All posts by 2016e893

Race and Gender Stereotypes in Advertisements

Intro

Chocolate and advertisements often go hand in hand. Since its discovery by the Europeans, the popularity of chocolate rose in the 1600s, and it do so through the use of advertisement. Early advertisements began as word of mouth, but over the years it has progressed into what we now know as modern Ads: videos, photos, drawings. Along with progression, came a slew of negative stereotypes that were consistently portrayed for the sake of marketing certain goods. Of the many representations shown through images and videos, the two that will be discussed, is the use of race and gender in Ads. Time and time again, the respect for the history of chocolate and people has been disregarded for the sake of promoting a product.

Race

Chocolate is often used as a synonym for darker skin. This is portrayed consistently in the media whether it is though words or imagery. In this Thai Ad, a new charcoal donut is being advertised. A bite is take out of the donut, which presumably turns the woman “black”. This literal representation is seen in the woman painted in black—to depict “charcoal”, while her pink lips stand out against her face. Dunkin Donuts has received much criticism over the lack of racial sensitivity in the Ad. The chocolate donut could have been marketed in other ways without resorting to race. Tactics such as this undermines  the history and struggle of a group of our population in order to sell products.

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A woman’s face turns black, after taking a bite out of a charcoal donut.

Gender

As seen in both ads, females are often depicted as the representation for chocolates and sweets. Females are stereotyped into roles of femininity and sexuality in order to represent the object at hand. It often becomes hard to tell whether it’s the product or sex that is being sold, as the two are very entwined. As the image below shows, Cadbury is being compared to a female, and not just any female, but the supermodel Naomi Campbell. Her name brings to mind, images of being a diva, sassy, tall, slender, and beautiful. Focus is paid to the physical attributes that are deemed as the ideal. These physical features are used to convey confidence, sassiness, allure and sexuality. This theme is repeated in countless advertisements where females are seen laying on a bed, or in various sexual poses. It’s as if, any female that doesn’t fit the mold of the stereotypical sexual woman, chocolate just wouldn’t taste as good.

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An Ad comparing an new Cadbury product to the model Naomi Campbell, who is of African descent

Original Ad

More focus need to be paid on making advertisements inclusive. Breaking free of stereotypes will allow the advertised message to reach a greater array of audiences who do not fit gender and racial molds. The focus should always be on the product more so than the people. Advertisements should aim to remove any ambiguity as to what is being sold and any stereotypes that are being subliminally reinforced. The original ad depicts an image of chocolate of various color and shapes, with the message   of celebrating all colors and shapes. The message is in direct response to the images above, where the mainstream links chocolate exclusively to dark skinned and African people. This ad tries to break free of socially constructed images of the “ideal women”—tall and skinny—which do not always depict the everyday norm. Above all, the advertisement focuses solely on the product, leaving no ambiguity as to what is being sold and the audience that is being targeted—everyone.

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An Inclusive Ad that aims to focus just on the product and to celebrate differences.

Although this original Ad aims to deconstruct stereotypes, its focus may be too narrow. The slogan, “..in every shade and size”, responds only to the racial and body image portrayal of females. Male audiences, along with children and elder people may be marginalized. This shows how easy it is to leave out sections of the consumer population, wether it is intentional or not. It also shows how important it is to be inclusive of all people. Advertisements should direct their efforts in embracing and celebrating differences, not using it to reinforce centuries old ideal. Over time, Ads should completely move away from depicting chocolate to race and gender all together. The sole reason for candy should be for the sake of taste and satisfaction.

 

References

 Logan, Ruth. “Dunkin’ Donuts Apologizes For ‘Racist’ Blackface Ad.” News One Dunkin Donuts Apologizes For Racist BlackfaceAd Comments. NEWSONE, Sept. 2013. Web. 08 Apr. 2016. 
 Wade, Lisa. “On Cadbury, Naomi Campbell, and Colorblindness – Sociological Images.” Sociological Images On Cadbury Naomi Campbell and Colorblindness Comments. The Society Pages, June 2011. Web. 08 Apr. 2016. 

The Rise of Slave Plantations and the Road to Abolition

The 1800s in Europe, were marked by popularity of chocolate and sugar. What began as an elite luxury and symbol of the wealthy, soon became a common good. Sugar became a staple in European society and it was used as a preservative to medicine to even as decoration. While many enjoyed its consumption and many uses, the truth behind cacao plantations and the production of sugar production was less than savory. In this post, I will highlight the cause for the rise of the slave trade and the moral dilemmas that led to abolition.

As chocolate and sugar rose to popularity, so did the need for increased production. Europeans turned to cheap labor in the form of human slaves. The first slaves were brought from Central and West Africa. Some suggest, such as Eric Williams, that the use of African slaves had nothing to do with racism, but that racism was a byproduct of slavery (Slavery & Capitalism, 1940). The cheapest and closest resource at that time period happened to be Africa. While this doesn’t alleviate the conditions and horrors of slavery, it does offer a different viewpoint. Between 1500-1900, 10 to 15 million Africans were transported  across the Trans Atlantic passage. For every 100 African, 40 died from the passage. The salves were dispersed among North America, the Caribbean and Latin America. It is also interesting to note that the Africans who were brought to the plantations, were often skilled in growing crops and rice from their native countries.

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Where the slaves settled, they sometimes outnumbered the European population, such in Barbados. The plantations life were very harsh, and led to a steep decline in life expectancy. A slave often lived only 7-8 years, when the average life expectancy at the time was 35 years.  The economic impact of slave plantation was great and highly profitable. The plantations produced many goods deemed as luxurious at the time, among them were: cacao, sugar, rum and tobacco. 50,000 slaves had the capacity to produce 20,000 tons of sugar (one year supply). As the supply of sugar and chocolate increased, it started to become readily available to all classes of people, not just the elite. Advertisements targeted the working and middle class, to promote sugar as necessity for children; as a medicine and energy booster. As profits soared, it became harder to end the lucrative slave trade.

 

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Early advertisement of chocolate in Europe (Credit: chocolateclass.wordpress.com)

However, over time it became harder and morally taxing to ignore the less-than-human conditions of the plantations. The first people to oppose slavery, were the slaves themselves. In Haiti—inspired by the French Revolution—100,000 slaves revolted in 1791, led by Toussaint Louverture. As a result, 1,200 coffee ad 200 sugar plantations were destroyed. Haiti became the first independent country in the Caribbean. Just as in Haiti, many uprisings across the plantations took place over time. Sidney Mintz, states that slaves were a false commodity (Sweetness and Power, 1985). At the time, slaves were purchased for their capacity to yield a future generation of enslaved “people commodities”. Mintz argues that slaves were human being and not objects to be sold and profited from.This sentiment was felt by many Europeans, especially when taken into context that sugar was seen as a pure good. The ethics and the production behind such a good, needed to be morally acceptable as well. New ways of thinking led to the demand of freedom and ethical work conditions.

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Haitian Revolution in 1791 (Credit: library.brown.edu/haitianhistory/11.htlm)

References

Mintz, Sidney Wilfred. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin, 1986. Print.

 Shen, Kona. “The Haitian Revolution 1804-1805.” The Haitian Revolution 1804-1805. Brown University, 2015. Web. 11 Mar. 2016. 

Williams, Eric. Capitalism And Slavery. The University Of North Carolina Press., 1940. Web.

The Importance of Cacao in Mesoamerican Ritual and Culture

The word chocolate often brings to mind Hershey candies, cocoa, chocolate bars and various other sweet treats. Beyond this modern imagery, it may be hard to imagine the long history of chocolate and its importance in ancient Mesoamerican culture. Mayan and Aztec culture often tell the story of cacao being discovered by the gods in a mountain and given to the people. The importance of cacao, led to its wide use in festivals, the medical field, and even as a form of currency.

Origin:

The word cacao originated from the Olmecs, located in the lowland region of Mexico on the eastern gulf coast (Coe & Coe, 1996). Various archaeological evidence have been found for the use of cacao by the Aztecs and Mayans. Vessels found in burial sites indicate them as offerings of chocolate to the deceased (Dillinger 2000, Hall et al. 1990). From the residue left behind, archaeologists were able to determine that cacao was once stored in the vessels.

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A drinking vessel with cacao hieroglyphs

The cultivation of a cacao tree was a time-consuming process. The trees usually grow to a height of over 60 feet and take 4-5 years to flower. Each flower produces a pod which contains a cacao seed covered in white pulp. The pods are open using external sources, such as human or animal force. According to Coe and Coe (1996) the four steps needed to produce the cacao nibs are: fermentation, drying, roasting and winnowing. These four steps are still used in the modern chocolate making process.

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Cacao Pod and Pulp

Ritual and Culture:

Cacao had many ritualistic and spiritual meaning to the Aztecs and Mayans. These two cultures believed that the cacao bean were divine and used the for many rituals, such as birth, marriage and death (Smithsonian, 2008). Cacao seeds were so valued by mesoamerican society that was even used as a currency. The beverage form of the cacao was used by the Aztec elites.

Each cacao drink was prepared differently based on the occasion and ceremony. Depending on the person for whom the drink was prepared, different ingredients were added. The drink could be mild to hot  as chillies were also found in the region. The grinding of other additives, could make the drink thick, lumpy, or watery. Many chocolate drinks have made their way around the world for all occasions, shaped by various culture throughout history. Even the native informants of Bernardino de Sahagun gave him a menu of chocolate drinks, suitable to be served to rulers (Coe and Coe, 1996)

Priests would often prepare chocolate as a drink for religious ceremonies or offer cacao seeds to the gods. Yearly festivals were held by the Mayans to honor the cacao god Ek Chuah. Offerings were made to him in the form of cacao beverages, dancing, gifts, cacao seeds etc. Aztec soldiers marching off to battle were often given chocolate beverages to sustain them during battle.

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Ek Chuah standing next to a cacao tree

Cacao was also used for medicinal purposes. Sources such as  the Badianus Manuscript, the Princeton Codex and the Florentine Codex show that cacao was used a medial tool. The Spanish priest Bernardino de Sahagun collected extensive medicinal information regarding the use of chocolate for the body (Dillinger et al. 2000).

References

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996

Dillinger, T., Barriga, P., Escarcega, S., Jimenez, M., Salazar Lowe, D., Grivetti, L. Foods of the Gods: Cure for Humanity? Cultural History of the Medicinal and Ritual Use of Chocolate. The Journal of Nutrition, 2000

Fiegl, Amanda. “A Brief History of Chocolate.” Smithsonian. SMITHSONIAN.COM, 2008

Hall, G., Tarka, Jr., Hurst, W.J., Stuart, D., Adams, R. Cacao Residues in Ancient Maya Vessels from Rio Azul, Guatemala. American Antiquity, Vol. 55, No. 1, 1990