The extent to which gender stereotyping has always been particularly prevalent in chocolate advertising demands that it be looked at more critically. Looking at gender stereotyping is important because of the sociohistorical context in which these advertisements exist: A cross-national analysis of gender stereotypes in advertising in the 1990s has shown that boys were consistently depicted as smarter and more active than girls, and were more often associated with dominance and control (Brown, 2013). Because these advertisements are thrown at us every hour of every day, it is no doubt that the stereotypes they portray will have an effect on the way we view men and women.
Early in its history, chocolate was mainly associated with women and children, but recent advertisements tell a different story. There are several narratives through which chocolate advertisements will employ gender stereotyping in order to sell their chocolate, and these narrative are no longer limited to brash generalizations about women: in more recent decades, there has been an increasing emphasis on the manly capabilities of chocolate. For example, in the 1950s, Black Magic advertised their chocolate to men, as a gift to please their lovers; to women, it was advertised than a man with Black Magic chocolate must be the right type of man—there was an inherent association with the chocolate and favorable qualities in a man, such as a good education and good social prospects (Robertson, 2009, p. 30). Fast forward to today, many Snickers commercials emphasize the ability of a Snickers bar to return a man to his original “manly” state; for example, Snickers’ 2010 Super Bowl commercial featured a man who is playing football like Betty White (presumably like an old, weak woman), until he eats a Snickers bar:
But my main topic of discussion in this essay will be Nestle’s Yorkie bar, a popular chocolate bar in the United Kingdom that dropped itself deep into the heart of gender stereotyping controversy. Up until very recently, the chocolate bar’s slogan was “It’s not for girls!”, a slogan endorsed so boldly that it was even printed on the chocolate bar’s wrapper along with a “no girls” symbol right in the chocolate bar’s name.
Yorkie’s most well known commercial depicts a female who has disguised herself as a male construction worker in order to obtain a Yorkie bar—the shopkeeper makes her go through a series of tests in order to prove her “manliness,” the last of which she ultimately fails.
A closer analysis of the stereotypes within this commercial reveals just what it is trying to say about BOTH men and women. For example, let us look at the tests of manliness that the shopkeeper performs: He begins by asking her a question about a sports rule, employing the stereotype that men are experts on all things sports, while women know nothing about them. He then tells her to open a jar of walnuts, employing the stereotype that men are stronger than women. Afterwards, he quickly says something provocative about stockings, invoking the objectification of women as a point of discourse among men, before attempting to scare her with a rubber spider, employing the stereotype that women are afraid of bugs, while men are much braver and harder to scare. The shopkeeper then hands over the Yorkie bar, only to snatch it back when he compliments the woman’s eyes and she reacts positively, which I presume is something only a woman would do. It seems to take a lot for somebody to be qualified to eat a Yorkie bar. The advert closes with a man saying in a deep voice: “Yorkie—Five big masculine chunks of chocolate, it’s not for girls.” In terms of appearance, the woman has also adorned a mustache, typically a male “accessory,” and the clothing of a construction worker, also usually associated with males and having strength.
Advertisements like these are harmful to both men and women because of the way they portray gender roles. They push a lot of unrealistic expectations onto men by strictly and stereotypically defining what it means to be masculine: to like sports, to be physically strong, to like women, to be fearless, to not care about your appearance. They reinforce these stereotypes and make men who don’t quite fit them want to buy the candy bar so that they can feel and be perceived as manly. On the flip side, they exclude women from these stereotypically male traits (by defining being strong as masculine, it’s almost like saying that women can’t and shouldn’t be strong) and define women as the opposite of these traits: not knowledgeable about sports, weak, easily frightened, etc.
In the spirit of standing against gender stereotyping in advertisements as a way to promote gender equality, my group member and I have created our own advertisement for the Yorkie chocolate bar, based on the format of a still Yorkie advertisement.
Our advertisement maintains the original theme of the Yorkie bar as a chocolate bar for those who want to be STRONG, but we have redefined what it means to be strong. We want to portray that, instead of physical strength and masculinity, being strong means standing up for equality and being open-minded and above the stereotypes that we’re forced to face in our lives every day.
“Betty White Snickers Commercial Super Bowl Commercial 2010.” YouTube video, 0:30. Posted by “MistahSparkles70,” Feb 8, 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18ya0-OZ58s. Accessed April 9, 2015.
Yorkie chocolate bar. Digital Image. Available from: http://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s–HVF54WyS–/18i92d74k0g8ajpg.jpg. Accessed April 9, 2015.
“Yorkie – It’s NOT for girls.” YouTube video, 0:29. Posted by “LoweCafeina,” July 31, 2006. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcjlzSod0CE. Accessed April 9, 2015.
Yorkie advertisement. Digital Image. Available from: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/multimedia/archive/00341/114100916__341964c.jpg. Accessed April 9, 2015.
Brown, Beverley A. (2013). “Gender Stereotypes in Advertising on Children’s Television in the 1990s: A Cross-National Analysis.” Journal of Advertising, 27(1): 83-96.
Robertson, Emma. (2009). Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.