Tag Archives: heteronormativity

The “Power of Sweet”: An Anthropological Perspective on the NCA and Visual Interpretations of Chocolate & Sugar in Industrialized Society

National Confectioners Association, founded in 1884 began as a coalition of trades-people to organize and create viability for their products. The contemporary mission statement on their official website perpetuates that original undertaking; “NCA exists to advance, protect and promote the confectionery industry… serving as a transparent and trustworthy source while building and promoting a responsible industry”. Is anyone else raising their brow at this proclamation of transparency – as it would presumably associate to promoting responsible nutritional standards?

“The medicinal and nutritional aspects of sugar’s role were never far apart, any more than they are today (mid-1980s)” persisted Sidney Mintz in her book Sweetness and Power (106). In 1715, well before the inception of the NCA, the Englishman Dr. Frederick Slare published A Vindication of Sugars Against the Charge of Dr. Willis, Other Physicians, and Common Prejudices: Dedicated to the Ladies. From a contemporary feminist perspective, the title alone makes me chuckle. I’m visualizing Slare on a platform pointing into a crowd, “I’m talking to you there, you miss, and you my lady”. Slare believed that “sugar is a veritable cure-all, its only defect being that it could make ladies too fat”. Well – No thank you Dr. Slare for that prejudgment upon female metabolism, a proclamation which surely added to a persisting gender bias. A notion for refute, Dr. Willis shed light on the topic with his anti-sugar views and clinical findings of what would be later known as diabetes mellitus, (Mintz, 106).

“NCA is proud of the role it plays in the public’s understanding and appreciation of candy’s unique role in a happy, balanced lifestyle.” Certainly, they are proud of their $35 billion-dollar industry totaling 55,000 employees in the U.S. alone. I do not intend to be overly jaded on the matter, but I can’t help but recognize the various clinical analyses and public profiles of high fructose corn syrup in our diets as we understand it today, but that’s a larger discussion in and of itself that would require deeper comparative research. Primarily my concerns lie in the fact that HFCS is often mislabeled as ‘natural flavor’ and during the last three decades, has grown to replace what used to be natural cane sugar in our common grocery foods and candies. Generations before us had already grown accustomed to foods preserved with sugar, becoming complacent with their expectations of taste and economical value through visual culture in advertisements. In my opinion, not much public transparency occurs where reliance on less expensive groceries is present.

The Life & Candy ideology expressed by NCA is particularly interesting in how they use the age old economical reach upon our physical and social values. Influenced by hegemonic notions of pollution and purity of the body, nutritional attitudes across all human societies have interpreted this punitive dichotomy for generations. NCA’s marketing lingo is reflective of the influential nature in which our collective emotional experiences in health, reinforce our ritualized notions within cultural practices surrounding holidays and special events.

Never mind the daily addicted chocolate and candy consumer- See this promotional video echoing the “power, power, power of sweet”, as seen through the lens of the confectioners’ industry workers.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/

We see a progressive move towards less expensive goods that used to be considered only for the elite prior to 18th century Europe and American society. The custom of drinking and consuming chocolate had spread through most of Europe and “one thing that didn’t change – at first, anyhow – was the association of drinking chocolate with high social standing” (Prescilla, 25).

See in the Cadbury ad to your right just how politically inclined a chocolate company was in 1901. The advertising poster was a rousing salute to Edward VII and his wife when he took the British throne (Morton, 86).

Cadbury.Edwardvii“In 1898 in the United States a dollar bought forty-two percent more milk, fifty-one percent more coffee, a third more beef, twice as much sugar, and twice as much flour as in 1872” (Laudan, 41). The NCA began actively lobbying for chocolate companies in the early decades of the 1900s to commercialize chocolate for holidays, and as noted earlier, to this day the NCA still portrays a high relevance with candy to our community practices. I ponder, as Laudan suggests, has “culinary modernism provided what was wanted… the food of the elite at a price everyone could afford”? On that notion, has the National Confectioners Association also prevailed a political platform for chocolate, sugar, and food companies to exploit on the desire to consume what is considered socially elite?

Throughout the creation of anthropology as formal discipline during the 19th century, a new worldview was being introduced, one with scientific tools. With the arrival and maturation of the scientific revolution, the period of enlightenment facilitated human consciousness for the means to alter old world views. In a cultural setting, when interpellation is presumably present, “the experience of the viewer influences the images meaning”. With this known, hegemonic Cadbury.firemangeneralizations can become an illogical way of analyzing an influence of an image upon the whole group of viewers. Therefore, counter-hegemony is an “alternative force that leads us to undo concepts of hegemony”, allowing us to see how the image influences the viewer from a comparative perspective (S & C, 2009).

Coffee, tea, sugar and chocolate long being known as stimulants, we see this reflected in the early 1900s in another – among many – Cadbury advertisements, portraying its popularity with English firemen. Sugar promoting stamina was a lasting notion. See this Baby Ruth ad below that speaks to just that.

babyruth.dextroseGendered advertising was also sewn into most visual aspects of material culture, including in the marketing of candy such as the Tootsie Roll. I think we can reflect upon our social context during these time periods and find parallels between social constructs within advertisements. From a counter-hegemonic perspective, it’s not to say this image below is meant to reinforce gender roles with the consumption of chocolate and sugar products, yet it does create a lens into the artists’ view of the American social scene. tootsieroll.lifeoftheparty

We see thirteen men pictured here, strategically positioned facing this seemingly gleeful American woman holding a Toostie Roll. She, alike the Tootsie, “is the life of every party” as the text reads. I don’t know about you, but if thirteen men were staring at me eating a Tootsie Roll at a party, I’d be finding the closest exit and calling 1-800-N0-T00T$I3!

During a time when women were subjective to the ideologies imposed by men, we see this through the material culture we create. Where heterosexuality is the normal or preferred sexual orientation in most American households. Heteronormative notions in our visual culture is nothing new and we still see advertisements daily, selling sex, and I can’t help but reflect upon Dr. Slares remarks. They indulge the viewer or the reader into a glimpse of the cultural attitudes of the time. The National Confectioners Association has been no stranger to it.

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Sources:
Cartwright, Lisa and Sturken, Marita   2009   Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. New York, NY  Oxford University Press, 2nd ed.
Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe   2013 [1996] The True History of Chocolate. 3rd edition. London: Thames & Hudson
Martin, Carla    2017 AAAS E-119 Lecture Slides. Laudan, Rachel on Culinary Modernism (p.41)
Mintz, Sidney   1986 [1985] Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books
Morton, Marcia and Frederic.   1986   Chocolate, An Illustrated History Crown Publishers, Inc. New York, NY   Cadbury Limited images (pg.82 + 87)
National Confectioners Association, 2017
The Power of Sweet – That Power. National Confectioners Association advertisement
Organic Consumers Association, 2017 (Mercola)   2007    How High Fructose Corn Syrup Damages Your Body.
Presilla, Maricel   2009   The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.
Toop, C. R., Muhlhausler, B. S., O’Dea, K. and Gentili, S.   2014    Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease. Consumption of sucrose, but not high fructose corn syrup, leads to increased adiposity and dyslipidaemia in the pregnant and lactating rat.
Unknown Artist, “The LIFE of the Party” Tootsie Roll advertisement
Unknown Artist, “Keep Going with Baby Ruth”

 

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.

Cadbury

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.

$_35
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”.

Whitman’s

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.

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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

Chocolate and the Diva Complex

The world of chocolate as we know it today, is a complex realm that is intertwined with a tumultuous history of brutal exploitation and sweet confections. This intricate history is reflected in the production, consumption, and selling of chocolate in present day. Today’s chocolate advertisements are an interesting reflection of how chocolate has evolved through the ages. As discussed by historian Dr. Emma Robertson, “the meanings of production and consumption have been created, controlled and contested, in gendered and raced ways, by those involved in the chocolate industry” (Robertson 4). This cannot be more apparent in advertisements such as Godiva’s “Diva” campaign, released in 2004.

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

The campaign focuses on the idea of a “diva.” Here, they depict an attractive woman coyly holding a Godiva chocolate. The tagline boldly states, “Every woman is one part (Go)diva much to the dismay of every man.” The intention of this print ad is very clear: Godiva is attempting to convey that eating their chocolate will bring out the inner diva of a woman. “Diva” seems to portray the image of an independent woman, one that rebels from men. Aside from the actual messaging, the model’s body is positioned in a sultry manner, and her facial expression screams mischief and daring. The actual aesthetic of the image itself is shot almost like a fashion editorial spread. The entire setup indicates that Godiva is specifically targeting women. Vice president of marketing at Godiva North America, Jacqueline Lenart, built this campaign on the philosophy that, “Inside every female is a diva.” (Cho). This is a smart move given that two-thirds of Godiva’s customers are women. (Cho). In fact, these ads were featured in women’s magazines such as Vanity Fair and Vogue, which explains the editorial nature of the ad. However, as Cynthia Cho of the Wall Street Journal pointed out, “Building an ad campaign around the word [diva] might seem a tad risky…as diva suggests pride and strength, but also a certain brash self-centeredness.” (Cho).

Original Image Source: http://www.esquire.com/cm/esquire/images/KN/Esq-110513-Woman-Hitting-Office-Man.jpg
Original Image Source: http://www.esquire.com/cm/esquire/images/KN/Esq-110513-Woman-Hitting-Office-Man.jpg

Given what we now know was intended by the advertisement, it is shocking to think that the creators of this ad did not think about other ways the ad may be perceived. The image above is our interpretation of how we understood the bold tagline of the Godiva ad. Their use of the word “diva” was, in fact, a dangerous choice. To start, “diva” can conjure up many images, but this particular tagline seems to portray cockiness and a bad temper, qualities of a diva that we all dislike. This is why our interpretive image includes a woman throwing a box of Godiva chocolates at a man. The original ad paints a picture of the classic, hot-tempered diva. In addition, the tagline is incredible gendered in that it implies that chocolate turns women into sassy, unbearable harpies, at least as understood by men. The end of the tagline, “much to the dismay of every man,” implies that women’s behaviors and looks are the subject of men’s scrutiny. Not only does this reinforce a dangerous, patriarchal understanding of gender roles, but it also presents a highly heteronormative approach to gender relationships.

It is also interesting to go back to the visual aspects of this ad. It is ironic that the messaging is intended to suggest that women can be strong and independent divas, but this clashes directly with many of the visual elements of the ad, which seem to be appealing to the insecurities of women and the gaze of men. The tagline adds another dimension of problematic representation to the aesthetics of the original ad. While the model’s body pose is sultry, it is also submissive. The hunched shoulders signal a loss of confidence and power. And just as her facial expression can be interpreted as playfully dubious, it is the face of what we would could classify as a “seductress” with her carefully tousled, bed head hair and smoky eye makeup. Finally, the fashion photo shoot setup could be passed off as an innocent tactic to target their core audience, but it can also be seen as a general remark that women only care about fashion and aesthetics and that they care more about the looks than the meaning.

Original Image Source: http://www.exoticexcess.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/estee-lauder-chocolate-decadence-autumn-2008-look.jpg
Original Image Source: http://www.exoticexcess.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/estee-lauder-chocolate-decadence-autumn-2008-look.jpg

Given all of the problematic elements that we pointed out above, we created a response ad that shows that a mere simplification can create a world of difference. We chose an image that portrays a woman who looks decidedly more confident and independent than the model in the original ad. She is facing forward and looking directly into the camera, almost daring the viewer to judge her. Even the way she is holding the chocolate shows that she is an active agent in making the choice to consume, rather than a passive consumer who had a chocolate placed in her hand. In regards to the actual messaging, the tagline becomes infinitely better once we lop off the second half . “Every woman is one part (Go)diva” is effective without the gendered and heteronormative afterthought. Letting that first line stand alone leaves the word “diva” up for interpretation. Carey Earle, founder and managing director of Harvest Communications, commented, “There is something aspirational about it that can appeal to a broad range of woman.” (Cho). I disagree with that sentiment because the tagline lets women interpret “diva” as they wish, and then lets them down by keeping the term within a man’s perspective. Instead of creating and reinforcing negative stereotypes, advertisements should be a personal experience in which the consumer can interpret and apply the product to their own life. A diva to one woman could mean being a needy opera prima donna, and to another it could mean being the future Bill Gates. Chocolate advertisements, as well as advertisements in general, have the potential to create positive experiences, which will eventually lead to sales. Chocolate advertisers should seek to create opportunities for independent interpretation and discourse rather than confining themselves to the patriarchal and heteronormative confines of much of today’s advertising standards.

References:

Cho, Cynthia H. “Godiva Appeals to the Diva Within.” Wall Street Journal [New York] 13 Sept. 2004: n. pag. Print.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.