Tag Archives: gender roles

Chocolate as an Aphrodisiac: A Historical Analysis

Dating back to the earliest known origins of chocolate—or rather its characteristic ingredient, cacao—this extraordinary substance has consistently been associated with socially intimate and aphrodisiacal properties. The particular manifestation of these aphrodisiacal properties, however, and how they have taken shape over time tells an interesting story of the power of media and advertising. Much of this early knowledge is situated around the ritual practices and mythology of the Maya civilization in the pre-Columbian period, during which cacao was heavily featured and revered in the context of fertility and marriage rites. In the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Quiché Maya documenting Mayan mythology, “when the gods were creating humans in their final form,” cacao was among the “foods which were to form their bodies” (Coe & Coe 39). This notion of cacao playing a role in the creation of human life is a recurring theme in surviving remnants of Mayan society, bringing to mind a clear connection with procreation and fertility. In much the same way, archeological/anthropological research has indicated the “widespread, perhaps even pan-Maya, use of chocolate in betrothal and marriage ceremonies” (Coe & Coe 60). Similar beliefs and rituals held true for Mixtec and Aztec societies, as we can see in this detail from the Codex Nuttall (Mixtec book) displayed below, or in the Aztec poem that refers to “‘flowering chocolate’ [as] a metaphor for luxuriousness and sensuality” (Coe & Coe 104).

Figure 1: This image shows an exchange of a frothy cup of chocolate from the bride, Lady Thirteen Serpent, to the Mixtec King, Lord Eight Deer (1051 BCE) (Coe & Coe 97)

Even more explicit, is the account of Spanish conquistador, Bernal Díaz de Castillo, upon attending a lavish Aztec banquet in which he writes about the emperor, including that “ they brought him some cups of fine gold, with a certain drink made of cacao, which they said was for success with women” (Coe & Coe 96). While this certainly speaks to the Spanish conquistadors’ beliefs and interpretations of cacao, whether there is any actual truth to this testimony is unsubstantiated. However this did not stop the notion of cacao as a sexual stimulant from spreading throughout Europe after it was first introduced in Spain. Almost a century after for instance, Dr. Henry Stubbes (1632-72), a prominent English authority on chocolate, was “convinced, as were most of his contemporaries in England and on the Continent, that chocolate was an aphrodisiac” (Coe & Coe 171).

If we fast forward to the 19th and early 20th centuries, these themes associated with chocolate seem to not only persist, but become ever-more present. This is likely the consequence of two key changes in the chocolate industry, the first being Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes van Houten’s 1828 invention of the hydraulic press, which allowed for the production of chocolate in solid form. The second shift lies in the industrialization of food, which gave way to mass production and, by extension, lower food costs, resulting in the democratization of chocolate (Coe & Coe 234-235). Considering its history as a substance once only available to the elite and wealthy upper echelons of society, this new potential for chocolate to be available and affordable to the masses meant immense economic opportunity—cue mass marketing. Chocolate advertising in its earlier days often featured women providing chocolate to their families, as the ideal wife and mother—roles which were both, at the time, at the forefront of any socially accepted notion of female identity. Kids were also considerably featured in these ads, thus by placing chocolate at the nucleus of the family bond, we are reminded of the original role cacao played in marriage and fertility for the Maya.

Figure 2: Nestle poster, c. 1898 – A mother, depicted in accordance with the beauty ideals of the time, is with her kids in nature, which advances the wholesome, natural image of milk chocolate
Figure 3: Post-war Rowntree’s Cocoa ad; acts as a clear representation of the role & expectations of women

In a similar vein, ads in which chocolate is the embodiment of romance soon seem to take center stage—at least for those ads targeted toward males (which speaks to a whole other dimension on the gendering of foods, but I’ll leave that for another discussion). While this notion of chocolate is clearly linked to aphrodisia, it is also convenient for business when it comes to special occasions centered around love and affection, such as Valentine’s Day and anniversaries.

Figure 4

Figure 5

As is hinted at in the ads above, this idea of chocolate as the perfect gift for a girlfriend or wife goes beyond its supposed inherent powers of attraction, to suggest that it’s so irresistible that it could win over any woman. The implication here being that simply a box of chocolates can render a woman so feeble-minded and lacking control over her desires that it removes any sexual resistance. This, again, plays into sexist stereotypes of women as mindless, emotional, pretty, sweet objects, lacking any intelligence, authority, or confidence.

While it would be nice to think this sort of messaging has subsided in recent years, the truth of the matter is that this pattern of perpetuating socially prescribed feminine ideals and stereotypes, particularly in relation to romance and desire is still common practice, only less overtly sexist. A prime example of this is for an Axe commercial in which women uncontrollably lust over a man who, upon spraying Axe Dark Temptation, turns into a walking, talking piece of chocolate. Despite being cloaked in a veil of humor, this message here is no different from that found in earlier advertising.

In a similar vein, while society has changed over time to embrace more progressive values, namely freedom of sexual expression and independence, it’s interesting to see how chocolate advertising has used this to make even more explicit the connection between chocolate, desire, and pleasure—all the while often maintaining their use of female stereotypes and ideals, which only works to delay or set back feminist efforts. That is, women are sexualized, objectified, and interlaced with sexual innuendo in such ads where there is an apparent attempt to blur the lines between chocolate and sex. Oftentimes these advertisements are targeted towards women as a way of “encouraging self indulgence for a food that provides feelings equated to sex and love” (Fahim 7).

It’s quite interesting, or perhaps more than that, it’s rather informative of the power that lies in the hands of media and marketing to perpetuate a notion with little to no basis in fact, as evidenced by numerous studies debunking any real effect of chocolate on libido or as an aphrodisiac (Shamloul 2010, Brent 2018), yet remains at the core—in some way, shape, or form, of chocolate marketing strategy.

In analyzing the way these advertisements have marketed chocolate, we can see the progress of the way society views the female role. In the earlier times, we see how the importance of women in society is closely intertwined with reproduction as well as the simple-minded housewife trope, which was quite clearly reflected in the messaging of chocolate at the time. And, subsequently, as women’s expression of sexuality in media becomes more commonplace, the importance and relevance of chocolate in society comes in large part from overt and subtle references to its purported (yet unsubstantiated) supernatural or aphrodisiacs properties. Specifically, it aims to encourage “ self indulgence for a food that provides feelings equated to sex and love.

All that being said, while this current theme of hypersexuality, desire, and indulgence is unlikely to subside any time soon (especially considering it’s persisted over thousands of years), it will be interesting to see how and if the portrayal of women in ads related to chocolate will change in this new wave of female empowerment as a marketing strategy (e.g. the new Nike and Gillette ads), which still have their issues but show an overall positive progression towards gender equality.

Works-Cited & Sources:

Brent A. Bauer, M.D. “Do Natural Aphrodisiacs Actually Work?” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 8 Mar. 2018, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/sexual-health/expert-answers/natural-aphrodisiacs/faq-20058252.

Fahim, Jamal, “Beyond Cravings: Gender and Class Desires in Chocolate Marketing” (2010). Sociology Student Scholarship. http://scholar.oxy.edu/sociology_student/3

French, Michael. “Modernity in British Advertising: Selling Cocoa and Chocolate in the 1930s.” Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, vol. 9, no. 4, 2017, pp. 451-466. ProQuest, http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/1973450713?accountid=11311, doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/10.1108/JHRM-05-2017-0015.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2009.

Shamloul, Rany. “Natural Aphrodisiacs.” The Journal of Sexual Medicine, vol. 7, no. 1, 2010, pp. 39–49., doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01521.x.

Multimedia Sources:





Interview with EH Chocolatier

It was early February and Catharine Sweeney and Elaine Hsieh, co-owners of EH Chocolatier, were busy working on their Valentine’s Day orders. Sheet trays and whisks clanked against the steel countertops at a steady rhythm. February is one of the busiest time of the year for a chocolatier. Catharine and Elaine anticipated forty to fifty orders for Valentine’s Day; a modest amount for their three-year-old business, but enough to keep EH Chocolatier very busy. Catharine and Elaine make all of their chocolates by hand, as well as overseeing the packaging and shipping. As Valentine’s Day approached, they were hit with a New England curveball: winter storm Nemo, which would become the fifth largest snowfall in Boston history, was forecast to hit the weekend before Valentine’s Day. All around Boston the news warned of shutting down roads, airports, and subways. Authorities urged residents to prepare for a heavy downfall and warned of potential power outages. Nemo could wreck their biggest sale day and reputation.

However, EH Chocolatier had no idea of the real storm coming. On Tuesday, February 12th, Elaine was surprised to see EH Chocolatier featured in The New York Times  day’s “Best in the Box” article. Their salted caramels had been recognized as a top ten best chocolate caramel just in time for Valentine’s Day. Catharine and Elaine said that they did not get their hopes up initially, since  EH Chocolatier had previous exposure in major publications like Food and Wine. But at 9:05 AM Elaine’s email sounded off like an alarm, “bing, bing, bing, bing, bing”–the sound of hundreds of online chocolate orders pouring into her inbox. “It was kind of like an Oprah moment,” Elaine says recalling the experience. “We literally got five hundred orders in thirty-six hours.”

Most entrepreneurs could only dream of the success EH Chocolatier experienced with their first New York Times feature. However, waking up in the morning with five hundred orders of handmade chocolates is a daunting task. The article said chocolates could be ordered by Valentine’s Day–giving the team at EH Chocolatier merely four days to accomplish ten times their expected workload.  And then there was Nemo. “Oh my God, I don’t think we can handle this,” recalls Elaine of the experience. “But we did it.” With the help of friends and family, EH Chocolatier was able to successfully mail their chocolate orders in time for Valentine’s Day. Since The New York Times feature, Elaine and Catharine say that business has picked up at a steady pace.

Despite the publicity, the economic odds were against two mothers starting a business at the tail-end of a recession. “Micro-Chocolatiers” face tough competition from large manufacturers like Godiva or Lindt, who have extensive shipping networks and long shelf-life products. While EH Chocolatier still has room to grow as a business, there are benefits to staying small. “I think where we stand out is that its fresh,” Catharine says in our interview. “We make very small batches. . . . [T]he flavors [in chocolate] dissipate over time and will dry out a little bit. When you eat them and they’ve been made that week, theres no comparison to eating something that you’ve purchased from a large chocolate manufacturer who has [a shelf life of] maybe six months.”

Not only are EH Chocolatier’s confections fresh, but they offer creative flavor combinations. Inspiration for new chocolate flavors is not limited by the world of dessert. “A lot of it comes from our joy of savory eating,” Catharine says. “I have a friend that’s Thai and she cooks for me all the time. . . . [Y]ou start thinking; I wonder if I can pair these flavors with chocolate? [T]hats where our lemongrass Thai chili bonbon came from.” Beyond chocolate, EH Chocolatier also offers a passion fruit caramel  made with passion fruit puree combined with white chocolate.

The heart of EH Chocolatier that keeps the core of the business strong is the bond between Catharine and Elaine. “We knew of and heard of all those horror stories of friends starting businesses together,” says Elaine in the interview. “Catharine and I realized that it wouldn’t really be worth doing business together if we wouldn’t be friends afterwards.” “Because our strengths are very different it really is a match made in heaven,” Catharine says looking to Elaine as they share the kind of unrestrained belly-laugh that can only be had between close friends.

“We’re very ying yang,” says Elaine, who is dressed in a white linen shirt and brushed silver jewelry, with her straight black hair neatly parted down the side. Catharine sits by her side wearing a cherry red sweater with matching red rectangular glasses and red dangle bead earrings. “We are both equal in terms of developing new recipes and creating new ideas and we each sort of come at it from different bends and different palates. We’re equal in terms of strengths,” says Elaine.

Perhaps this strength is ultimately what enables a entrepreneurs to persevere through the difficult initial phases of a new business. After all, a business is fundamentally about relationships between people, whether it’s buyer or seller.  The challenges of winter storm Nemo and an unexpected bump in orders due to the Times article showed the EH Chocolatier has the right business model–and people for success.

Catharine and Elaine are helping to define what it means to be a female entrepreneur. In businesses highly dominated by men, women often forced to repress their femininity in order to be taken seriously. Desirable leadership traits are usually associated with male stereotypes of being aggressive, dominant, and individualistic. Women often feel pressure to be a “woman in a man’s world” and are not given the freedom to be a “woman in a woman’s” world because society has often categorized female-dominated industries as being less important, less deserving of respect, less difficult, and less desireable. As two mothers and entrepreneurs in the chocolate industry, an industry that has long been the domain of women, Catharine and Elaine reflect what it means to be a strong, female leader who fully leans into being a “woman in a woman’s” world.

It is important to see female leadership in the chocolate industry for a few reasons. The story of how chocolate rose to global prominence has largely taken place in the unwritten history of women. For example, many believe European colonists were responsible for innovating on cacao recipes taken from the Mesoamericans and transformed to fit European tastes. For example, Spanish Doctor and Military surgeon Antonio Lavedan wrote in 1796 in Tratado de los usos, abusos, propiedades y virtudes del tabaco, cafe, te y chocolate:

“When the Spanish and Portuguese arrived in the Americas, the inhabitants there made a cacao liquor which was diluted in hot water seasoned with pepper and other spices . . . all these ingredients gave this mixture a brutish quality and a very savage taste . . . The Spanish, more industrious than the Savages, procured to correct the bad flavor of this liquor, adding to this cacao paste different fragrances of the East and many spices of this country [Spain]. Of all these ingredients we have maintained only the sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon” (Lavedan, Antonio).


This Eurocentric view is fundamentally flawed but has persisted because historians have routinely overlooked the history of people of color and women. When the Spanish and Portuguese arrived in Mesoamerica, they employed the encomienda system and forced women to perform housework and prepare food. As a result, Mesoamerican women introduced European settlers to the different ways of preparing cacao and rather than the Europeans modifying chocolate to fit their different cultural tastes, Europeans developed a cultural taste for Indian chocolate (Marcy Norton, 2006). Historians have often ignored the role of gender in shaping history and as a result, many people fail to realize that Mesoamerican women are largely responsible for introducing chocolate to the world out of obscurity.

For example, many people believe Europeans were the first to sweeten chocolate, however Mesoamericans had been sweetening chocolate for a while.


Martin, Carla. “Colonial Mesoamerican Cacao Beverage Recipe Ingredients,” Chocolate Expansion, Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Lecture. Spring Academic Year, 2017.


Source: Martin, Carla. “Colonial European Chocolate Recipe Ingredients,” Chocolate Expansion, Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Lecture. Spring Academic Year, 2017.

As chocolate made its way through Spain, Italy, France, and Britain, recipes were passed down between women from kitchen to kitchen. This played a formative role in discovering new uses for chocolate but scholars and historians have traditionally ignored studying and documenting this because chocolate has long been considered a “women’s” domain. As a result, the early evolution of chocolate throughout Europe is poorly documented and relatively unknown.

As the industry surrounding chocolate developed in the early 1900s, women were excluded participation in the development of chocolate as a business and it wasn’t until  1970s that Mar’s Chocolate hired a woman named Lone Clark to Vice President of HR, an unprecedented move at the time but still a testament to the newness of welcoming women into ownership of an industry that they by and large laid the foundations to.

Furthermore, chocolate has long been a tool for those in power to set the agenda on the wants and desires of women. Advertising is largely dominated by men and has historically had a lack of diversity of women in senior level positions. As a result, the messages connecting women to chocolate have focused on reinforcing highly gendered, heteronormative stereotypes of femininity. It is yet another way men have defined what constitutes women’s spaces and what it means to be a woman.

Catharine and Elaine’s success as chocolatiers represents women taking ownership of “women’s” domains, and paying homage to the unacknowledged labor of women who introduced the world to chocolate.



Dishman, Lydia. “The Gender Divide and the Traits of Effective Leadership: Who Comes Out on Top?” Fast Company, 05/20/2014. Retrieved online: https://www.fastcompany.com/3030754/the-gender-divide-and-the-traits-of-effective-leadership-who-comes-out-on

Hsieh, Elaine, Catharine, Sweeney. Personal Interview about EH Chocolatiers. Conducted March, 2015.

Lavedan, Antonio. “Tratado de los usos, abusos, propiedades y virtudes del tabaco, café, té y chocolate : extractado de los mejores autores que han tratado de esta materia, á fin de que su uso no perjudique á la salud, antes bien pueda servir de alivio y curación de muchos males.” Madrid : En la Imprenta Real, 1796.

Retrieved online: https://archive.org/details/tratadodelosuso00lavegoog

Mars Inc. “At Mars, the Evolution of Female Leaders Started Early,” Mars News. Mars.com, 03/23/2017. Retrieved online: http://www.mars.com/global/press-center/newsroom/womens-history-month-ione-clark

Martin, Carla. “Colonial European Chocolate Recipe Ingredients,” Chocolate Expansion, Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Lecture. Spring Academic Year, 2017.

Martin, Carla. “Colonial Mesoamerican Cacao Beverage Recipe Ingredients,” Chocolate Expansion, Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Lecture. Spring Academic Year, 2017.


Valentine’s Day Chocolate as a Commentary on Society

The History of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day has not always been associated with love, red hearts, bouquets of roses and a box of chocolates. In fact, the first celebrations of Valentine’s day, which date all the way back to Roman times, were not linked to romance at all (Butler). The initial appearance of gift-exchange occurred during the Medieval Period, when knights would lavish roses upon maidens to express their “courtly love” (Butler). This gift giving practice continued to grow in the following centuries (Henderson). However, the exchange of chocolate and candies was not yet in practice since sugar was still regarded as a highly precious commodity (Butler, Henderson). By the Victorian Era, commercialization of the holiday had begun (Henderson), and the practice of exchanging elaborate and highly decorated gifts had become routine (Butler) .

Richard Cadbury and the Heart-Shaped Box

Richard Cadbury was one of the first entrepreneurs to fully take advantage of the love-crazed commercialized frenzy (Butler). Through industrialization and technological advancements, Cadbury had discovered a cheaper way to produce what was referred to as “eating chocolate” (Butler). Cadbury, being the commercial genius that he was, began to design elaborate heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolates to distribute during Valentine’s Day (Henderson). The boxes were extremely successful that even to this day, Victorian Era Cadbury boxes, such as the one featured below, still exist, are wildly popular, and “are treasured family heirlooms and valuable items prized by collectors” (Butler).

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 9.31.45 PM
Wilson, Laurnie

Valentine’s Day is compelling in the ways it reflects changes in Western society regarding the introduction of exchanging sugar and chocolates and a movement towards industrialization and commercialization. Currently, however, it is also most indicative of the ways in which society hasn’t changed, according to the continued gender-biased and heteronormative nature of the holiday.

Advertisements Across Time

Looking among different chocolate advertisements celebrating Valentine’s Day, common themes emerge based on assumed gender roles and heteronormativity that remain constant throughout time and across companies.


Since Cadbury is the founder of the heart-shaped box of chocolates, I thought it only appropriate to look at the content of their advertisements over time.

Cadbury Vintage Style Ad

This vintage Cadbury advertisement really speaks to the roots of heteronormativity associated with Valentine’s Day. The ad is centered around the simple fact that she loves him, he loves her. The assumptions of heteronormativity are all too clear.

This Cadbury Valentine’s Day Commercial  from 2017 shares many of the same sentiments as the vintage ad. He loves her. She loves him. And they both love Cadbury chocolate.  Although only hands are featured in this commercial, the hands are clearly gender specific. The woman’s hand is feminine, with pink painted nails and of course, hers is the hand that is receiving the chocolate. While there is some playful teasing and banter throughout the commercial, at the very end it is made clear that it is the man who is giving the chocolates by his hand signing the card with a simple “be mine”.


Cadbury, however, is not the only company that has perpetuated gender stereotypes and promoted heteronormativity. The comparison between these two ads from 1943 and 2013 shows that while some aspects of their marketing technique have been updated, fundamental concepts surrounding gender roles and heteronormativity remain the same.

Block, Tara


This Whitman’s ad is from 1943 and demonstrates the evident gender biases of that time. The ad implies that all women care very much about being recognized on Valentine’s Day and that men are expected to actually forget Valentine’s Day because they care so little about this particular holiday and receiving a gift. There is also the reoccurring theme that a man is able to win over a woman’s affections by giving her chocolate. In my opinion, this concept somewhat objectifies a woman and implies that her love may be bought with a simple box of chocolates.

This 2013 Whitman’s Valentine’s Day Commercial does not really show many differences from the printed ad from the 1940s. The language may be updated and the message appeals to a more modern man, who is interested in sports (football), but in the end, the message remains relatively the same that, “men, don’t be the forgetful, careless tough guys that you usually are; go out and buy your caring, sensitive ladies some chocolate… that’s all they truly want on Valentines Day”. Not only is this an extremely gender-biased message, it is also a message of heteronormativity. The ad directly addresses men and directs them to buy something for their special woman.

Many other chocolate brands, including Godiva and Ferrara Rocher, have released recent Valentine’s Day ads that continue to reveal how gender bias and heteronormativity are still very much ingrained into American society.

There are some advertisements, like this Dove commercial, that actually change up the narrative a little bit. However, while it does not subscribe to heteronormativity, it also does not actively combat it. Furthermore, while the ad dispenses of some of the assumed gender roles, such as the man always being the giver of chocolate, it still plays into others. It was particularly notable to me that the recipients of the chocolate were all still women. While commercials like this do perhaps show more progress, I do not believe they are up to standards with the claim to dispense of gender stereotypes and support LGBTQ communities. I struggled to find advertisements that included gay couples or advertisements in which a female romantically and earnestly gave a box of chocolates to a man, who is ready to decadently indulge. I really think that this lack of representation on Valentine’s Day may speak to a larger problem that we, as a society, may not be as progressive as we think we are.

Realities of Valentine’s Day Chocolate Exchange

These issues of perpetuated gender stereotypes and heteronormativity are not just depicted in the advertisements we see, but are also being played out in real life through the Valentine’s Day chocolate exchange. In 2006, an article entitled “pulse point’ revealed that “while 75 percent of chocolate purchases are made by women all year long, during the days and minutes before Valentine’s Day, 75 percent of the chocolate purchases are made by men. Over $ I billion of chocolate is purchased for Valentine’s Day” (p. 9). Furthermore, a study conducted by Otnes, Cele, Ruth and Milbourne revealed that men are not necessarily buying these chocolates because they want to. Many men expressed an intense pressure to buy chocolates for their significant other and actually stated that on average, they experience much more pleasure from gift-receiving than gift giving. The practices of modern day chocolate exchange during Valentine’s Day still reinforce gender roles that men must be the givers and women must be the receivers and gender bias that women care much more about the gift giving than men. Furthermore Otnes, Cele Ruth and Milbourne discuss the novelty of their study, in that it looks at the opinions and attitudes of men on Valentine’s Day rather than women, who historically and stereotypically claim the holiday; however, I could find no study on LGBTQ groups and their opinions and attitudes towards the holiday. Throughout this exploration, it has become very evident to me that the LGBTQ groups are vastly underrepresented during this holiday. While it is concerning that Valentine’s Day chocolate exchange does not seem to represent the progressive and open-minded society we feel we are a part of, perhaps the holiday is actually an indication that our society as a whole is not as updated and progressive as we ought to be.


Works Cited

Butler, Stephanie. “Celebrating Valentine’s Day With a Box of Chocolates.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 08 Feb. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.

Henderson, Amy. “How Chocolate and Valentine’s Day Mated for Life.” Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian Institution, 12 Feb. 2015. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.

Food and, Retail E. “FEATURE/Valentine’s Day – Celebrating America’s Love Affair with Chocolate More than 35 Million Heart-Shaped Boxes Will be Sold.” Business Wire, Jan 26, 2001, pp. 1, Business Premium Collection, http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/446497881?accountid=11311.

Otnes, Cele, Julie A. Ruth, and Constance C. Milbourne. “The pleasure and pain of being close: men’s mixed feelings about participation in Valentine’s Day gift exchange.” NA-Advances in Consumer Research Volume 21 (1994).

“Pulse Points.” Journal of Property Management, vol. 71, no. 1, jan/feb2006, p. 9. EBSCOhost, ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=19533678&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Images Cited

Block, Tara. “Valentine’s Day.” POPSUGAR Love & Sex. N.p., 07 Apr. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2017. www.popsugar.com/love/photo-gallery/21966615/image/21966645/Valentine-Day

“Cadburys Chocolate Vintage Style A4 Poster Print Retro Advert VALENTINES DAY.” EBay. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2017. http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Cadburys-Chocolate-Vintage-Style-A4-Poster-Print-Retro-Advert-VALENTINES-DAY-/232259253864.

Wilson, Laurie. “Candy Favorites – Wholesale Candy & Bulk Candy Suppliers Since 1927.” Richard Cadbury & the Heart-Shaped Chocolate Box – Candy Favorites. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2017. www.candyfavorites.com/heart-shaped-chocolate-box-valentines-day

The Body as a False Medium for Chocolate

In today’s society, many people tend to consider themselves progressive and welcoming, whether it be of race, gender, equality or representation. However, when looking at current advertisements, in particular those pertaining to consumer chocolate, and then delving deep into the historical timeline of chocolate and cacao production/consumption, it becomes more evident that in fact, many ads and the products they represent actually have not been progressing in parallel to our current times but in fact harken to historical inequalities. Such a bold phrase will surely be elaborated on further in relation to the following two photos: the first being a true ad for Dove Chocolate, and the second being my pseudo-ad for Twix chocolate, a satire on the first to shed light on the issues the former poses such as objectification and misrepresentation of race.

Dove Chocolate Abs

Real ad for Dove chocolate featuring objectification and issues of misrepresentation of race 

In the Dove ad, a black, assumingly-nude male is represented in close-up view of his abdominals posed next to a minute-sized piece of Dove chocolate, followed by a witty double entendre pertaining to six-pack abs and the six-piece bar of chocolate. In this case, the advertisement is objectifying individuals, in this particular case black males, focusing in large part on attractive body parts with only about 5% of the ad devoted to a picture of the product being sold. In fact, as Robertson (2010) points out, for a long time in history, the portrayal of black males in advertisements for cacao products was common to symbolize and flaunt status and luxury. In a sense this ad does something very similar to just that as it flaunts a very attractive and strong body, but also uses a dark-skinned male who is fit which can be implied to be similar to the men who worked on cacao production in history’s past.


But beyond the idea of racism and misrepresentation in chocolate advertisements, it is also to crucial to mention the previous point of objectification. Although finding less racially sensitive ads may be less common in society today, coming across those which objectify and misrepresent genders is more plentiful. In the seventeenth century, chocolate was highly male-dominated, with chocolate and coffee houses for the men while women continued to be represented as housewives through history (Robertson, 2010). Even today, we come across sexist ads, such as the one above, where a man is being objectified as a bar of chocolate, in ads in Africa where women are showcased as exotic figures (Leissle, 2012), or even in a recent Snickers ad in 2014 which implies that hunger strips a man of his masculinity but that Snickers can solve that problem. Therefore, I decided to create a satirical ad as seen below in response to the Dove ad above.

bikini chocolate2

Fake ad in respnose to Dove to show the misportrayal of a human figure but satired by the “objectification” of a candy bar as sensual 

In this fake Twix ad, there are a couple of tricks. First and foremost, I wanted to cover the theme of 1. Objectification/misrepresentation of gender, and 2. The idea of focus and size. For this first part, I included a picture of an attractive woman on the beach. But in order to satire the first ad, theme number two came in whereby I enlarged the candy bar to appear as if the bar is being “objectified,” in addition to blurring out the women and scaling up the bar. In this sense, this ad is doing the opposite of the first ad: instead of enlarging the male body and misrepresenting the chocolate, this ad enlarges the body and shows that the real product is right in front of the viewer’s eyes; that the need for a female semi-nude figure is irrelevant and non-pertinent to the product being sold.


This latter point is the most crucial to my case. Many such advertisers as those who produced the Dove ad attempt to tap into a very select set of emotions and somatosensory feelings of the consumers by showing totally irrelevant images of enticing body parts and sensual scenes. However, when one really stops to think about the ad, it appears as false advertisement: sorry but you do not get the abs or the girl, just a bar of 300-calorie chocolate. If advertisers instead moved forward by showing sensual, enlarged, and slow-motion images of melting chocolate and the biological reactions and positive emotions evoked from chocolate itself, then that would be more true to the product and be void of any objectification or race misrepresentation. Therefore the false ad harkens to this last point of attempting to foreground the actual product being sold whilst portraying it in a satirical manner as an “attractive” and “objectified” beach-bod of a chocolate bar modeling on the sand.

That Dove bar may or may not “melt a girl’s heart,” but that Twix will surely melt in the sun on that beach. 


Beach Picture: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gabrielsaldana/3512510469

Dove Chocolate Picture: http://www.coloribus.com/adsarchive/prints/dove-chocolate-dove-chocolate-9500755/

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


Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. pp. 20-38.

“This Offensive Snickers Ad Accidentally Shows Exactly How Sexism Hurts Men.” Identities.Mic. N.p., 27 Mar. 2014. Web. 05 Apr. 2016. Retrieved from: http://mic.com/articles/86327/this-offensive-snickers-ad-accidentally-shows-exactly-how-sexism-hurts-men#.ibSEHFIIE

Twix Picture: http://gal-togoond.blogspot.com/2009_02_01_archive.html


Gallery Walk: Chocolate, Gender, and Industrialization

Art is closely tied to the culture of a society. Studying changes and patterns in symbolism and representations over time can provide clues to shifting norms and cultural expectations in society. By studying the path of chocolate through art history, we can better understand the shifting associations between chocolate and gender.

Chocolate has been intimately tied to gender since its origins in ancient Mesoamerica. As chocolate spread to new cultures and new continents, practices surrounding the production, serving, and consumption of chocolate changed to reflect the sometimes strict, sometimes contradictory gender norms of these new cultures.

Ancient Mesoamerica: women and production

PrincetonVase   Woman prepares chocolate - Codex Tudela

The women above – on the left, from a Mayan vase ca. 750 CE, and on the right, from the Aztec Codex Tudela ca. 1500 CE – are each pouring chocolate from one vessel to another, a key step in the preparation of ancient Mesoamerican chocolate beverages. The images below illustrate the somewhat different relationship of deities to chocolate.

743_05_2 atztecs_scene_in_royal_palace_with_pod_filled_with_cocoa_mixture_lioa_651x468

On the left, from the Dresden Codex, the rain god holds a bowl of cacao in his hands, presumably for consumption; on the right, a high-ranking Mayan man seated on a platform is inspecting a pot containing a frothed cacao beverage – again, he appears to be preparing to drink the chocolate. Though we have access today to only a fraction of the images of chocolate created in the first several hundred years of its consumption, the images that we do have draw a compelling distinction between the relationship of men and women to chocolate.  Women produced chocolate, and men consumed it. Aztec and Maya texts, as well as the writings of the European colonists who settled in Mesoamerica, indicate that these earliest consumers of chocolate were well aware of its stimulating effect (Coe and Coe). In Aztec society, the consumption of chocolate was expressly limited to nobles, merchants, and warriors – all, for the most part, male (Coe and Coe). The roles of women in Mesoamerican society were far more restricted – women were primarily involved in the domestic sphere – and far less physically active, meaning they lost the privilege of drinking chocolate.

Chocolate houses, European men, and chaos

By the early 17th century, cacao had officially arrived in Europe. It was first drunk only by royalty, but quickly spread – especially in England – to the masses, aided by the class-defying appeal of London’s coffeehouses (Calhoun). William Hogarth’s engraving, below, shows a raucous crowd of men at White’s Chocolate House, many gambling, smoking, or stabbing at the air with swords.


A somewhat tamer scene is depicted below; again, though, men have come together in great numbers to consume chocolate.


Coffee houses and chocolate houses were generally a space from which women were excluded. There is historical disagreement about whether women were forbidden from frequenting these spaces by decree, as Bramah claims, or merely made unwelcome, as Cowan argues; whatever the means of exclusion, the visual record confirms that chocolate houses were a gendered space. Women were only present in chocolate houses as owners or employees. (Calhoun). A deeper cultural gender divide is clear when we consider the conversations that generally took place in coffeehouses and chocolate houses: historians often acknowledge the role of these spaces in disseminating the intellectual ideals of the Age of Enlightenment to the public sphere (Calhoun). The absence of women from this important sphere where culture and politics were discussed, debated, and shaped reveals the lack of autonomy given to women to change their position in society.

Wealthy women, working women

European women may have been excluded from A Lady Pouring Chocolate by Jean-Étienne Liotard (1744)chocolate houses, but they certainly were not excluded from consuming chocolate.

For the first time in our visual journey, female consumption is central. Men certainly continued to consume chocolate, but women appear far more frequently in paintings of domestic consumption. The paintings to the right and below are from the mid-18th century. All the women pictured are upper-class: their clothing and surroundings clearly demonstrate wealth, and the paintings appear to be posed – typical of portraiture in the period, but also an indicator of wealth, as only the elite could afford to commission portraits.


rev586551-oriWealthy men tend only to appear as consumers of chocolate when a woman is at the center of the painting, as in the Penthièvre family portrait above and Longhi’s painting to the left, where men literally surround a woman reclining in a tulle dress.

Women were painted with chocolate to demonstrate their wealth. Chocolate was a less powerful symbol of wealth for men: men had always been allowed to consume chocolate, and so a painting of a man drinking it was unsurprising.

While wealthy women began to be depicted as consumers, servants and lower-class women were still confined to the production and serving of chocolate. The painting below inspired advertising campaigns for both Droste and Baker’s chocolate.

jean-etienne_liotard_-_the_chocolate_girl_-_google_art_project  Droste  800px-BakersCocoa.JPG

For many middle-class women, the packaging on cocoa powder was the closest interaction they would have with chocolate and art.

Non-elite women did consume chocolate, and were often depicted consuming it, especially by the Impressionists. Renoir painted three portraits, each titled “The Cup of Chocolate,” in rapid succession around the turn of the 20th century.




Globalization and new gender roles

Though women of lower social status were now able to consume chocolate, they were also responsible for preparing it and serving it. The massive shifts in production that came with global industrialization meant that society became strictly stratified, and gender roles were not necessarily consistent across the strata.


In fact, images of men preparing and serving chocolate – traditionally a responsibility reserved 37-3761-9cvzf00zfor women – begin to appear around this time, especially in advertisements (such as the Fry’s chocolate advertisement above, where a man working at a drugstore is selling chocolate) and shop signs (the chocolatier sign depicts a man stirring a pot of chocolate).

Domestic food preparation was an almost entirely female arena in ancient Mesoamerica; surviving Mayan and Aztec art depicts women preparing chocolate and men preparing to consume it. Industrialization led to the increased stratification of European society, and brought new gender roles for the elite and for the working class. Wealthy women were no longer responsible for preparing food: they had servants to cook for them. The woman’s role in domestic management was displaced by the growing gap between the wealthy and the poor. Meanwhile, the globalization of food and food production meant that more men became responsible for food production somewhere along the supply line: harvesting cacao, grinding and conching and pressing chocolate, and handling the financial side of large chocolate businesses were all primarily male occupations.

Food production, for a large part of human history, took place almost exclusively within the home. Industrialization shifted production outside of the home, and created stratified gender roles. Art provides clues to the changing structure of human societies by giving us a glimpse of the prototypical figures of men and women over time. Continued consideration of how accurate a picture those glimpses paint is crucial – not all members of society are portrayed in art, and not all the images we see are accurate portrayals.


Peck, D. G. (1973) Drawing of a detail from the Princeton Vase. Published in Michael Coe’s The Maya Scribe and His World (1973). Image source: http://www.metmuseum.org/blogs/now-at-the-met/2014/maya-drinking-cup.

The Princeton Vase: Artist unknown, of Late Classic Maya origins (A.D. 670-750). Princeton Vase. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Art Museum.

Image of Aztec woman pouring chocolate. Artist unknown (16th century). Codex Tudela. Madrid: Museo de América. Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mujer_vertiendo_chocolate_-_Codex_Tudela.jpg

Image of Rain God and Opossum God: Artist unknown (ca. 12th century). Dresden Codex Maya Hieroglyphic Text of Almanac: 25-28. Image courtesy of The Maya Codices Database, Version 4.1. Source: http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/maya/chocolate/cacao-money.

Image of Mayan inspecting chocolate beverage. Artist unknown (15th century). Image source: http://www.lindt.com/noswf/ger/world-of-lindt/lindt-history/swiss-chocolate-pioneers-in-the-19th-century.

William Hogarth (1697-1764). The Rake’s Progress, Plate VI “Gaming House Scene,” engraved by W. Radclyffe. Source: Complete Works, facing p. 98. Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. Image source: http://www.victorianweb.org/painting/18c/hogarth/rp6.html

Image of 17th-century London Chocolate House. Artist unknown (date unknown). Image source: http://now-here-this.timeout.com/2013/12/10/london-chocolate-festival-take-a-choco-tour-of-london.

Liotard, J. E. (1744). A Lady Pouring Chocolate. London: National Gallery. Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Liotard-Lady_Pouring_Chocolate.jpg.

Charpentier, J. B. (1768). La famille du duc de Penthièvre (“La Tasse de Chocolat”). Versailles: Musée National du Château. Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:La_famille_du_Duc_de_Penthi%C3%A8vre_dit_la_tasse_de_chocolat.jpg.

Longhi, P. (1774-1780). La cioccolata di mattino. Venice: Ca ‘Rezzonico. Image source: http://www.exibart.com/profilo/eventiV2.asp?idelemento=58655

Liotard, J. E. (1743-44). La Belle Chocolatière. Dresden: Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister. Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chocolate_Girl#/media/File:Jean-Etienne_Liotard_-_The_Chocolate_Girl_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Musset, J. (ca. 1900). Droste cocoa packaging. Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Droste.

Baker’s Cocoa (1919). Baker’s Cocoa Advertisement in Overland Monthly, January 1919. Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Baker_%26_Company.

Renoir, P. A. (1878). The cup of chocolate. Private collection. Image source: http://www.wikiart.org/en/pierre-auguste-renoir/the-cup-of-chocolate-1878.

Renoir, P. A. (1912). Cup of chocolate (Femme prenant du chocolat). Philadelphia: Barnes Foundation. Image source: http://www.barnesfoundation.org/collections/art-collection/object/7007/cup-of-chocolate-femme-prenant-du-chocolat.

Renoir, P. A. (1914). Cup of chocolate (La tasse de chocolat). Philadelphia: Barnes Foundation. Image source: http://www.barnesfoundation.org/collections/art-collection/object/5068/cup-of-chocolate-la-tasse-de-chocolat.

J.S. Fry & Sons, Ltd. (ca. 1900). Advertisement for Fry’s Chocolates. Image source: http://digital.lib.muohio.edu/cdm/ref/collection/tradecards/id/1559

Borrari, O. (Date unknown). Sign of Milanese Shop. Gallery unknown. Image source: http://www.paintingsoncanvas.net/print-98538-6009700/sign-milanese-shop-other.

Caraud, J. (1872). Sharing the Chocolate [Painting]. Gallery unknown. Image source: https://www.papillonclub.org/History/PhotoGallery-OldMasters-C-Sharing-the-Chocolate.html

Works Cited

Bramah, E. (1972). Tea and Coffee: A Modern View of Three Hundred Years of Tradition. Tiptree, Essex: Hutchinson & Co, Ltd.

Calhoun, B. (2012). “Shaping the Public Sphere: English Coffeehouses and French Salons and the Age of the Enlightenment,” Colgate Academic Review 3: 7. Accessed: http://commons.colgate.edu/car/vol3/iss1/7

Coe, S. D., & Coe, M. D. (1996). The true history of chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson.

Colmenero, A. (1652). Chocolate: or, An Indian Drinke. First printing, London: J.G. for John Dakins. Wadsworth, J. (translator). Accessed: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/21271/21271-h/21271-h.htm

Cowan, B. W. (2001). “What Was Masculine about the Public Sphere? Gender and the Coffeehouse Milieu in Post-Restoration England.” History Workshop Journal 51: 127–157.


Chocolate, Love, and the Promise of Happiness: How Valentine’s Day Forever Changed Chocolate Advertising

In an episode on the TV show, Mad Men, ad executive Don Draper is sitting across the table from Rachel Menken, a woman he is dating and talking to her about the meaning of love. He says to her, much to her chagrin, “Love doesn’t exist. What you call love was invented by people like me to sell Nylons.”

While Rachel might disagree with him and even be right in pointing out that his is a pessimistic way go through life, there is a certain truth in Don’s words. Today, like in Don Draper’s 1950s when the modern age of advertising began, advertisements wield an unparalleled amount of power over how we feel, think, and perceive ourselves (Monbiot 2011). At its core, an advertisement makes a promise. That promise makes us think that by buying a product we can be transformed, we can become the “ideal woman,” the “sexy husband,” the carelessly laughing beauty taking a vacation in the sun. All we need to do is mimic the person on the television screen. And this is Don’s point. While advertisements might be influenced by culture, they have an immensely powerful role in in creating culture: in influencing tastes, preferences, and identities, and in doing so creating people who are “ideal” modern consumers.

Chocolate advertisements are one area in which this influence is particularly clear. Today, we associate chocolate with women, sex, femininity, and love. In fact, while women are generally underrepresented in advertisements, in almost all cases where they are present, they act out their femininity exclusively as wives, mothers, and sexual gatekeepers (Collins 2011). Often, they are shown wearing provocative clothing and rarely portrayed as professionals (Collins 2011). Images like those below, for example, are found in nearly all chocolate advertisements, centering on women divulging in chocolate, looking oddly sensual, and deeply satisfied by what they are eating.

Images from various commercials showing women eating chocolate
Images from various commercials showing women eating chocolate

In fact, most chocolate advertisements today either present an idealized woman, who is most often white, skinny, with perfect hair and makeup, consuming chocolate (either entirely happy or entirely sexualized while doing so) or focus on how all women cannot resist the powers of chocolate, a treat that somehow singularly calls out to them, that they need for their emotional well-being in a way that men do not. In an example of the former, the commercial below not only shows chocolate as being inextricably tied to female sexuality, it draws a distinct link between chocolate production and sex (which is separately problematic because of the realities of chocolate production, though there is not enough space to delve into that here). The woman in this ad is portrayed as being flawless: she has flowing hair and perfect skin, and she is supposed to be everything one might want to be in a woman.

In another ad, it is similarly only women who are consuming the chocolate product, though they are no longer sexualized, but have voracious, unbridled appetites instead. The ad shows hordes of women who are running and screaming to get their hands on the low calorie chocolate product. Instead of linking chocolate with sex, this ad portrays chocolate consumption as a distinctly feminine activity and one that is irresistible – the thought of the chocolate product makes all of the women almost irrational. The female appetite as presented here can only be satiated by chocolate, though of course, chocolate that is low in calories because the ideal woman is also obsessively concerned about her weight.

These associations are so deeply embedded in our cultural imagination that we have come to see them as biological fact: we have come to believe that there is something physically different about women that draws them to chocolate. These theories, such as one that posits that menstruation causes a chocolate craving, have been, unsurprisingly, debunked (Bratskeir 2014). In fact, other research has shown that while 60 percent of American women surveyed crave chocolate pre-menstruation, only about 24 percent of Spanish women do, showing that “chocolate cravings” are culturally constructed, and in our culture, it is almost exclusively women who are shown to consume chocolate, though often men who buy it for them. (Zelner et al 2004; Osman 2006).

While it may be no great surprise that advertisements have shaped how we think about chocolate, what is surprising is that chocolate was not always a distinctly feminine product in the American psyche. In fact, before the 1950s chocolate was not shown to be consumed by women any moreso than men. In this ad from 1901, the woman is actually feeding the man a piece of chocolate as a sort of peace offering. While chocolate is still associated with pleasure and intimacy here, it is a role reversal from what we see in advertisements today.

1901 advertisement of Whitman's chocolate
1901 advertisement of Whitman’s chocolate

Similarly in this ad from 1913 while the main focus is on an image of a woman, she is not indulging in the chocolate herself, rather she is presenting it to others, completely counter to today’s association between chocolate and feminine consumption.

1913 NYLO Chocolates Advertisement
1913 NYLO Chocolates Advertisement

Another advertisement from the early 1920s shows what is presumably a couple looking longingly at a box of chocolates. While the image is somewhat sexualized, with both of them standing close and implying a certain sort of intimacy, it does not single out the woman as the center of sexual attention as we might see today.

1921 Rowntree's Chocolates Advertisement
1921 Rowntree’s Chocolates Advertisement

Even in 1927, chocolate was not shown as being uniquely feminine. On the contrary, as can be seen in this ad, it was advertised as a post-workout treat which, although serving to reinforce the notion of woman as homemaker, did not focus on woman as chocolate consumer.

1927 Whitman's advertisement
1927 Whitman’s advertisement

So how did we get from this :

Blog 4 Image 3

To this?

Blog 4 Image 6

The answer: Valentine’s Day. Specifically, the commercialization and transformation of Valentine’s Day from an ancient fertility festival to a day in which men shower women with gifts (namely flowers and chocolates) as a token of their love, in exchange for physical and emotional affection. Some scholars posit that Valentine’s Day first started as an Ancient Roman festival called Lupercalia where naked men would “swat women with raw hides to increase their fertility” (Reese 2015; Seipel 2011). Though these ancient origins are somewhat contested, the transformation of Valentine’s day into a celebration of love in the late 18th century as a result of the mass production of Valentine’s cards is not (Reese 2015). These greeting cards entirely catalyzed the commercialization of Valentine’s Day making it a holiday that carried tremendous profit potential for companies, though it was not until the 1950s that Valentine’s Day had been fully transformed into a gendered holiday – where men were, and are, expected to show women affection in a sort of one-way relationship. The greeting cards and advertisement show below, for example, are from the early 20th century and capture the relatively gender-neutral focus of Valentine’s Day at that time. The flower advertisement, in fact, actually shows a woman purchasing flowers.

Blog 4 Image 9 Blog 4 Image 10 Blog 4 Image 8

In the post-war era, however, as men returned home from war, women were relegated to domestic tasks (PBS, The American Experience). Advertisements in this era, like the one shown below, perpetuated the idea of the woman as a homemaker and her husband as the only person who held the key to her happiness.

Blog 4 Image 11
1950s Hoover Advertisement

It was in this sociocultural environment, where women were expected to raise children and take care of the home and men expected to provide them with physical and emotional satisfaction, that Valentine’s Day acquired a new meaning. This advertisement, unlike the one shown above, targets men who are presumably traveling on business, reassuring them that they can still make their wives happy with the gift of flowers.

Blog 4 Image 12

It was in this era of female domesticity and idealized masculinity that chocolate came to be associated with Valentine’s Day and this association forever changed the lens through which Americans view chocolate consumption. While the first heart-shaped chocolate box was created by Richard Cadbury in Great Britain 1861, it was not until the consumerist post-war era that the idea gained popularity in the United States (Henderson 2015). During that time, companies like Russell Stover (which owned Whitman’s) began to market their chocolate as a Valentine’s Day gift, like flowers, that husbands could (and should) buy for their wives. The link between chocolate and Valentine’s Day necessarily centered on female consumption of the chocolates because women were the consumers of all things Valentine’s Day that their husbands bought for them.

Advertisements like the one below tapped into this domestic relationship between spouses, where women rarely worked, and instead were provided for. The advertisement here makes a promise to men, that by buying chocolate they will be able to “remember the way to her heart,” because female happiness and love is tied entirely to chocolate consumption.

Blog 4 Image 13

In another post-war advertisement we see one of the first instances in which a woman is eating chocolate alone and has a huge smile on her face as she indulges herself, an image that has been since duplicated hundreds, if not thousands of times.

Blog 4 Image 14

This image of the woman who enjoys the gift of chocolate slowly led to the development of the image of the woman who was constantly craving it and could not resist it when offered to her. In the 1960s, chocolate was advertised as not only the path to female happiness but also the path to sexual satisfaction for men. In 1967, Brach’s advertised, “Free kisses with every box of Brach’s Valentine Chocolates you give to her” (LeBesco and Naccarato 2012). In these ads, chocolate is shown as a sort of investment for men, as Kathleen Parkin, author of the book, Food is Love, explained in a recent Slate interview, because it carries with it the promise of sex (Anderson 2012). Women, simultaneously, were shown as giving themselves or being given permission by others to indulge in the chocolate (partially because in the 1970s Americans grew more health consciousness and chocolate was seen as unhealthy), whereas men do not require that same sort of permission (LeBesco and Naccarato 2012).

While in its origin, this link between chocolate and love was influenced by the culture of the historical era, over time, it also played a substantial role in cementing and perpetuating notions of idealized femininity. All advertisement campaigns rely on repetition and pervasiveness because through these methods they become embedded in culture and are no longer questioned by audiences (Monbiot 2011). The pervasiveness of advertisements which pair chocolate with female sexuality and appetite have triggered our expectation that all woman want chocolate and cannot control themselves if it is given to them. This pattern has acted, and continues to act, as a positive feedback loop, whereby the more we see women associated with chocolate on TV the more we associate chocolate with certain types of femininity and the stronger that association, the more likely advertising agencies are to run ads affirming that notion.

While our modern era has complicated this image in some ways, as the rise of feminism has called certain representations of women in the media into question, and women entering the workforce has allowed them to purchase gifts, not only receive them, in many respects the traditions surrounding Valentine’s Day, borne out of post-1950s domesticity, have not changed. This ad below, for example, aired just 4 years ago on Valentine’s Day.  The ad’s focus on women wanting to be gifted chocolate by men (as opposed to buying it for themselves or buying chocolate for their partners) is nearly identical to those from the 1950s.

It is not unusual today to hear people talk about how much women love chocolate or to see this association shown on TV shows and in advertisements. The association however, is based on a deep-seated history of sexism which idealized a certain type of woman who acted out her feminity in accordance with prevailing gender expectations. As shown above, chocolate advertisements continue to present women in this unequal way today and in doing so contribute to a wider culture of gender stereotyping and the unnecessary feminization of chocolate.


Works Cited (Including both multimedia and scholarly sources)

“1950s Ads/commercials Aimed at Women.” Technologies of the Family. N.p., 31 July 2011. Web. 06 May 2015.
The American Experience. “Women and Work After World War II.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 06 May 2015.
Anderson, L.V. “What’s Up with the Stereotype That Women Love Chocolate?” Slate. N.p., 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 06 May 2015.
“Be Mine over Time.” Hallmark. N.p., n.d. Web.
Bratskeir, Kate. “This Is Why Women Crave Chocolate, Men Want A Burger.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 10 Nov. 2014. Web.
Collins, Rebecca L. “Content Analysis of Gender Roles in Media: Where Are We Now and Where Should We Go?” Sex Roles 64.3-4 (2011): 290-98. Web.
“Don Draper’s Best Quote.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 06 May 2015.
Henderson, Amy. “How Chocolate and Valentine’s Day Mated For Life.” Smithsonian. N.p., 12 Feb. 2015. Web. 06 May 2015.
LeBesco, Kathleen, and Peter Naccarato. Edible Ideologies: Representing Food and Meaning. Albany: State U of New York, 2008. Print.
Monbiot, George. “Advertising Is a Poison That Demeans Even Love – and We’re Hooked on It.” The Guardian. N.p., 24 Oct. 2011. Web.
“Oreo Cakesters 100 Calorie Mini Cakesters TV Commerical.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 06 May 2015.
Osman, Jamie L., and Jeffery Sobal. “Chocolate Cravings in American and Spanish Individuals: Biological and Cultural Influences.” Appetite 47.3 (2006): 290-301. Web.
Reese, M R. “Day of Love – the Complex Origins of Valentine’s Day.” Ancient Origins. N.p., 13 Feb. 2015. Web. 06 May 2015.
“Russell Stover 2011 Valentines Day-“Men Should Go with the Heart Shaped Box”” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 06 May 2015.
Seipel, Arnie. “The Dark Origins Of Valentine’s Day.” NPR. NPR, 11 Feb. 2011. Web. 06 May 2015.
“Sexy Chocolate Commercial.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 06 May 2015.
Zellner, Debra A., Ana Garriga-Trillo, Soraya Centeno, and Elizabeth Wadsworth. “Chocolate Craving and the Menstrual Cycle.” Appetite 42.1 (2004): 119-21. Web.

Chocolate Chip Cookies: A Symbol of the Housewife

The chocolate chip cookie is now a staple of almost every American home. From the original recipe to cookie dough to pre-made cookies, they surround us in a multitude of forms. The invention of the chocolate chip cookie has revolutionized the chocolate industry, and the treatment of chocolate chip cookies over time illuminates key aspects of traditional gender roles in American society.

Within the context of chocolate, chocolate chip cookies were invented and rose to fame relatively recently. While forms of chocolate have been consumed since the Aztecs and Mayan civilizations, and solid chocolate was adapted by Europeans, chocolate was not used in cookies in America until the mid-1800s (Stef). The chocolate chip cookie does not play a role in the chocolate industry until one hundred years later, when it was invented in 1937 (Moore). During this time, chocolate became more industrialized and readily accessible to the American public.

A common tale for the invention of chocolate chip cookies is that Ruth Wakefield, the owner of the restaurant Toll House in Massachusetts, ran out of baker’s chocolate to put in cookies and instead put chunks of bittersweet chocolate (Michaud). However, this story has been contested multiple times with claims of Wakefield’s expertise in baking. Wakefield would never have allowed her famous bakers to run out of key ingredients for cookies, so she must have deliberately worked to create the chocolate chip cookie (Michaud). One author debunks the claim that Wakefield was simply adding chocolate to a drop do cookie recipe by investigating the recipe: there is no brown sugar or vanilla in the recipe, which are necessary ingredients for chocolate chip cookies (Cooper). These theories seem to give Wakefeld that credibility that she deserves, but the fact that the more common origin story of the chocolate chip cookie is that she discovered the recipe by accident demonstrates how society can easily discount qualifications and instead simply follow the popular version of events.

Nestlé bought the rights to Wakefield’s recipe and the name “Toll House” in 1939, giving rise to the commercialization and spread of the chocolate chip cookie (Michaud). (Interestingly, the story says Wakefield was paid for the recipe with a lifetime of free chocolate!) The accidental creation of chocolate chip cookies may be the most popular origin story to boost Nestlé’s ability to advertise chocolate chips, or for Nestlé to more easily take ownership of the concept of chocolate chip cookies. In fact, chocolate chips themselves were created as an item in response to the invention of chocolate chip cookies, and did not exist before then (Moore). Estimates of Nestlé’s net sales from a chocolate chip cookie-themed cafe in 2011 range between 35 and 40 million dollars, portraying the large financial impact chocolate chip cookies have had on the industry even recently (Dishman). Nestlé even still prints the original recipe for chocolate chip cookies on its bags of semi-sweet chocolate morsels, emphasizing Nestlé’s branding as a symbol of expertise and tradition.

ccc recipe 2 ccc recipe

This display of the recipe showcases how chocolate chip cookies have changed the face of chocolate. The primary purpose of chocolate chips is to create these chocolate chip cookies; thus, by having the recipe on the back of the bag, Nestlé is able to market the use of chocolate chips even more and show directly how to use the chocolate chips. The ownership of the recipe gave Nestlé a unique advantage over other chocolate companies to market the recipe as its own:

ccc ad 1942

This advertisement from 1942, the early days of chocolate chip cookies, mentions the ease of the recipe on the back of the morsels package. The morsels were made specifically for chocolate chip cookies to be made. In this way, Nestlé was able to use the recipe and the concept of the chocolate chip cookie to its advantage.

This advertisement portrays the typical gender roles during the time period as well, and perpetuates these roles. Chocolate chip cookies were usually marketed to the housewife of the family, since the woman was in charge of the home. This ad in particular depicts a woman using her easy chocolate chip cookie recipe in multiple home settings: Bridge Club, her husband’s friends, and other friends. In this way, it claims that the housewife can easily make a strong impression on guests by baking chocolate chip cookies using Nestlé semi-sweet chocolate. As Katherine Parkin claims in her article “Food is Love: Advertising and Gender Roles in Modern America”, “Food advertisers throughout the twentieth century wanted white women to believe that they had the power to influence their families’ identity through their cooking. They…suggested that women should see their purchasing decisions as opportunities to ensure their families’ stability and mobility” (79). This ad exemplifies this notion by offering women a way through chocolate to impress others and keep their husband happy. This ad also substantiates feelings of class dichotomies in America, by suggesting that Toll House cookies will help the housewife entertain guests.

ccc ad 1941

This ad from 1941 is another example of Nestlé Toll House cookies supporting the image of the traditional housewife. The outright claim “Your reputation as a housewife will increase” serves to bolster the separation of the duties of wife to the kitchen. In fact, the initial reason for the chocolate chip cookie popularity on a national scale was its debut on the Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air radio show (Eric T). This radio show emphasized a woman’s role in the kitchen. Arlene Voski. Avakian and Barbara Haber explain in From Betty Crocker to Feminist Food Studies : Critical Perspectives on Women and Food,  “Betty Crocker often made a point of praising the housewife’s importance… emphasized that good cooking was an achievement in which women could take a great deal of pride” (34). Betty Crocker helped women “feel satisfied with their domestic careers” (Avakian and Haber 34). Thus, the Betty Crocker show in reality gave comfort to women in the home and encouraged the standard gender roles to continue. In this way, chocolate chip cookies added to the housewife standard by being endorsed by Betty Crocker.

The chocolate chip cookie gave comfort to Americans right after the Great Depression (Michaud). The rise of the chocolate chip cookie was propelled even further during World War II (Michaud). During the war, gender roles were especially perpetuated.

An article from 1945, during the war, https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=WLhRAAAAIBAJ&sjid=wWkDAAAAIBAJ&dq=chocolate%20chip%20cookie&pg=6507%2C5325447 , demonstrates how soldiers loved to have chocolate chip cookies sent to them by their loving wife or mother. The article also extends the reach of chocolate chip cookies to the home as well as to soldiers, claiming “it will be just as welcome to the home folks who frequent the table two or three times daily”. Thus, chocolate chip cookies were portrayed to American society as the perfect item for housewives to send abroad as well as bake at home, adding pressure on women to stay in the home.

ccc ad ww2

This advertisement further exemplifies how chocolate chip cookies and World War II interacted to reinforce traditional gender roles. It speaks directly to the housewife, directing her to send chocolate chip cookies to the soldier. Although chocolate needed to be rationed during the war, these ads still encouraged women to use chocolate to make chocolate chip cookies—thus showcasing the importance and popularity of chocolate chip cookies in wartime. The bottom right-hand corner of the advertisement, “Back the Attack with War Bonds”, solidifies the relationship between chocolate chip cookies and support for the war.

After the war, chocolate chip cookies continued to be an iconic American figure. The chocolate chip cookie remained a symbol of the home and by extension, of the woman baking the cookies. Advertisements continued to support this concept. This Pillsbury television advertisement is a fitting example: 

In this video from the 1980s, Drew Barrymore acts as the daughter who needs chocolate chip cookies to improve her mood. The telling aspect of the commercial is that her mother is baking the cookies for her, showcasing a mother-daughter relationship that is built on the mother’s responsibilities in the kitchen and for her kids. There is no father present in the advertisement at all, suggesting that the father is not required to be involved in the kitchen or with the children. Thus, the role of a woman as the caretaker has persisted through the marketing of the chocolate chip cookie.

While advertisements with direct declarations of the woman as a housewife have declined in recent years, the chocolate chip cookie remains emblematic of the traditional American family and the woman in the kitchen. This video is posted on Nestlé Toll House’s current Facebook page: 

This video, although contemporary, still showcases the women and children in the kitchen baking the cookies. The first family is the mother and two kids baking the cookies together, portraying a stereotypical happy American family baking together. The father is not present in the first clip, but later appears when the cookies are finished to eat some—this perpetuates yet again the idea that women simply serve their husbands. The second couple in the video also has the same mentality, since the video shows the woman zipping up the cookie dough package and subsequently the man smiling at her ability to make delicious cookies. There are other aspects of the video that encourage inclusivity, with different ages and races portrayed in the video eating cookies, but the traditional housewife aspect has remained attached to the chocolate chip cookie.

Overall, chocolate chip cookies have made an impact on how our society views the household. The chocolate chip cookie has become a symbol of the doting housewife and companies have perpetuated this idea through advertising and marketing. Chocolate has always played a large role in society, and the fairly recent advent of the chocolate chip cookie has added to our perception of baking as a necessary part of the woman’s role in the family.

Works Cited

Avakian, Arlene Voski., and Haber, Barbara. From Betty Crocker to Feminist Food Studies: Critical Perspectives on Women and Food. Amherst: U of Massachusetts, 2005. Print.

Cooper, Kathleen. “Toll House Cookies: A Secret History.” The Toast. N.p., 05 Dec. 2014. Web. 05 May 2015. <http://the-toast.net/2014/12/05/toll-house-cookies-secret-history/&gt;.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Ad WWII. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May 2015. <http://peewee.com/log/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Nestlé.jpg&gt;.

“Chocolate Chip Cookies Favorite of Everyone.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 7 Apr. 1945: n. pag. Google News Archive Search. Web. 05 May 2015. <https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=WLhRAAAAIBAJ&sjid=wWkDAAAAIBAJ&dq=chocolate%20chip%20cookie&pg=6507%2C5325447&gt;.

Dishman, Lydia. “The Humble Chocolate-Chip Cookie Goes Global.” Fast Company. N.p., 02 Apr. 2012. Web. 06 May 2015. <http://www.fastcompany.com/1826794/humble-chocolate-chip-cookie-goes-global&gt;.

Moore, Jessie Oleson. The Secret Lives of Baked Goods: Sweet Stories & Recipes for America’s Favorite Desserts. Sasquatch. Print.

Michaud, Jon. “Sweet Morsels: A History of the Chocolate-Chip Cookie – The New Yorker.” The New Yorker. N.p., 19 Dec. 2013. Web. 05 May 2015. <http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/sweet-morsels-a-history-of-the-chocolate-chip-cookie&gt;.

Nestlé Cookie Ad 1941. Digital image. N.p., 1941. Web. 5 May 2015. <http://www.atticpaper.com/proddetail.php?prod=1941-Nestlés-cocoa-ad-toll-house-cookies&gt;.

Nestlé Cookie Ad 1942. Digital image. N.p., 4 Sept. 2014. Web. 5 May 2015. <http://culinarylore.wdfiles.com/local–files/food-history%3Awhere-did-Nestlé-get-toll-house-cookies-name/early-chocolate-chip-ad.jpg&gt;.

Nestlé Cookie Recipe. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May 2015. <http://pixgood.com/Nestlé-chocolate-chip-cookie-recipe.html&gt;.

Nestle Toll House Facebook VideoFacebook. Nestle Toll House, 4 Nov. 2014. Web. 6 May 2015. <https://www.facebook.com/TollHouse/videos/vb.143683938853/10152911857563854/?type=2&theater&gt;.

Parkin, Katherine J. Food Is Love: Food Advertising and Gender Roles in Modern America. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania, 2006. Print.

Stef. “The First Chocolate Cookie.” Cupcake Project. N.p., 28 Nov. 2014. Web. 05 May 2015. <http://www.cupcakeproject.com/2014/11/the-first-chocolate-cookie.html&gt;.

T, Eric. “Where Did Nestlé Get the Name ‘Toll House Cookies’ for Its Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe?” Culinarylore.com. N.p., 4 Sept. 2014. Web. 05 May 2015. <http://www.culinarylore.com/food-history:where-did-Nestlé-get-toll-house-cookies-name&gt;.

Vintage 80’s Drew Barrymore Pillsbury Chocolate Chip Cookies Commercial. Youtube. Tracy80sgirl, 17 July 2009. Web. 5 May 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRBWBwCYqjU&gt;.

The Desire for Chocolate: Embracing or Rejecting the Female Chocolate “Craving” in Chocolate Advertisements

The market for chocolate is extremely large and growing, with a projected $98.3 billion dollars in global sales for 2016, leaving chocolate companies in a competition for dominance (Omar). In today’s society, chocolate bars are often considered delicacies to be consumed as a tool of escape and pleasure, helping to increase chocolate’s popularity. Often individuals claim that their consumption of chocolate comes from an insatiable craving (Benton). In a Canadian study, around 97% of women, compared to 68% of men, reported cravings for chocolate either as a source of distraction from everyday life or as a result of weakness stemming from emotional distress (Benton). Most chocolate companies advertise their products to a female audience as a way to capitalize on the stereotypical belief that women are more helpless to the allure of chocolate than men, allowing Yorkie to take the opposite approach and target the male segment of society with advertisements that promote traditional gender stereotypes of female inadequacy and weakness.

The following video shows women giving into their guilty pleasures, or insatiable cravings of chocolate, while promoting the idea that these cravings are ‘only human’ as they are intrinsic to females across the globe. While the narrator admits that women try to be perfect, she concedes that they also need to “cut themselves some slack” and give into the temptation of chocolate from time to time.

 yorkieWhile many chocolate advertisements strive to utilize the common female chocolate craving, Yorkie, a British chocolate bar founded in 1976 and owned by Nestle, chose to approach chocolate advertising in a unique manner (“Yorkie”). While the Yorkie was originally championed as “the chunkier alternative to the slimmed down Dairy Milk bars,” beginning in 2001, the company began to target a solely male consumer base through the use of print ads barring women from their product (Omar). In the advertisement provided to the right, Yorkie features their chocolate bar covered in blue, a traditionally male color, with bold, yellow and uppercase lettering. This lettering, both in the brand name and in the wording surrounding, symbolizes the robustness of the brand and the power associated with eating the product. It also serves as a warning for women to not approach the candy. The statement, “DO NOT FEED THE BIRDS” perpetuates the long-standing stereotype of feebleness in women compared to men, while “SAVE YOUR MONEY FOR DRIVING LESSONS” serves to invalidate female ability and agency. The O of the Yorkie and the tagline beneath serve to reveal that the candy bar is “NOT FOR GIRLS,” providing proof that only ‘strong men’ can handle eating the product. Each element of the packaging and wording serves to alienate the chocolate product from the female consumer in an attempt to make men comfortable with consuming chocolate themselves. It feeds the masculine stereotype that men want to be perceived as tougher and stronger than their female counterpart.


Our ad seeks to remove the overt messages banning female consumption of the Yorkie, while still allowing the Yorkie brand to cater to the male segment of the chocolate market. Thus our ad still maintains the blue wrapping of the bar and the bold, yellow lettering. On the other hand, the ad we have created seeks to dispel the need for sexism to sell a product. By using the phrase, “DO NOT FEED THE SEXISM” our ad encourages both men and women to purchase a product that does not ostracize 50 percent of the global population. In the new ad, the tagline, “It’s for everyone” opens the consumer base up to the women of the world. Additionally, the phrase, “SPEND YOUR MONEY HOW YOU WANT” embraces the western ideals of choice and individuality that are important to both men and women alike. This phrase also speaks to the male working class population that the Yorkie was originally intended for (Omar). Previous to the sexist ads employed today, commercial segments for the brand featured truck drivers enjoying a moment in their busy schedules with the candy bar (Omar).

While Yorkie’s advertising campaign may seem shocking, the ads have stood the test of time for the past fourteen years. In fact, research shows that Yorkie sales increased by 30% just 12 weeks following the launch of the campaign in 2001 (Omar). In many ways, women are left to choose between two extremes in regard to the ads. While some women may laugh at the ads, they could be construed as buying into sexism (Mills). On the other hand, if women are offended by Yorkie’s ads, they may be seen as humorless and cynical (Mills). The real problem with the campaign is that the attempts at humor fail due to gender inequality. The fact remains that men and women are not considered equal in society, as seen by the wage gap, causing Yorkie advertisements to leave a sour taste in many people’s mouths. As Yorkie continues production, those in charge of branding may want to think about re-strategizing their print ads so as to attract more women to their brand, and grow in sales.

Works Cited:

Omar, Zain. “How Sexism Increased Sales for Yorkie”. Evidence Based Marketing. 12 June 2011. Web. 9 April 2015.

Mills, Sarah. “Third Wave Feminist Linguistics and the Analysis of Sexism”. Sheffield Hallam University. n.d. Web. 9 April 2015.

Benton, David. “The Biology and Psychology of Chocolate Craving”. Coffee, Tea, Chocolate and the Brain. Ed. Astrid Nehlig. Boca Raton: CRC Press LLC, 2004. Print.

“Yorkie”. Nestle. n.d. April 9 2015.



DoveChocolateTV. “DOVE Chocolate “Only Human” TV Commercial”. Online Video Clip. YOUTUBE. Youtube, 23 July 2010. Web. 9 April 2015.

Second and Third Image:


Promoting Products Rather Than Gender Norms

Women are commonly used throughout advertisements today as an object of attraction. Whether it is a revealing outfit or seductive look, women’s bodies are used in order to sell products to men. When this began, magazines would publish “gendered editions so that food and beverage companies could market certain products that they hoped would appeal more to one gender than the other” (Parkin, 2007). Research by Dahl, Sengupta and Vohs (2008) supported these gendered editions because it indicated that unlike men, women will have unfavorable reactions to sexual advertisements. However, if it is in a manner that is consistent with their underlying values these reactions will be alleviated. Although it is still generally assumed that these advertisements use attractive women in order to sell to a target audience of heterosexual men, if this trend is used in a way that is relatable to women, companies can also target women as they aspire to be like the woman in the advertisement. This trend of utilizing women as objects has become even more pervasive in advertising today because it allows companies to use both feelings of attraction and aspiration in order tfilthy chocolateo persuade both men and women to buy their product.

The advertisement to the left is an exemplification of this trend. At first glance, you notice the woman’s flirtatious look and pose as well as the skin she is bearing. This image of a women wrapped only in chocolate may appear to be targeting heterosexual men. But read the tagline carefully – “Indulge your obsession for chocolate”. This tagline seems to be persuading women to behave like the woman in the advertisement and indulge in chocolate too.   Rather than targeting only one half of the population, this advertisement is able to play on feelings of attraction to target men and feelings of aspiration to also target women.

Despite what you may think based on their name, Filthy food company isn’t the only chocolate maker utilizing thisgoDIVA woman theme. The advertisement to the right is one in a series of advertisements for popular chocolate company Godiva. It depicts an attractive woman seductively looking at the audience as she eats a chocolate truffle. The image utilizes the persuasion technique of attraction – heterosexual men who are attracted to the woman will associate the positive feelings of attraction with the product they are selling. Based on what is visually represented in the graphic, the advertisement seems to be aimed at heterosexual men.

The editor of the advertisement uses the attractive woman to appeal to that audience, but look carefully at the tagline, “every woman is one part (go)DIVA much to the dismay of every man”. In modern slang, diva is a word used to describe a successful woman who is both attractive and fashionable. With this tagline, the editor is saying that every woman has a “diva” side – a part of them that aspires to be this attractive, fashionable and successful woman – much to the disappointment of men as it means they may be high maintenance and more difficult to please. The editor intentionally engages with stereotypes about gender roles in the advertisement in order to make it relatable for both genders. However, there are some unintended effects of engaging with these stereotypes. The advertisement plays on this attraction between a man and woman, but neglects the spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientations that exist furthering the gender binary and heteronormative stereotypes.

This advertisement is just one example of larger trends related to objectification and gender stereotypes in advertising. As seen in the two advertisements above, attractive women are objectified in advertising because it allows them to appeal to both genders through attraction or aspiration. The Godiva advertisement furthers this trend by playing on stereotypes of gender roles in order to further their appeal to both genders. Women read the tagline and feel empowered to be a successful and attractive woman – to embrace their own “diva” side like the woman in the advertisement and eat Godiva chocolate. Men on the other hand read the tagline and relate to the disappointment they feel when the woman they are attracted to is being high maintenance or a “diva” and needs Godiva chocolate. By engaging with the gender stereotypes that have been prescribed by society, the advertisement is playing into the gender binary and heterosexual norms of our culture.

Fake Godiva Ad
Fake Godiva AD

In contrast to this series of advertisements, we created a new advertisement for Godiva featuring a homeless man on the streets. He holds a sign with the slogan, “every homeless man is one part diva much to the dismay of everyone.” The advertisement not only plays on the irony of a homeless man with a more luxurious product like Godiva chocolate, but also plays on the phenomenon that some homeless people make enough money begging on the streets that they are actually able to afford commodities like Godiva chocolate.

The Godiva series features an attractive woman in order to appeal to both genders, but this advertisement uses a homeless man as a converse to the successful attractive women in order to push back on this trend. Although the advertisement may unintentionally offend the homeless population, the presence of a homeless man in the advertisement is intriguing to both genders without having to objectify women. It illustrates that chocolate companies can appeal to the same audience without having to objectify women and normalize the gender binary and gender stereotypes used in many other advertisements today. It economically makes sense because of the effectiveness of this persuasion technique, but chocolate companies can and should think a bit differently in order to promote their products without having to promote stereotypes, gender roles and societal norms.

Works Cited

Dahl, D., Sengupta, J., & Vohs, K. (2008). Sex In Advertising: Gender Differences And the Role of Relationship Commitment. Journal of Consumer Research, 215-231.

Parkin, K. (2006. Food Is Love: Food Advertising and Gender Roles in Modern America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.


1. https://m1.behance.net/rendition/modules/10328493/disp/3fddea0fd5e88799dc06db43246b8505.jpg

2. http://files.coloribus.com/files/adsarchive/part_647/6476105/file/chocolate-everywoman-small-84618.jpg

“I Need All the Help I Can Get!”: Gender Roles, Guilt, and Modern Advertising

Since they first began airing on televisions, advertisements selling consumer products—such as children’s toys or breakfast and lunch supplements—typically portray strict gender roles.

As seen in this 1970’s Jif commercial, mothers have historically been presented as responsible for domestic tasks and their quality while fathers are rarely shown in a similar light. In Ads Fads and Consumer Culture author Berger claims that advertisements often command an instructive role in the lives of consumers, teaching broad groups of people specific behaviors and norms (Berger 15). The gender roles portrayed in advertising, then, can become embedded in everyday interactions and have very tangible effects on the culture of a given society. More specifically, advertisements of breakfast foods often imply that mothers are responsible for providing the best possible lifestyles for their children. Such advertisements target mothers who may not be able to spend such effort and attention on their children and attempt to guilt them into buying the product. While universal expectations for motherhood are wavering today more than ever, these advertisements continue to be produced—ultimately reinforcing archaic and artificial gender roles.  

This is an advertisement for Nutella that aired sometime in the last few year. The commercial shows a mother preparing breakfast for her three children during their morning rush. The kids are chaotic in their preparation for the day and calling for their mother. One could argue that at least one of the kids is old enough to help her mother make breakfast, yet no assistance is offered. The mother’s casual dress suggests that it is unlikely that she works outside of the home and there is no mention of a partner in the ad, underscoring the likelihood that she is supposed to depict a stay-at-home mom rather than a single or working mother. Early in the video, she states, “In the morning, I need all the help I can get!”, suggesting that the care she is able to provide for her children is inadequate, but that products like Nutella can assist her. Additionally, it indicates that “morning” childcare responsibilities are held only by her, as she speaks in general terms about her continuous need for help. Later, the mother claims that Nutella allows her to finally give her children what they “want to eat,” further implying she is otherwise incapable of doing so. She recommends putting Nutella on “multi-grain toast and even whole-grain waffles”, labeling Nutella as a healthy food item by associating it with healthy breakfast products.

Overall, the commercial gives the impression that this mother doesn’t just want to give Nutella to her children but that she needs to in order to provide the best available option and therefore uphold her domestic responsibilities. In Food is Love: Food Advertising and Gender Roles in Modern America, author Parkin writes that the portrayal of mothers and food in advertising is embedded in narrow conceptions of motherhood (Parkin 1). Parkin describes the processes of commodification and commercialization, explaining that producers began to market their products by depicting strictly divided gender roles—despite evidence that men frequently shared domestic burdens with their wives (Parkin 7).  By carefully placing the mother as the caregiver responsible for household tasks, this advertisement aims to use guilt as a mechanism to persuade women to buy Nutella. A woman who views this commercial might be led to feelings of inadequacy in her devotion to her children and may buy Nutella in order to make up for her flaws, as the main character of the commercial does.

Parodying a Nutella Commercial

We have created an advertisement that is meant to be a reversal of typical gender-roles found in advertising. Our advertisement shows a father making breakfast with his two children, implying that men are also responsible for domestic tasks. The father is alone, allowing the viewer to freely imagine that he is a single father, or that his partner is at work, still asleep, or otherwise engaged with tasks outside of childcare. The father is wearing an apron, a garment normally associated with cooking and domesticity. He does not rely on Nutella for “help,” and instead seems to be calmly making a healthy meal for his children. Furthermore, the father is speaking directly with the children, encouraging their participation in breakfast making. The caption explains that fathers can also create a delicious breakfast and that they don’t need Nutella, highlighting the sexism present in the original ad.

Works Cited

Berger, Arthur Asa. Ads, Fads, and Consumer Culture: Advertising’s Impact on American Character and Society. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Pub., 2004. Print.

Parkin, Katherine J. Food Is Love: Food Advertising and Gender Roles in Modern America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006. Print.


Multimedia Cited

Old Jif Commercial – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LOT78zhA5w

Nutella Commercial – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThIrw_LpuRA

Our Ad – https://chocolateclass.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/blog-3-ad1.jpg