Pushing Back on the Sexualization of Women in Chocolate Advertising

The below video is a Dove commercial of a woman experiencing different “senses” as she eats a piece of Dove chocolate. This advertisement epitomizes the sexualization of women in chocolate advertisement as discussed by Emma Robertson and Dr. Martin. With an advertisement I created, I attempt to push back on this type of advertising and present a woman eating chocolate in a different context: while working in a non-stereotypically feminine job. The analysis of my advertisement shows how companies can take a different approach to chocolate advertisements that is less likely to alienate women. Advertisements similar to the one I created provide a multi-faceted view of women as people, rather than women as sexual objects without control of their emotions.

I took some screenshots of key moments in the video to aid in my analysis (with the time in the video included); below is one such screenshot. The woman is depicted sighing as she is draped in a silk chocolate cloth. The sound of her sigh is sexual in nature and she seems not in control of her responses. Robertson explains how women in advertisements “were pictured apparently lashing out” (21-22). Robertson is discussing the idea that women are often depicted in advertisements as out of control and this advertisement is one such example.

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The Dove commercial becomes even more sexual and problematic towards the end, specifically with the scene shown below. A nut explodes at the same moment that a women yells “Oh!” in a manner similar to an orgasm. Robertson describes this trend in Aero chocolate advertisements: “In each advert a different woman is depicted taking a bite of an Aero bar. Some look a little guilty at being caught in the act, while others look sexily at the camera at the camera. The orgasmic pleasure brought about by their ‘urges’ being satisfied is revealed in the projected responses…” (Robertson 35). In this commercial, it is implied that the woman’s response to eating Dove chocolate is an orgasm. This is extremely sexual and problematic. It presents women as sexual beings incapable of controlling their responses.

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Below is my advertisement that attempts to push back against these depictions of women. A woman is pictured eating chocolate while working, specifically programming. Many people, men and women, use chocolate as a quick snack while working, so this is a more realistic view. Additionally, the woman is not posed in a sexual manner and is focused on her work rather than the chocolate. Robertson discusses how there was a trend to fetishize “women as housewives and mothers” (Robertson 20). This advertisement also challenges this trend because it shows a woman working, and on a stereotypically “male” task.

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Leissle writes about Divine’s attempt to place female cocoa farmers in a more realistic manner: “… the Divine women – cocoa farmers who appear in a fashionable, cosmopolitan aesthetic – provide visual evidence of African women’s participation in luxury consumption, while at the same time offering the idea that such African consumerism is possible, and inviting its repetition” (Leissle 134). My advertisement does the same; it attempts to provide visual evidence for a woman’s levelheaded consumption of chocolate in a non-sexual context. As Divine’s advert attempts to provide something that is a “realistic of African women’s lives,” my advert attempts to do the same for American women’s lives (Leissle 136).

The Dove advertisement is clearly meant to suggest a sexual connection between women and chocolate. Sexual music with women sighing and yelling “Oh!” plays in the background throughout. My advertisement attempts to place women’s relationship with chocolate in a more realistic light. In decoupling women’s relationship with chocolate and sex, it provides a less problematic way for advertisers to connect with women and sell their products.

 

Sources:

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

Leissle, Kristy. 2012. “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in DivineChocolate advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24 (2): 121-139

 

Multimedia sources:

Dove “Senses” commercial: embedded video

Two still images of video: computer screenshots taken of video

if working image: original advertisement

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