What do you know about the world? Do you know it is violent? Do you know that it is beautiful? How much of your own knowledge can be based on actual experience? The chances are that you actually empirically know very little. Few of us have had the opportunity to watch a volcanic eruption, or see the damage of a hurricane, or even witness the beauty of earth from space personally. We gather much of the information that we put to daily use from the media. It is important to understand the gravity of the situation when the media sways us into believing facts that may not be true. Whether racism, sexism, or any other type of ideology that puts forth certain stereotypes about a group of people, we should be aware of external influences which are designed to structurally subjugate and unfairly misrepresent.
What do you know about women? Are they weak? Are they to be subjected? Are they irrational or possibly even crazy? Ask yourself how much of this you actually know and have experienced for yourself. It may be difficult to come to the realization of the fact that much of what you know about women is just a bunch of stereotypical information which has been burned into your belief system ever since you were a child. When we are young, we are very impressionable and external forces do heavily influence us. Children whom are marketed to during the development of gender identities encounter sexualized stereotypes from advertisements (Martin, Lecture 4/1/15). These influences are what help mold us into the adults we later on become. Without realizing it, we fall into categories of oppressor and the oppressed and it takes a conscious and determined effort to break free from thoughts which perpetuate stereotypes.
In the above advertisement we bear witness to the supposed insanity and helplessness of women, especially in the case of anything even remotely related to chocolate. An average looking man with no special status or wealth is portrayed spraying a type of cologne that only smells like chocolate on himself, and suddenly he is transformed into a being made of chocolate. As he arrogantly goes about his day, all of the women cannot help but lose themselves to his chocolatey charm. In this depiction there are a few things wrong which would definitely reinforce stereotypes. First of all, this stresses how women easily fall to their desires. Secondly, women are objectified here in that they are objects that the male can just charm and do whatever he wants with, as he enjoys two ladies licking him all over. Thirdly, women are portrayed in a highly sexualized manner, even though the man is chocolate, the women are the ones lustfully gazing after him and sitting and moving in very sexually excited ways, almost like they are ready to devour him in the erotic sense as much as in the gastric sense. It is also important to note that none of the women were portrayed as professional, they were all doing things which in today’s society would be considered easy or relaxing, even working out, and this directly relates to what Robertson reveals in her work, where she describes that the targeted consumer of chocolate or cocoa ads is the mother or housewife, which are roles that women are often forced into (Robertson 2009.25). Women are stereotypically forced to become housekeepers or are portrayed as nonworking. This structurally subjugates them in that women will find escaping the household into the workforce much harder since ‘their place’ is typically at home. Advertisements such as these, when viewed by developing children can cause them to act or think based on what they have seen.
The above advertisement is much more acceptable in ways that the other advertisement is not. The woman pictured is reasonably attractive, but not a supermodel which might condemn women who do not possess a certain figure. She is seated at a desk and appears to be working, demonstrating that she can support herself and is strong and independent. She is very calm and focused on the task at hand. There happens to be a bar of chocolate next to her in the first half of the image and in the second half of the image it has clearly been eaten. What is not clear is a change in disposition. One would imagine that she most likely ate the chocolate without losing her mind or whipping her hair back and forth in a breeze from the gods. There is no glitter, no flamboyance, she has simply eaten the chocolate and moved on. All the structural elements which were present in the first ad seem to be missing in the second and it is a better representation of reality. Children who see this will not think that women are to be subjugated. They will not think women are weak. They will not think women belong at home. Kids will simply understand that women are people and they get hungry and eat like everyone else. That basic factor, that underlying understanding is what many ads fail to put forth. Instead, they do the flashiest things, at the cost of morality and equality and mess up our thought processes. So ask yourself, what do you know? Or do you think you know only what you have been told?
“Axe Chocolate Man Commercial.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 9 Apr. 2015.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.
Carla D. Martin, “Lecture 9: Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements’” April 1, 2015.