The Bath Bomb Meme / Controversy on Tumblr

When bath time gets strangely offensive

Bath Bomb Meme
Marcelo Santos / Getty Images

Bath bombs – those colored rocks of soap that dissolve quickly when dropped in water – made a huge splash on Tumblr (and Twitter, and probably other social networking sites too) in December of 2014.

The bath bomb meme was thus born, and it was called the last meme of 2014 by the official Tumblr staff. But unlike most memes that continue trending for the simple fact that they're hilarious and easy to replicate, this was a rare one that somehow turned very sour. 

Ready for some good ol' Tumblr drama? Here's the low down on the luxurious bath trend turned funny meme, turned hated meme and finally turned controversial topic up for argument.

Bomb-y Bathwater Photos Worth Sharing

It turns out that bath bombs were a pretty popular Christmas gift in 2014. And since we now live in a day and age where we share photos of absolutely everything, it became apparent that tons of bath bomb gift recipients – particularly young women active on social media – started posting photo sets of their bath bombs and colored bathwater across Tumblr all at the same time.

Even I can admit to unknowingly joining the bath bomb trend before I saw a single meme post of it on Tumblr. I received a bath bomb as a gift in early-ish December and promptly Snapchatted a photo of the bathwater because I was impressed that the color turned to a weird, bright shade of pink that was comparable to Pepto Bismol. (I didn't post anything about it on Tumblr, though. Sorry I'm not that cool.)

The trend was fun and it was colorful and it was harmless. But then it transformed into quite something else.

The Meme That Turned Everything into a Bath Bomb

One of the first parodies of the bath bomb Tumblr photoset trend was made by user idkitstommy, showing a Photoshopped icon of an actual bomb being thrown into a bathtub and a destroyed bathroom featured in the last photo of the photoset. A huge movement in extreme bath bombing was sparked, which involved shared photosets of everything from pizza and Starbucks coffee drinks to clumps of dirt and ramen noodles thrown into tubs of bathwater.

BuzzFeed was of course right on it with this meme and quickly published a listicle of the worst bath bombs you could ever try, while The Daily Edge basically did the same thing. You could throw almost any object completely unrelated to an actual bath bomb into a tub of water, post photos of it on Tumblr, tag it with #bathbomb and #meme and expect to get at least a few notes for it. 

Haters Gonna Hate

It wasn't long before users started insulting meme contributors for wasting perfectly good bathwater and pizza/Starbucks coffee/ramen noodles/whatever just for the sake of getting likes and reblogs on Tumblr. How dare they! And then it only gets worse.

What started off as a random jab at a cosmetic product trend was somehow weaved into another huge and serious topic trend we heard a lot about in 2014 – sexism and misogyny. Some Tumblr users interpreted the meme as an attack against women, setting off a Tumblr storm of feminist opinion posts and arguments.

After that, there was outrage against the feminist backlash. The meme itself has become almost completely engulfed by its own controversy. Several users have written posts describing how overblown the misogynistic interpretation of this meme has become, and how it shouldn't even be an issue.

"How is the bath bomb meme sexist? My boyfriend loves bath bombs more than I do. Assuming that it is a joke on women is sexist in itself because it’s stereotyping your own gender." -- Tumblr user mochi-magica
"I don’t see the problem. I consider myself a feminist and it’s all ay-okay with me. I’m also guilty of showing off my bath bombs on instagram." – Tumblr user olivineeyes
"There are actual living people in this world offended by someone putting lettuce in a tub of water." – Tumblr user liberalmeansignorant​

And there you have it. That last quote right there really sums up this whole kerfuffle quite perfectly.

Like a lot of online communities, Tumblr is a weird and wonderful place that can become fraught with conflicting opinions over the simplest things when you least expect it. This isn't anything new, and it's almost always a complete waste of time and energy to get involved in it.

So, this was "the last meme of 2014." And good riddance to it. We'd all be much better off if we could all learn to just use Tumblr to do something good or even get off the computer or smartphone entirely to do something slightly more productive, like make a bath bomb from scratch and enjoy its naturally scented awesomeness in peace.