Tag Archives: #feminism

The Fetishizing of Women in Contemporary Chocolate Advertisments

In contemporary advertisements, misogyny and the sexualizing of chocolate to appeal to women is rampant. These ads are born out of the societal stereotype that women are easily appeased and are simply objects of men’s desire. There is also the implication that they can be manipulated easily by chocolate, and therefore are the weaker sex. I will argue that one company, Magnum Ice Cream, especially uses these stereotypes in their advertisements and fetishize women as sexual objects.

But first, to illustrate some of society’s misogynistic views, here is a shocking quote from a radical member of the British National Party in 2008:

“To suggest that rape (when conducted without violence) is a serious crime is like suggesting force-feeding a woman chocolate cake is a heinous offence” – Nick Eriksen (Hesser)

Although this statement is certainly not indicative of the majority view*, it does illustrate society’s common notion that women enjoy chocolate as much as they enjoy sex. Eriksen’s statement is upsetting on many levels (which I will not dig into here), but comparing being raped with being force-fed cake is a clear example of how sex and chocolate are seen as having power over women in equal measure, and how women are often perceived as the primary receivers of such “pleasures”.

To further demonstrate that this is a prevalent line of thought in our society, here is a 2006 ad for Magnum Ice Cream starring Rachel Bilson:

To begin with, this advertisement is clearly aimed at women, who have been considered the “boundary markers of empire” when it comes to selling chocolate since the 1800s (Robertson 68). First, the woman – who is attractive by society’s standards and wearing a very “feminine” dress – sees the Magnum ice cream truck and is compelled to run towards it on the roofs of other cars. This implies that a woman will behave ridiculously to eat chocolate, while men are not similarly portrayed.

Interestingly, even the “attractive” police men do not attempt to arrest this woman, but simply watch as she runs on other people’s cars. Had a man behaved similarly, would the male police officer have behaved differently?

Then, the driver of the Magnum truck, also an “attractive” male, confidently struts out and opens the truck, allowing the woman to eat a Magnum ice cream bar. This says to the viewer that men are the “bearers of chocolate” (Robertson 68) and are the ones in control of whether or not a woman will receive pleasure. This essentially suggests that women need men and are therefore the weaker sex.

Finally, when the woman bites down onto the ice cream with an audible crunch, she closes her eyes as if in ecstasy. This shot is followed by more women running toward the ice cream truck with reckless abandon, and the final scene is closed by their slogan, “for pleasure seekers”. This exemplifies the comparison being made between chocolate and sex, and suggests that women can be controlled by these cravings, whereas men are stronger and can resist. The slogan is especially telling: nothing about the ingredients, their production, or where they are sourced is included in the slogan – just a statement that shows how much their product and women are being sexualized.

"CRACKING" Print Ad for Magnum Ice Cream by Mccann-erickson

To the right is another example of a Magnum ad that ran in Spain in 2006, depicting a sensually posed black woman as the actual product being advertised.

Here, we see that this woman is nothing more than a product to be consumed – because she is black, she is used as synonymous with the chocolate coated product, thereby objectifying her because of her race. Here chocolate is used as it has sociohistorically been considered: associated with sin and sexuality (Martin). Not only is this ad disturbing because her skin is literally cracking off, but the woman’s face is not even fully included, which insinuates that her body is the object, and she is not valuable as a person. In all of Magnum’s advertisements, females are consistently depicted both as the main character experiencing pleasure and as the object itself – both of which are very flawed suggestions that show women as weak and consumable.

In response to these advertisements, I created my own photo ad that shows no specific gender or race (left). My intention was to steer clear of anything that could imply that women want chocolate more than men do, or that any race is discriminated against. I wanted to emphasize this wider target audience by paralleling Magnum’s diversity of flavors with the diversity of their consumer base. My ad also clearly shows the product, while explicitly expressing that their product is “for all”, as opposed to “for pleasure seekers”. I removed any reference to sex or to their product providing pleasure, because their image alone shows that the product is delicious, and in my opinion that is all that is necessary.

*Nick Eriksen was dismissed from the BNP after making several of these disturbing comments.

References

Hesser, Kira. “‘Rape Is Like Being Force-Fed Chocolate Cake’ Blogs BNP Official.” Londonist. N.p., 9 Apr. 2008. Web. 9 Apr. 2015.

Martin, Carla D. “Issues in Advertisements.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 1 Apr. 2015. Class Lecture.

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

http://blog.carneysandoe.com/what-do-you-mean-by-diversity/

http://whatever-you-want.wikia.com/wiki/File:Magnum-ice-cream-bar.png

http://www.polyvore.com/cracking_print_ad_for_magnum/thing?id=32552786

http://www.magnumicecream.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3oiZieTlI0

Sugar, Semantics, and Sexuality

If you ask any girl or woman raised in America, “what are little girls made of?,” she will almost surely sing back to you, “sugar and spice and all things nice, that’s what little girls are made of” (Delamar). From before they can remember, women are indoctrinated by this traditional English nursery rhyme, which plants in their minds the socially sanctioned stereotype that femininity is synonymous with “sweetness.” Throughout the course of their lives, this notion is nurtured, reinforced, and ultimately sexualized by the frequent and widespread textual constructions of the saccharine quality of women. While the strict denotations of such labels as “sweetheart,” “honey bun,” “sugar,” or “sweetie pie” do not betray any trace of gender associations, they were born of a problematic history that has come to define their connotations. Such representations are deeply entrenched in relevant cultural mores, which define the nature of this disparity between linguistic denotation and connotation. Language thus becomes vulnerable to exploitation by its particular social, political, and economic context, a vehicle for covert “attitudes and values that are seldom explicitly articulated,” even those that have “long since been rejected at a conscious level” (Bucholtz, Liang, & Sutton 146). Despite the conscious acknowledgment of gender equality in this day and age, a long history of gendered power imbalance remains integrated in this subliminal vehicle of linguistic chauvinism. These sex differences in language do not just passively reflect gender inequality in society, but serve to actively reinforce it, ultimately serving to further derogate women and perpetuate negative stereotypes that threaten to subvert the modern crusade for equality of the sexes.

The gendered nature of saccharine words in the English language can be traced back to the 19th century, when social and technological innovations of the Industrial Revolution allowed sugar to transform from a luxury of the aristocracy to a staple of the masses. By the 1850s, sugar had become a ubiquitous presence in all walks of Western life, its consumption associated most intimately with women and children, whose life in the domestic sphere did not demand the heartier ingredients that characterized the workingman’s diet (Mintz 110). This historical moment likely provided the backdrop for the inception of the metaphorical association of women with sugar, which subsequently exploited industrialization and advertisement for its rapid dissemination. The textual construction of “woman-as-sugar” thus became intimately tied to a commercial one, evident in a 1924 advertisement for Whitman’s “Pleasure Island” boxed chocolates. This advertisement promises that a “visit to Pleasure Island is best when made by a man and a maid,” who can together “enjoy the plunder from this wonderful chest of chocolates” (“1924 Advertisement for Whitman’s Pleasure Island Chocolate Beach Palms”).

"1924 Advertisement for Whitman’s Pleasure Island Chocolate Beach Palms," Period Paper
Advertisement for Whitman’s Pleasure Island Chocolate, 1924 (Period Paper)

This evident eroticization of sugar likely arose through the assimilation of chocolate and its celebrated aphrodisiac properties, manifest in Whitman’s affirmation that a “passport to Pleasure Island” is available to anyone who has not lost the “youthful keen taste for good things” and a “love of romance.” Whitman’s thus proclaims the primacy of the heterosexual relationship in 20th century western society and provides an explicit link between sexuality, romance, and sugary confections. In this way, consumption of their sugary confections effectively serves as a euphemism for some idealized sexual encounter, a man’s indulgence in a “sweet” woman, which is here commodified into a transaction of sorts. The saccharine woman is thus reduced to a decadent romantic and sexual object that can be sold, bought, and consumed, rendering her powerless and controlled by the whims of men.

During the 1967 “Summer of Love,” a time marked by the embrace of gender equality and “free love,” advertisers in the candy industry sought to adapt their marketing strategies to cater to this more open-minded audience. That year, Brach’s candy company advertised a heart shaped box of chocolates guaranteeing “free kisses with every box of Brach’s Valentine’s Chocolates you give to her” (“Brach’s Valentines Candy Advertisement Circa 1967″).

Brach’s Valentines Candy Advertisement, 1967 (Candy Favorites)
Advertisement for Brach’s Valentines Candy, 1967 (Candy Favorites)

This saccharine representation of women is clearly problematic, exploiting the female sexual liberalization movement and undermining its foundation, which lay in the rejection of traditional social and sexual mores. Just as women had claimed ownership of their sexuality as a means by which to overthrow traditionally oppressive, male-dominated institutions and double standards, the further sexualization of their “sweet” quality snatched it right back from their hands. Female sexuality became perverted into promiscuity, subject once again to the will of men, as easy to procure and consume as a box of bonbons.

The lasting impact of this semantic pejoration, by which a reference to a woman begins with “neutral or even positive connotations” but “gradually acquires negative implications” is still very much felt in the modern day, in spite of the many strides that have been made in the name of gender equality (Schulz 65). Over the past decade, Godiva Chocolatier released their “Go DIVA” campaign, one advertisement for which proclaims that “every woman is one part diva, much to the dismay of every man” (“Godiva: ‘EVERYWOMAN’ Print Ad”).

Advertisement from Godiva's "GoDIVA" campaign, 2004 (Coloribus)
Advertisement from Godiva’s “GoDIVA” campaign, 2004 (Coloribus)

At first glance, it appears that the intended audience has shifted from men to women–the depiction of the woman with a Godiva truffle halfway to her mouth perhaps a concerted effort to transform the act of chocolate consumption from one of male courtship to one of female self-indulgence. However, upon closer inspection, it is clear that the portrayal of women within this saccharine context has yet to break free from male appeasement. Sultry lighting sets the mood, as she seductively makes direct eye contact with her audience, her sweater falling from her shoulder to reveal her bare arm. In the heteronormative world of advertisement, this provocative image would almost certainly rouse a more pronounced response in the appetite and consumption patterns of a male subject. As such, even today, it is clear that the denotative significance of sugar continues to compete with its derogatory connotative significance.

While the objectification of women may no longer be explicit in 21st century society, it is still implicitly articulated by the continued and widespread notion of the saccharine woman and her commodified femininity. The impact of such notions go beyond emotional hurt; rather, this derogatory portrayal imposes boundaries on both the space that she occupies in the collective social consciousness as well as her ability to construct her own identity and conceive of her full potential. As such, it is important to acknowledge the continued existence of these subconscious representations of women in the public and private spheres in order to bring them into explicit awareness. Only in this way can the woman finally emancipate herself from the shackles of this pejorative textual construction and expunge the legacy of chauvinism that has long plagued her gender perception and identity.


1924 Ad Whitman’s Pleasure Island Chocolate Beach Palms. Digital image. Period Paper, n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.

Brach’s Valentines Candy Advertisement Circa 1967. Digital image. Candy Favorites, n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.

Bucholtz, Mary, A. C. Liang, and Laurel A. Sutton. Reinventing Identities: The Gendered Self in Discourse. New York: Oxford UP, 1999. Print.

Delamar, Gloria T. “What Folks Are Made Of.” Mother Goose: From Nursery to Literature. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1987. N. pag. Web.

Godiva: “EVERYWOMAN” Print Ad. Digital image. Coloribus. Margeotes Fertitta & Partners, Oct. 2004. Web. 10 Mar. 15.

Schulz, Muriel R. “The semantic derogation of women.” In Barrie Thorne & Nancy Henley, Language and sex: Difference and dominance. Rowley, MA: Newbury House, 64-75. 1975. Digital.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin, 1985. Print.