How the Westernization of Chocolate Advertising Promotes Gender and Racial Stereotyping

There have consistently been many instances in chocolate advertising where race and gender stereotypes are integrated as a way of promoting chocolate brands. This is increasingly becoming problematic in society as a lot of the representations in these ads depict old-fashioned ways of thinking and thus misrepresent current beliefs. This is particularly relevant for gender and racial depictions in chocolate advertising. Many of these stereotypes stemmed from the post-war period when the American family was a primary focus (Robertson, 2009). Women were often displayed as housewives, and men were responsible for providing for their wives (Robertson, 2009).

While this dichotomy of roles no longer exists and women are often ‘active agents’ in the chocolate production process, this stereotype has been perpetuated in many chocolate ads (Robertson, 2009). Thus, it is evident that chocolate advertising has evolved from these foundational stereotypes and uses gender and racial stereotyping to conform to their primary consumers – westerners. As a result, the majority of chocolate advertisements become westernized and ultimately leads to undermining women and misrepresenting the hardships of cacao cultivation.

The Turkish advertisement for Biscolata Starz chocolate biscuits is a great example of a chocolate ad that uses post-war gender stereotypes and ethnicity distinctions to promote their brand. This commercial ultimately creates an illusion of the chocolate making process by glorifying it, and playing into gender stereotypes to do so.

In a literal sense, this advertisement showcases muscular, shirtless men making cacao. Throughout the ad, the men are smiling and winking at the camera, signaling to the viewer that the audience is intended to be women. It is clear that there is a heavy emphasis on the visual appeal of the men, all of whom are white skinned, and toned. Additionally, the background environment was clearly accentuated, further indicating the reliance on the visual aspects of the ad. The ad takes place in a tropical rainforest, at sunset, where the men are frolicking around while cultivating cacao. At the end, a woman is briefly shown, alone, lying on a couch consuming the chocolate seductively.

After further examination of this advertisement, it is clear that gender stereotypes are a dominant focus of this ad. The dichotomy of gender roles is clearly depicted, and should be closely analyzed. Throughout the ad, men are depicted as the ‘breadwinners,’ conducting all the hard labor and ultimately creating chocolate for the sole purpose of pleasing women. On the other hand, the woman in this ad, while only appearing briefly, is shown consuming the chocolate in the comfort of her own home. She is wearing pajamas and lying on the couch in a seductive manner, clearly engrossed by the taste of the chocolate. Not only does it showcase these gender roles as very distinct, it plays on emotional stimuli, such as arousal, to attract female viewers.

Furthermore, another major problem this advertisement presents is the illusory nature of the storyline. This ad focuses its storyline on the chocolate making process in an attempt to portray the methods behind creating their product. However, in doing so, it presents cacao farming as this glorified process, ignoring the realities of cacao cultivation. In reality, cacao farming is often a gruesome and tiring process, posing many daily challenges to cacao farmers. These farmers are often from poor backgrounds and are of various ethnicities. Additionally, most of the time, the working conditions of cacao farming are dismal and don’t occur in tropical rainforests, amongst beautiful waterfalls and palm trees. As a result, this advertisement presents a very westernized perspective to cacao cultivation, misrepresenting many crucial aspects of the process.

These two pictures are meant to challenge both the gender stereotypes and distorted representations that are evident in the Biscolata Starz advertisement. Both pictures portray women of different ethnicities partaking in various stages of the chocolate-making process. While one woman is physically picking the cacao pods off the tree, the other is working in a chocolate factory. These images are meant to push back against the stereotype that women are unable to be in the work force and display more realistic representations of the working conditions in cacao cultivation. The image on the top, in particular, is able to portray women as both competent figures and showcase the simple, unglamorous lifestyle of cacao farming.

In a similar attempt to challenge these stereotypes, Leissle (2012) developed a series of advertisements that featured Ghanian women in glamorous clothing, consuming Divine Chocolate.

 This was a message to British consumers as it signaled realistic impressions of African women’s lives and raised awareness of African women’s role in the production and consumption of chocolate (Leissle, 2012). Ultimately, both the images of the working women and the Divine Chocolate study present a more holistic approach to chocolate advertising that should be adopted by major chocolate companies.

Works Cited

  1. “Biscolata Starz – Turkish Chocolate Biscuits TV Commercial” Youtube. Web. 5 Apr. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=20&v=DAesQfnvzd4>
  2. Divine Chocolate. Digital image. https://chocolateclass.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/divine-chocolate-ad.jpg. Web.
  3. Leissle, Kristy, 2012, “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24 (2): 121-139
  4. Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. 1-131
  5. Woman Picking Cacao. Digital Image. <http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/host.madison.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/d4/ad4c44b6-f012-5d5e-862d-0104f7cd3518/5334e3b3dc8c1.preview-620.jpg&gt;. Web.
  6. Woman in Chocolate Industry. Digital Image. <http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.1250592!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/article_970/chocolate30n-2-web.jpg>. Web.
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