of that one and I’m glad your parents had your back. Holy crap that sounds scary. “If I’d been through what it sounds like you went through, yeah, I’d be really really not okay, too.” That made me cry. I am glad it isn’t just me.

    @Tracy More close calls? Yikes way to many of us. Hope you are ok. Thanks for being another person letting me know that an attempt is a violation. I need to keep trying to make myself believe that!

    The worst part of this is that I am so paranoid to begin with and the one time I decide to let down my guard, this happens. The back of my head is telling me “See, the world really is that dangerous”, this is something I posted on another forum:

    The other thing that is going on with me is that anything that sounds like “only rapist can stop rape” makes me feel very scared and helpless” I know that nothing is foolproof but I need to know that there are things that will make me less likely to encounter rapists. Locks, alarms, not ever being alone with men I don’t know very well and who have never hurt me or another women,being very careful where I go without a bodyguard, stuff like that.

    Other women have different rules, mine are way too restrictive for many. Not following them would never make anything my fault or any other woman’s. It is just a cost benefit thing. The idea that you should have only ever drunk things you opened yourself is absurd, what are you a spy? Yes doing that gives you a higher level of protection but the social cost is utterly ridiculous. And if I decide to relax sometime and see a man I haven’t vetted like I was planning to give him a top secret clearance, no one had better give me shit about it.

    So that was my experiment with acting like a normal person for once. Well sort of anyway, I made sure he wasn’t armed and I was pretty sure that I could take him in a fight before I went to his room. So at least the worst thing I was looking at was a self-defense case.

    I don’t understand how normal women function at all. I hate this, most men are good people and I have to treat them all like rabid dogs or plutonium or something until I weed out the few horrible ones.

    The support here has made this much easier for me. Dealing with feelings works better when I don’t have to pretend that I am not having them.

  55. faithless
    faithless March 26, 2012 at 4:12 am |

    @ Brandy
    Or.. they might think, “hey, a lot of people stopped drinking our vodka because of this ad, so maybe we shouldn’t use ads like this in the future.” They might not win back the customers they lost, but they can sure as hell try not to lose any more.

    meh, Ill concede you may be right but I wouldn’t bet on it, in fact if they back track too much they might loose the misogynist vodka buyers too and then turn what was 1 problem into 2.

    @Tom Foolery
    1) Consumer opinion is never a monolith — the people at Belvedere know that for every one person that will ever, ever buy the brand again, there are a few whose opinions are reversible with quick, decisive action.

    Really? I mean I dont work in advertising so it's not like I have any real data to back up my opinion but the idea that the same add that is permanently loosing all the posters in this thread as customers (or so they are telling Belvedere) is only putting the majority on the fence, and they can still "save" their brand by following the advice of people who they have already lost as customers seems very... counter intuitive, to me <_<.

    2) Other vodka brands have observed what happened to Belvedere, and will take it into account in their marketing decisions, so writing Belvedere off completely still has an effect on the tone of the discussion.

    wait... so now they ARE totally screwed already and the point of people telling them there is no point in fixing their ways is all for the sake of OTHER companies?

    wouldn't reason 2 be way more effective if they were given an ultimatum of change by a "hord of angry POTENTIAL consumers" rather than a big "YOU LOST, SO DON'T BOTHER APOLOGIZING BECAUSE I'M DEAD TO YOU!"?

  56. faithless
    faithless March 26, 2012 at 4:13 am |

    wow… also i fail at quote blocks, sorry folks :(

  57. elena
    elena March 26, 2012 at 9:45 am |

    Personally, I thought the Terry Richardson ads were even worse. This ad is disgusting, without question, but I think it should be noted that there was much less uproar over the Richardson ads because they were far more subliminal and below the surface, and thus WAY more insidious. The implication behind those ads was that you use Belvedere to get a girl drunk so she’ll go down on you… He’s just so good at what he does that he implied it subconsciously.

    This recent one was a completely amateurish and idiotic mistake on the part of the firm that designed it, and was far more overt with the sexual harassment element. The (semi) public uproar over them causes people to actually consciously understand what these ads are saying. Compare this to the Richardson ads which literally acted beneath the surface, in the subconscious, and thus very few people in the public saw a problem with it.

    Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.
    Regardless, it goes without saying that I wish both of these had never been made.
    Also note, this is coming from a former advertising major.

  58. Tim
    Tim March 26, 2012 at 12:10 pm |

    My email to them:

    Re your tweeted ad showing a smiling man restraining a frightened woman trying to get away with the caption about “going down smoothly”: This is an ad promoting alcohol consumption as a means to rape, specifically the consumption of your branded vodka. The offense is not about “responsible drinking.” Do you really want Belevedere Vodka to be known as “The Date Rape Vodka”? I don’t know how you should fix this, but you need much more than a non-apology “apology” and a small donation to a “women’s group.”

    Probably just a spit in the ocean, but I don’t know what else to do. I drink almost never, and even then not vodka. I use a small amount in pie dough, but $50/bottle is ridiculous anyway.

    I generally agree with the outraged comments above, but I don’t know about the ones that say this caption could be redeemed with different visuals. I mean, if you don’t feel comfortable doing oral sex, then don’t do it. This is true whatever the gender identities of the respective fellator-fellatee/cunnilingor-cunnilingee. Drinking enough vodka or anything else to make it bearable just doesn’t seem like a good idea.

  59. Jovan1984
    Jovan1984 March 26, 2012 at 4:37 pm |

    I am glad that I am a non-drinker.

    Belvedere is disgusting, and you drinkers need to boycott them for making such a disgusting ‘joke’.

  60. maggiemay
    maggiemay March 26, 2012 at 6:57 pm |

    @ elena—
    i just googled terry richardson and it seems he regularly harrasses and molests the models he photographs—so it stands 2 reason his work would B f***ed up 2

  61. faithless
    faithless March 27, 2012 at 4:51 am |

    @Jovan1984

    Belvedere is disgusting, and you drinkers need to boycott them for making such a disgusting ‘joke’.

    sigh, between the Dr. Pepper 10 thing and this, I’ve lost an entire regular Friday beverage of mine.

    I saw the Chopin comment before but I’m not really a fan, anybody got any other good Belvedere alternatives?

  62. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable March 27, 2012 at 7:14 am |

    WTH IS WRONG WITH CHOPIN??

    (I’m seriously fan girl over it, but it’s because I’m Polish and never liked Belvedere and feel I owe it to my homies with bathtub brews to choose a Polish vodka).

    Seriously though, Chopin is way smoother than any vodka I can think of. Ketel One is a decent close second, though. I’m a decent fan of the Van Gogh espresso-flavor. Oh man, you know what’ll give you a hangover but tastes like happiness? Pinnacle Whipped Cream.

  63. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil March 27, 2012 at 10:11 am |

    anybody got any other good Belvedere alternatives?

    I mean, you can take just about any cheap vodka, run it through a Brita filter and end up with good quality vodka.

    1. Kat
      Kat March 27, 2012 at 11:03 am |

      According to the brewing masters I know, you need to filter it 5 times to bring it to quality level. Use a new water filter and soak it in the vodka, not water, when preparing the filter (per the instructions).

      Also, someone else had posted that all vodka was the same thing and people were being duped for paying more. This isn’t true. Most vodka is made from wheat, some from potato (mostly Polish vodkas), and some use other grains. There are additives in some, and the more expensive brands are highly filtered (removing impurities that lead to worse hangovers).

  64. faithless
    faithless March 27, 2012 at 1:02 pm |

    @PrettyAmiable

    WTH IS WRONG WITH CHOPIN??

    sry, just not my thing, I’ve had some pretty epic polish vodka but most of it has been while in krakow, Chopin is just way to much on the sweet side for me.

    @FashionablyEvil

    I mean, you can take just about any cheap vodka, run it through a Brita filter and end up with good quality vodka.

    um… No, not really, you can remove impurities and make it “sting” less but the vodka itself is not “better quality” just because you filter it.

  65. h
    h March 30, 2012 at 12:13 am |

    Umm wow, just wow. No one thought that, that image could be interpreted in the wrong way?

  66. Caperton
    Caperton March 30, 2012 at 1:20 am | *

    We don’t always drink vodka, but when–no, that’s not true. We usually drink vodka, and it’s usually Ketel One. When I want a silly flavored vodka, it’s usually Stoli or Three Olives. We did do the experiment of running a bottle of Popov through the Brita filter about four times, and while it was pretty smooth by the end, it wasn’t really worth the effort.

    Faithless@56:

    I mean I don’t work in advertising so it’s not like I have any real data to back up my opinion but the idea that the same add that is permanently loosing all the posters on this thread as customers (or so they are telling Belvedere) is only putting the majority on the fence, and they can still “save” their brand by following the advice of people who they have already lost as customers seems very… counter intuitive, to me.

    I also work in marketing and advertising (‘sup, Tom!), and Tom’s right. We have to remember that while most of the people on sites like this one are really up in arms about the ad, we don’t represent the majority of Belvedere’s market. We’re already action- (or at least activism-)oriented, and we self-select for indignation in cases like this. It’s safe to assume that most of the women who might drink Belv, the ones who don’t frequent feminist blogs, aren’t having precisely the same reaction. They might be really offended but willing to see Belvedere as redeemable, if Belvedere handles this properly. Letting Belv know how they’ve screwed up and why they’re losing our business can guide them in resolving their screwup and not losing further business.

    It also sends a message out to the general public: If you’re a company, don’t make terrible ads mocking sexual assault, because you’ll lose business. Don’t make ads like that because they hurt people in X, Y, and Z ways. If you’re a person who didn’t understand why the ad was harmful, here are some things you might not know about sexual assault. If you’re a survivor of sexual assault, there are people out there who take your experience seriously, don’t think it’s a joke, and are willing to speak up about it.

    This is a big PR moment for Belvedere, and basically what they’re working for at this point is to stop any more irreparable damage to their reputation and try to redeem themselves with those segments of their market that could be convinced to come back. I’m a big fan of the Portly Dyke’s guide on How to Fuck Up. I think every business should post her “Four A’s” as best practice for dealing with any kind of situation like this.

    1. Acknowledgement: What made this ad so wrong? What about it is inconsistent with Belvedere’s “values and beliefs”? Do you understand why people were hurt and offended?

    2. Apology: They’ve done that, and in so many words–“We deeply apologize.” That’s important. The apology really should go to more than just their “fans & followers,” but it’s a start.

    3. Amends: Making amends means not just trying to make up for it, but really thinking about what you did and why it was wrong. “Making a charitable donation to a women’s support cause” seems like a meaningless throwaway–what is a “women’s support cause”? Which one? Why? Throwing a chunk of money at something is easy. “Amends” isn’t about taking punishment for one’s screwups; it’s about trying to make the person you hurt whole again.

    4, Action: Following through to show that you mean what you said and have changed for the better in the wake of your screwup.

  67. Faithless
    Faithless March 30, 2012 at 4:06 pm |

    Caperton@68

    Guess It’s a good thing I don’t run a company. If I had a biz and the advertising department did something so nutty that it caused world wide news outlets like CNN to smash us, I’m pretty sure I’d just sell the company and make what money I could rather than have “blind faith” that I only offended a “vocal minority” and try to recover.

    Not sure if that makes me an optimist or a pessimist <_<

  68. Why Academic Feminism is Full of Shit « FeministActionCambridge

    [...] against a notorious rapist is better, volunteering at your local Rape Crisis Centre is better, boycotting corporations that use rape jokes to generate ‘controversy’ and sell their products is…. The best feminist academics are those who work for the grassroots, who ask activists, survivors [...]

  69. Mztress
    Mztress April 2, 2012 at 3:43 pm |

    “Yada Yada, that may be the most asinine comment anyone has ever left on this blog. Ever. Congratulations!”

    I concur. Also: I don’t often drink vodka; but when I do, it won’t be Belvedere.

  70. Angel H.
    Angel H. April 2, 2012 at 4:14 pm |

    Wow. Just wow:

    Woman in Vodka Ad Sues Company
    http://www.themarysue.com/woman-sues-vodka-seller/

    So, not only did they think it was a good idea to laugh at rape, they used someone’s likeness without their permission in order to do so.

    Stay classy, Belvedere.

  71. freshwatermermaid
    freshwatermermaid April 3, 2012 at 9:17 am |

    I got a direct email from Belvedere and – wait for it – it actually addressed my concern! It wasn’t a “sorry you feel that way” type of non-apology, it was a real, actual mea culpa. This is after the nonsense on their Twitter and FB so likely they realized the faux-pology wasn’t going to fly. Nevertheless, I’m pleased I got a response. It’s not enough and it doesn’t excuse anything, but it’s a tiny teeny weensy step in the right direction. The key thing for me is that it wasn’t a ‘our agency did it those rascals!’ or ‘one dude did this and he’s so fired now but our culture is still hyper-masculine, violent and rapey.’ It’s a simple, and I feel, genuine apology. It’s a step.

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