In contemporary advertisements, misogyny and the sexualizing of chocolate to appeal to women is rampant. These ads are born out of the societal stereotype that women are easily appeased and are simply objects of men’s desire. There is also the implication that they can be manipulated easily by chocolate, and therefore are the weaker sex. I will argue that one company, Magnum Ice Cream, especially uses these stereotypes in their advertisements and fetishize women as sexual objects.
But first, to illustrate some of society’s misogynistic views, here is a shocking quote from a radical member of the British National Party in 2008:
“To suggest that rape (when conducted without violence) is a serious crime is like suggesting force-feeding a woman chocolate cake is a heinous offence” – Nick Eriksen (Hesser)
Although this statement is certainly not indicative of the majority view*, it does illustrate society’s common notion that women enjoy chocolate as much as they enjoy sex. Eriksen’s statement is upsetting on many levels (which I will not dig into here), but comparing being raped with being force-fed cake is a clear example of how sex and chocolate are seen as having power over women in equal measure, and how women are often perceived as the primary receivers of such “pleasures”.
To further demonstrate that this is a prevalent line of thought in our society, here is a 2006 ad for Magnum Ice Cream starring Rachel Bilson:
To begin with, this advertisement is clearly aimed at women, who have been considered the “boundary markers of empire” when it comes to selling chocolate since the 1800s (Robertson 68). First, the woman – who is attractive by society’s standards and wearing a very “feminine” dress – sees the Magnum ice cream truck and is compelled to run towards it on the roofs of other cars. This implies that a woman will behave ridiculously to eat chocolate, while men are not similarly portrayed.
Interestingly, even the “attractive” police men do not attempt to arrest this woman, but simply watch as she runs on other people’s cars. Had a man behaved similarly, would the male police officer have behaved differently?
Then, the driver of the Magnum truck, also an “attractive” male, confidently struts out and opens the truck, allowing the woman to eat a Magnum ice cream bar. This says to the viewer that men are the “bearers of chocolate” (Robertson 68) and are the ones in control of whether or not a woman will receive pleasure. This essentially suggests that women need men and are therefore the weaker sex.
Finally, when the woman bites down onto the ice cream with an audible crunch, she closes her eyes as if in ecstasy. This shot is followed by more women running toward the ice cream truck with reckless abandon, and the final scene is closed by their slogan, “for pleasure seekers”. This exemplifies the comparison being made between chocolate and sex, and suggests that women can be controlled by these cravings, whereas men are stronger and can resist. The slogan is especially telling: nothing about the ingredients, their production, or where they are sourced is included in the slogan – just a statement that shows how much their product and women are being sexualized.
To the right is another example of a Magnum ad that ran in Spain in 2006, depicting a sensually posed black woman as the actual product being advertised.
Here, we see that this woman is nothing more than a product to be consumed – because she is black, she is used as synonymous with the chocolate coated product, thereby objectifying her because of her race. Here chocolate is used as it has sociohistorically been considered: associated with sin and sexuality (Martin). Not only is this ad disturbing because her skin is literally cracking off, but the woman’s face is not even fully included, which insinuates that her body is the object, and she is not valuable as a person. In all of Magnum’s advertisements, females are consistently depicted both as the main character experiencing pleasure and as the object itself – both of which are very flawed suggestions that show women as weak and consumable.
In response to these advertisements, I created my own photo ad that shows no specific gender or race (left). My intention was to steer clear of anything that could imply that women want chocolate more than men do, or that any race is discriminated against. I wanted to emphasize this wider target audience by paralleling Magnum’s diversity of flavors with the diversity of their consumer base. My ad also clearly shows the product, while explicitly expressing that their product is “for all”, as opposed to “for pleasure seekers”. I removed any reference to sex or to their product providing pleasure, because their image alone shows that the product is delicious, and in my opinion that is all that is necessary.
*Nick Eriksen was dismissed from the BNP after making several of these disturbing comments.
Hesser, Kira. “‘Rape Is Like Being Force-Fed Chocolate Cake’ Blogs BNP Official.” Londonist. N.p., 9 Apr. 2008. Web. 9 Apr. 2015.
Martin, Carla D. “Issues in Advertisements.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 1 Apr. 2015. Class Lecture.
Robertson, Emma. “Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History”. New York: Manchester University Press, 2009. Print.