Sexism and Chocolate Advertisement in India

Throughout history, chocolate and cacao have been associated with different kinds of people, because of skin color, gender, and, more modernly, age. Particularly, this is currently supported heavily by the ways in which chocolate is advertised. Advertisement of chocolate has become so sexualized, that some marketing strategies appear to symbolize the sale of sex, and not of a commercial commodity. In this blog post, I will present an advertisement in India by a Swiss chocolate company called Schmitten. I will juxtapose this advertisement with one my partners and I created, and will use primary and secondary sources discussing sex (and rape) culture in India, to show that chocolate advertisement in India exhibits sexism quite similarly as sex culture in India exhibits sexism, as well.

Screenshot 2015-04-11 12.12.23

The advertisement above is an advertisement by Schmitten, and it portrays a woman seductively eating a Schmitten chocolate bar, next to the words “Taking my Schmitten, Let’s make it a Crime.” Initially, it makes sense. The chocolate is so good that it holds great value, deserving protection from theft, and, thus, is a good product. Analyzing this advertisement more deeply, however, one might ask, “Can we picture a man in place of the woman?” I personally didn’t think so, and realized that the woman served a sexual purpose in this advertisement, which coincides with Emma Robertson’s claim that chocolate advertisements display women as “markers of sexual excess” (Robertson 82).

Doing more research on this advertisement, my group and I came across a Schmitten television advertisement (above) with the same woman pictured in the image I just described. Here, the woman is alone in a room full of men flirtatiously and enticingly flaunting her chocolate, while caressing their faces. Simultaneously, she is warning that if they take her “Schmitten,” they should be “locked up.” Moreover, according to the woman, if one “asks for a bite, [they] get the punishment, too.” With only a limited imagination, one can notice the adult-themed innuendo, suggesting that the chocolate she is protecting, is actually her sexuality—a theme found ubiquitously in chocolate advertisements around the world. According to Robertson, “adverts offer ways of using commodities such as chocolate to say things about…our social world,” and this advertisement is no different (Robertson 19). In India, there is currently a rape epidemic, and it makes sense to compare the rape culture there with this advertisement, upon noticing the sexual nature of the original image. In India, where 24,923 rape cases were reported in 2012, many politicians say that rape is “sometimes right,” insinuating that woman are too coquettish in public (Shah 2). This is the exact same observation the Schmitten adverts are making about the “social world,” as Robertson calls it, in India. It is placing blame on the women for seducing male figures, and, after noticing the sexual nature of the advertisement, we realize that it seeks to make us empathize less with rape victims, and more with the aggressors, which is a purely sexist aim.

[Discussion of this video in the following paragraph]

This method of marketing furthers the indoctrination that faults women for situations they have no fault in. What makes matters worse is that women, themselves, side with the men who think rape is “sometimes right.” At minute 7:30 in the embedded video above, a student at Lady Shri Ram College in Delhi, India, shows just an example of how women propagate misogyny themselves. She states, “I travel by public transport…not really late, but after 7 o’clock. Women would often give looks at me and [say] ‘You know the clothes you are wearing? Something might happen to you; it’s you’re fault.’ ” It’s astonishing to see the resemblance the message this young woman is sharing has with the manner in which Schmitten has advertised their chocolate.

Finding this to be fundamentally detrimental for India, my partners and I “rebranded” the original Schmitten advertisement to also display our observations of the “social world” in India, because, as “adverts,” we wanted to use chocolate to say “things” about the Indian women progressively, while the original Schmitten adverts wanted to do so with misogyny in mind (Robertson 19).Screenshot 2015-04-08 03.07.52 Our advertisement (pictured on the right) is also advertising “Schmitten” chocolate, targeted for India in 2014, with the following aim in mind. In our advertisement, we included the text “Taking my Schmitten, Just give it a try,” with a picture of a young man offering his “Schmitten” to an uninterested young woman. We wanted to show a male figure imploring another woman to try his chocolate (*cough* or maybe something else *cough*), because the branding of chocolate consumption is meant to detail the consumer’s “sense of identity” (Robertson 19). Assuming the role chocolate plays as symbolizing sex in marketing, showing an uninterested woman being offered chocolate by a cocky (no pun intended) young man, seeks to emphasize that the destructive sex culture in India is comprehensively powered by men’s needs to have sex and their opinions of women as “personal property,” which leads to a sense of male entitlement (Shah 3). Particularly, we also included a male and female figure, instead of just a male figure, to underscore our perception of the relationship between men and women in India, hoping to adequately portray the fragility of women, and not that of men—the opposite of which is displayed by the original Schmitten advertisement.

Rape culture in India has been regarded as an epidemic, and it shall remain so as long as misogyny remains rampant there. Schmitten created a powerful advertisement that is catchy, and although controversial at it’s core, well-accepted by the Indian population. Taking advantage of the regressive nature of a population to appeal to both genders, while subliminally causing harm to one of them, is great marketing and commendable through that professional lens. Because of the culture in India where even women place blame on themselves, my advertisement wouldn’t be as highly regarded, which wouldn’t help my “progressive” version of Schmitten make profitable gains, but it was inspired by Robertson’s claim that chocolate adverts seek to say something about the world. We had something to say about India, however unpopular our statement was, and as chocolate adverts, we said it.

Multimedia Sources

Schmitten Advertisement: https://fbcdn-sphotos-b-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xap1/v/t1.0-9/10685573_833075020050122_2980467413484487859_n.png?oh=284b0c5565c1816e32067e9824196780&oe=55A85F3B&__gda__=1437627879_2d6a9b85f01899de83d8622ee48b1258

Our Version of the Schmitten Advertisement: Made by Jonathan Jackson, Nelson Yanes, and Jarvis Harris

Video Advertisement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFeSw4LRqsA

LSR Campus Debate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4Tcm9GB_w0

Other Works Cited

Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. pp. 1-131

Shah, Gayatri. “No Quick Fix for India’s Rape Crisis.” Cable News Network, 18 June 2014. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

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