Chocolate is a Diet’s Worst Nightmare: Gender Stereotypes in Dove’s Advertisement

The association between women, sex, and advertisement have occurred since early western consumption, with chocolate as no exception (Robertson 20). These advertisements, such as the “Dove’s Chocomentaries,” do not just persuade people to buy the products, but also give deeper, recurring messages that emphasize women and their inability to control their thoughts and emotions, especially with a “sinister” treat like chocolate. Chocolate advertisements, while appearing humorous and playful on the surface level, actual contain negative messages showing that, to women, chocolate is “not a sin against God, but a sin against Diet” (Kawash 19).

One case can be seen with the Dove’s Chocomentaries series and its episode “Em Ocean.”The episode features a beautiful woman who claims that she only consumes chocolate to help her cope through temporary bad times, but her actions show otherwise. While this episode may seem like a simple story, the subtle aspects show a darker side. The Dove advertisement “Em Ocean” focuses on humor – the puns in the titles and the irony of the confession – to lure the audience in. Similarly, the advertisement, like other chocolate advertisements, creates a limited view of how a woman acts around chocolate – emotional, impulsive and narcissistic (Martin). The name Em Ocean reflects what she’s feeling (emotional). According to Kawash, women have a social obligation to maintain their appearances, and chocolate can ruin that socially accepted body type (19). Additionally, women do not hold these standards for their own enjoyment, but so that others (especially men) can enjoy their beauty (Kawash 19). Thus, Em Ocean may feel guilty and impulsive if she confesses eating chocolate for leisure, as she would be destroying her contribution of beauty to others for her own enjoyment. Another interesting aspect is the woman’s appearance. She appears, from her trendy clothing and hairstyle, to belong to at least the upper middle class. Em Ocean is also caucasian and has a model frame. Carilli describes white middle class women as placing appearance and dieting as a “cultural priority” (12). This woman seems to be no exception, and eating chocolate will provide obstacles for her to maintain the looks that she currently has. While “Em Ocean” creates a strong advertisement by appealing to the audience through indirect praise of their product and humor, it continues to display persisting chocolate advertisement themes that label women as emotionally complicated figures who feel the need to live up to society’s expectations of their appearances. Another aspect is the presence of heterosexual romance, another trend in chocolate advertisements (Robertson 33-34). She fakes a break-up with a customer service worker and watches romance movies as excuses to give herself chocolate. Her addiction to chocolate seems to be an implied reason and substitution for her lack of a romantic, heterosexual relationship. It also serves as an outlet for her obsessive and impulsive behaviors, often featured in gift-giving chocolate advertisements (Robertson 33-34).

Another Dove Message Encouraging (Women) to Give Into Temptation
A sketch of a revised advertisement
A sketch of a revised advertisement

The most obvious issue in the advertisement lies in its display of women as being emotional, narcissistic, and impulsive when introduced to chocolate (Martin). One area of amendment is to show women of all body types and ethnicities as consumers. This fights against the desire for women to reach one ideal body type and appearance. The women will also state that they eat chocolate because they simply want to, which opposes the theme of females and their attempts to cope with guilt after impulsively eating chocolate. By opposing the negative trends of chocolate advertising, this revised advertisement of “Em Ocean” is one step towards preventing further continuation of the expectation of beauty from women. From a marketing standpoint, this may not be the most profitable advertisement, but it does give a more realistic representation that not all women share these negative traits and feel obligated to eat according to society’s expectations.

Chocolate and gender may not have an obvious negative connection, but the ads do a lot of damage. They distort reality by showing the average chocoholic to be a guilty woman eating chocolate will prevent them from obtaining and maintaining the physical appearance society deems to be beautiful. By acknowledging the problems in these ads, more can be done to eliminate these stereotypes for women and to prevent the further existence of the need for women to please others with their looks. With these changes in chocolate ads, both genders can finally have “full right to their bodies and desires” (Kawash 19).

Works Cited

Carilli, Theresa. Challenging Images of Women in the Media: Reinventing Women’s Lives. Lanham, Md.: Lexington, 2012. Print.

Image 1. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/72/Promises%C2%AE.jpg

Kawash, Samira. Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure. Print.

Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food: Lecture 9” Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 25 March 2015.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Cultural and Social History. Manchester Press. 2009. Print.

Video 1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Ct_DGNB4wc

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