Women’s Problematic Portrayal in Chocolate Advertisements

In advertisements, women are often portrayed as losing control when they eat chocolate. They are often shown as aroused and only focused on indulging in chocolate. However, what is problematic about these types of advertisements is that they portray women as sexual objects, and as irrational and weak human beings who cannot control themselves. These advertisements, regardless of whether they represent female consumers or producers, are hyper-sexualized in order to demonstrate that women have an innate need for chocolate, and to encourage them to indulge. Thus, chocolate advertisements undermine women’s power in society, and as cacao farmers. In order to counteract this bias towards women, we created an advertisement that shows women as strong and powerful.

Nutella advertisement
Nutella advertisement

In Nutella’s advertisement, a young woman is portrayed as highly aroused due to Nutella, a famous hazelnut spread made by the Ferrero Rocher company. The woman’s eyes are only focused on the Nutella jar. Her hair is messy, and she looks like she is not even worried about that. Her messy hair also adds to her sexualized image because of the stereotype of women with messy hair after sexual intercourse. As Robertson discusses in her book, women as consumers of chocolate have historically been depicted as obsessed by chocolate (Robertson 35).

With her backpack hanging from her right shoulder, she looks like a young woman about to go to school. A young woman might have been picked for the advertisement to demonstrate the fantasy promoted by chocolate manufacturers that chocolate is a freedom from adulthood (Barthel 1989). According to this notion, chocolate relieves people from the boredom of the real world and puts them in a euphoric state in which they give in to their innate need for chocolate. The narrative behind the advertisement seems like the young lady was about to go to school, but instead, she got intrigued by Nutella and lost control completely, forgetting about her responsibilities such as going to school, and her appearance. It also seems like she does not mind having Nutella all around her face. In fact, her tongue is visible, trying to eat Nutella around her mouth. The caption “everyone wants it” merely adds to the sexual tone of the representation of this young woman. As chocolate is depicted as an innate desire for women, it goes together with other innate needs such as sex. Thus, she is portrayed as an “irrational narcissistic consumer” (Robertson 33), who shows women that it is okay to indulge. But, the advertisement does not demonstrate the hardship behind producing chocolate. She is only portrayed as a consumer and definitely not as a producer.

Divine Chocolate Advertisement
Divine Chocolate Advertisement

However women are featured in advertisements, whether they are producers or consumers, they are portrayed in a hyper-sexualized way. The above advertisement shows a woman who is a cacao producer but still portrays her as a sexual object. The woman in the advertisement is a Ghanian cacao farmer of the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative (Leissle 123) holding a piece of chocolate in her hand. She is also a co-owner of Divine Chocolate, a company that the above advertisement markets. The advertisement highlights her breasts especially with revealing clothing and her sassy, alluring pose. The caption of the advertisement also alludes to her attractiveness by suggesting that the viewer has an “appetite” for the woman in the ad. Leissle claims that Divine Chocolate advertisements offer an opportunity to demonstrate women farmers as actors and beneficiaries in transnational exchanges of materials such as cacao and chocolate (Leissle 122). While the advertisement does more than Nutella advertisement in looking beyond the image of women as mere consumers of chocolate, it fails to show them in a non-sexual context.

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Closer Image of Our Advertisement

In order to push back against this sexualized image of women, we created an advertisement that demonstrates women as rational consumers and active producers. In our advertisement, the women are portrayed as ordinary people who are happy working in cacao farms to produce chocolate. The pictures used in the advertisements are taken when the women are in cacao farms and are carrying cacao beans. They are in a normal pose and wearing daily clothes that they work in. Their facial expressions are very natural and realistic. The woman on the right is smiling as she is carrying the cacao pods but her smile is not seductive; it is purely a representation of the joy she gets as a cacao farmer.

Women are shown as sexualized, weak consumers of chocolate in advertisements. This is problematic in mainly two ways: women are sexualized, and the actual importance of producing cacao is undermined by the way these images turn female producers into indulgent consumers. The image of women as “irrationally overwhelmed and rendered slaves of chocolate” (Robertson 54) is embedded in the ideologies of our society. The sexualization of chocolate represents the societal ideology that women are objects, and diminishes their sense of agency and importance as contributors to society. As long as the contemporary image of women does not change, it seems unlikely that such portrayals would cease to exist.

References:

Barthel, Diane. “Modernism and Marketing: The Chocolate Box Revisited.” Theory, Culture & Society (1989): 429-38. Print.

Leissle, Kristy. “Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24.2 (2012): 121-39. Print.

Robertson, Emma. “Chocolate, women and empire: A Social and Cultural History.” Manchester University Press, New York. 2009. Print.

Images (in order of appearance):

  1. “Nutella Advertising.” Behance. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <https://www.behance.net/gallery/1561757/Nutella-advertising&gt;.
  2. “Divine Chocolate with Social Flavour -Impressive Magazine.” Impressive Magazine. 24 July 2013. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://impressivemagazine.com/2013/07/24/divine-chocolate-with-social-flavour/&gt;.
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