Tag Archives: portrayal of women

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.

meso

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

euro

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.

 

Bibliography

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.














 

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Making Makeup Sweet

Warmth, indulgence, luxury – chocolate evokes many images as a sinfully sweet treat. Commodifying these fantasies is profitable because consumers long to be associated “with the romantic construction of chocolate” despite the fact that “systematic exploitation” and manipulative advertisements usually lurk behind chocolate (Robertson 5). In this modern age of cosmetic beauty standards and visually driven social media, the euphoric emotions associated with edible cacao products has spread to a form of non-edible chocolate consumption: chocolate infused makeup. Since chocolate products allow consumers to “express our own sense of identity” while offering ways “to say things about ourselves, our families, [and] our social world,” I situate the marketing of chocolate based makeup products in the same trajectory as the gendered, classed, and raced advertisements of edible chocolate (Robertson 19). This entails comparing a chocolate cosmetic line (Too Faced) from Sephora, a leading beauty retailer chain, to a chocolate bar sold at department stores containing Sephora outlets in order to capture the differences and similarities found when advertising chocolate and chocolate makeup. While both chocolate makeup and edible chocolate advertisements separate Westerners from chocolate’s problematic origins and perpetuate gendered, elitist Western beauty standards, the racism present in the presentation of chocolate infused makeup is more noticeable because it is an object applied to the skin rather than ingested within the body.

Cocoa Cosmetics at Sephora

Sephora is a beauty and fragrance chain founded in France in 1970 (the first U.S. store opened in 1998) under the international luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Sephora offers an array of makeup, perfume, skin care, beauty tools, and body pampering items from different brands, including its own original Sephora line, in large stores complete with mirrors, makeup counters, and tester products to try on for free. Sephora believes that “every stroke, swipe and dab reveals possibility” and the company shares their “client’s love for the confidence that our products … bring to their life every day” (Sephora.com). The store oozes sophistication and style with extensive displays and its connection to the parent company’s elite Louis Vuitton brand. In 2006, J.C. Penney, a large American department store chain, began an exclusive agreement to feature Sephora outlet stores inside many of its locations in order to attract spendthrift younger crowds. In addition to home goods, clothes, and accessories, J.C. Penney also sells an assortment of Lindt chocolates including Lindor truffles, Cioccolata, and Hello chocolate. I will use an advertisement from Lindt Dark Chocolate Excellence, the main type of traditional chocolate candy bar sold in J.C. Penney according to their online inventory, as a lens for critiquing the marketing of chocolate-infused makeup.

The aisle of Sephora stores in Hawaii (left) and Minnesota (right) stocked with Too Faced products (the only cosmetics brand Sephora sells that contains cacao). These images are indicative of Sephora stores everywhere; they capture Sephora’s extravagance and its impeccably clean, classy makeup displays. 

With “about 706 stores in the United States” (both outlets inside J.C. Penney and stand-alone stores) attracting consumers hoping to align themselves with a certain image, Sephora has stores in every inhabitable continent except for one – Africa (Forbes.com). Despite selling chocolate cosmetics through Too Faced, Sephora – one of the world’s most popular makeup retailers – has no stores in the continent that produces 70% of the world’s chocolate (Wessel 2016). Consumers of chocolate infused makeup are divorced from the bean’s origins yet, in the case of makeup and edible chocolate, buy cacao to be associated with its symbolic meanings.

Separating Fact From Fiction

The majority of chocolate sold in America is from bulk cacao of the sturdy Forastero variety produced in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon. Since lesser developed areas in the global south have an abundance of unskilled labor, they rely on exporting primary products to the global market. Because colonization, slavery, and forced migration disrupted social connections, destroyed culture, and decimated the population, developing countries lack the infrastructure and capital needed to compete with developed places. Neoliberal policies of privatized industries, few regulations, and free trade instead divert international trade profits away from chocolate producing countries, which affects the modern-day chocolate industry. Commodities such as cacao are subject to extreme fluctuations in price because “price evolution is less and less dictated by changes in … supply and demand” and more determined by others in the supply chain (Sylla 40). Market volatility means that cacao farmers are mired in intergenerational debt, since relatives often work on family-owned western African cacao plantations to lower costs. However, consumers are far removed from the instability and inequality facing cacao farmers. Companies use advertisements that reinforce local cultural norms to sell chocolate so that they can entice consumers who want to satisfy and promote certain social standards. Doing so is a long-established tradition; once “chocolate became available for the working classes [in] the nineteenth century, … women were charged with providing wholesome cocoa for respectable consumption within the family,” as intimated by chocolate advertisements (Robertson 20). In a feminization of chocolate consumption, doting housewives and loving mothers provided their families with nutritious chocolate milk or sweetened their children’s day with chocolate candies. Chocolate marketing eventually progressed from idealizing familial love to idealizing heterosexual courtship by the mid-twentieth century through a focus on “light-hearted but respectable” stories of “young white couples” with female characters that were “irrational narcissistic consumers … seduced by the chocolate themselves” (Robertson 31, 33-34).

A commercial from 2016 for Lindt Dark Chocolate, which is sold in the same department store (J.C. Penney) that contains Sephora outlets selling chocolate makeup.

In a modern-day example, the commercial for Lindt Excellence dark chocolate (sold at J.C. Penney), hints at chocolate induced female “orgasmic pleasure” (Robertson 35). A woman’s silky voice encourages consumers to “experience the ultimate pleasure with Lindt,” as the chocolate is “luxurious” and “so intense.” She truly is seduced by cacao. These types of advertisements, where women feel “orgasmic pleasure” after eating chocolate, ultimately suggest “how women should project their heterosexual yearnings and fantasies onto chocolate consumption” (35). The dripping chocolate, the chocolatier caressing cacao beans, and the passionate fire add to this sexualized setting while the main character lustfully sniffs a chocolate piece. These sexual, romantic insinuations increase chocolate’s profitability as the fruit growing on cacao plantations in the global south has become fictionalized into a commodity that promises happiness and sensuality in the global north.

Chocolate Bar Palettes

Promises of happiness and feminine sensuality found in modern-day chocolate advertisements have been easily transferred to non-edible chocolate products. Through chocolate, women are encouraged to “project their heterosexual yearnings;” through makeup, women can project related fantasies involved in heterosexual courtship, such as female beauty, wealth, and seductiveness, onto cosmetic products that will allow them to be recognized as such (Robertson 35). In cacao-based makeup, chocolate, an edible item that promises pleasure, becomes a part of the user’s appearance in way that commodifies the body as a physical manifestation of chocolate’s symbolism. Chocolate makeup thereby transfers notions of female sensuality, sweetness, and lusciousness to the body, a reality that cacao cosmetic advertisements subtly emphasize.

Sephora sells a range of chocolate related facial cosmetics through two makeup brands (Bobbi Brown and Too Faced), though only the Too Faced chocolate makeup line lists cacao as an ingredient in the product. Beyond powdered bronzer and foundation, Too Faced offers a range of popular eyeshadow palettes that will be the focus of this analysis because they are packaged to look like traditional chocolate bars. For $49.00, consumers can buy Too Faced’s most reviewed, top rated eyeshadow collection that is “formulated using real cocoa powder” (Sephora).  

Marketed as a “A sweetly tempting array of 16 matte and shimmer shadows,” the Chocolate Bar Eye Palette is shaped, named, scented (with Theobroma cacao fruit powder), and colored (on the outside) like chocolate to attract consumers who want to embody chocolate’s sexy sweetness (Sephora.com). 

The shadow palette comes in a “playful chocolate bar tin,” complete with colors like “gilded ganache,” “black forrest truffle,” “triple fudge,” “haute chocolate,” and “white chocolate,” which evoke chocolate-related feelings of sumptuousness and opulence (Sephora.com). Subtle details, like pink cursive on the outside, cue consumers to the feminized image they are taking part of by using the product, but the wording and visuals are not as overtly sexual as the edible chocolate bar commercial. Edible chocolate like Lindt has been stripped of its physical reality, allowing non-edible products to draw from the sensual fantasy chocolate stirs. Too Faced also offers a Semi Sweet Chocolate Bar with slightly lighter colors and a Chocolate Bon Bons Palette with heart-shaped bright and neutral colors for the same steep price, as well as a smaller White Chocolate Chip Palette with metallic shadows for $26.00.

The three additional types of cocoa powder infused eyeshadow palettes sold at Sephora through Too Faced. All are shaped like chocolate bars and have colors written under each eyeshadow that are named for chocolate-related products.

Norton’s Tasting Empire mentions Bourdieu’s theory that “social subjects classified by their classifications distinguish themselves by the distinctions they make” in a way that is in “accord with social hierarchies” (Norton 663). Those reaching for Too Faced’s cocoa cosmetics are choosing to be recognized as tasteful consumers with a fondness for chocolate and all of its figurative images. The product’s high price and link with Sephora, a high-end makeup retailer, implies an elite status shared by those who use the Chocolate Bar palettes. Lindt chocolate uses similar, but more noticeable tactics beyond price and image to clue consumers in on their chocolate’s elite qualities. The chocolate is from the “Excellence” line and has the “richest flavors” from the “finest cocoa” according to the commercial’s narrator. The chocolate bar is a “thin masterpiece,” and Lindt prides itself on being known as a “Master Swiss Chocolatier since 1845.” These descriptions, plus the logo’s embossed gold, make the chocolate deluxe and top-tier, enticing consumers who seek to embed themselves in a particular class. Consumers play an active role in their product selection, using both chocolate makeup and edible chocolate as a “cultural mode” to express themselves or to “acquire social meaning” (Robertson 19). People aspire to be associated with chocolate whose presentation represents their values.

Race and Chocolate Advertisements

Besides attracting consumers with a promise of beauty and lavishness, the Chocolate Bar line sells racialized femininity and wealth, much like traditional chocolate bars.

This makeup tutorial uses the Chocolate Bar and Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar Palette from Too Faced to create a completed look on a white woman who embodies Western standards of beauty and class.

Similar to the woman in the Lindt commercial, the women featured in the makeup tutorials for Too Faced’s collection are white and well-dressed, positioning shoppers “in relation to that product as gendered, classed and raced beings” (Robertson 19). Racism has permeated advertising for edible chocolate throughout history. Though falling prices and diverse products theoretically brought chocolate into the hands of the masses during the 1800s, only certain people were shown as deserving access to the goods. Wholesome, “sugary-sweet white boys and girls” in white families were the idealized consumers who grew “stronger through drinking cocoa;” blacks were often stereotyped in advertisements, depicted as cartoons, “supervis[ed]” by whites, or displayed as a combination of all three trends to support socially constructed racial hierarchies (Robertson 39).

In order to “reinforc[e] dominant contemporary ideologies,” chocolate “adverts created a world of white consumers in which the black producers of cocoa beans and the black consumers of chocolate were at best pushed to the margins, if not excluded completely” (54). Though Robertson is referring to the connection between Chocolate, Women, and Empire with respect to Rowntree and Cadbury, these prominent chocolate companies (founded in 1862 and 1824, respectively) successfully influenced other companies’ cocoa ads. Similar to Lindt’s chocolate advertisements, Too Faced’s Chocolate Bar Palettes also pander to white consumers, but in a more significant and noticeable way. Those with darker skin tones, for example, must guess how the shades show up on their skin, for the fair-skinned woman in the makeup tutorial is the stand-in for Too Faced’s average consumer. Reviews for the palettes are overall very high, but filtering the thousands of reviews by skin type reveals dissatisfaction from women of color. In reviews for the Semi Sweet Chocolate Bar Palette, many mention that “a few of the colors are too close for distinction on my deep dark skin” and “they tend to blend together into a muddy mess on my lids” (Sephora.com). Ironically,  once a user “tried the [colors] that were lacking over a white base … then [she] was able to see them” better (Sephora.com). A comprehensive review of the Chocolate Bar Eye Palette from a female user with a dark skin tone claims: 

This is an adorable palette. Pretty colors and it actually smells like chocolate. However, what’s disappointing is that it’s only suitable for lighter skin tones. The colors were pretty on my fair-skined best friend but I found that on me, they were just dull. For you girls with darker skin tones, 90% of the shadows in this palette will just look chalky when applied. Not at all a high end look (Sephora.com).

The eyeshadow pigments were not vibrant enough to be seen properly on darker skinned women, but on lighter women the colors look wonderful.

makeupusage
An excerpt from the how-to glamour guide that comes with the Chocolate Bon Bons Palette from Too Faced, which features only light-skinned women.

Reviews for the Semi Sweet Chocolate Bar palette when filtered by users with “fair,” “light,” “medium,” and “olive” skin tones are more glowing: “the eye shadows are pigmented, creamy and blend like a dream” raves a fair-skinned woman (Sephora.com). A paper glamour guide comes with the Bon Bons Palette to show consumers possible looks they can create with the shadows, but each eye makeup example comes from the face of a light woman. Despite the fact that the colors in these eyeshadow palettes contain cacao and are named after cacao products, women with brown skin tones are disregarded in the advertisement and testing of this product the way chocolate’s true origins are disregarded by the fictionalized symbolism of chocolate (and chocolate-based makeup). This exclusion mirrors the way female cacao farmers and black women who enjoy chocolate are purposefully left out of chocolate ads.

Conclusion

Too Faced’s Chocolate Bar Palettes and Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate both use similar racialized, gendered, and classist advertising strategies that fictionalize chocolate’s reality and continue the separation between cacao producer and cacao consumer. Though the two items analyzed are sold in J.C. Penney department stores, they have different uses. Lindt Excellence’s commercial focuses on the physical pleasure chocolate brings, while Too Faced’s chocolate line plays into aesthetic beauty standards that exclude people with dark skin. Edible and non-edible chocolate products alike market values that consumers identify with and want to promote. 

Works Cited:

Multimedia Sources

“Chocolate Bar Eye Shadow Collection.” Eyes/Eye Shadow Palettes. Too Faced, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

“Lindt Excellence Cocoa 70%.” YouTube. Lindt Chocolate World, 12 Feb. 2016. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

“Too Faced Bronze Smokey Eye with a Pop of Color Tutorial featuring Daniel Chinchilla.” YouTube. Sephora, 10 Oct. 2015. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

“Too Faced Chocolate Bon Bons Palette.” Makeup/Eye/Eye Palettes. Sephora, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

“Too Faced Semi Sweet Chocolate Bar.” Makeup/Eye/Eye Palettes. Sephora, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

“Too Faced The Chocolate Bar Eye Palette.” Makeup/Eye/Eye Palettes. Sephora, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

“Too Faced White Chocolate Chip Palette.” Makeup/Eye/Eye Palettes. Sephora, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.

Scholarly Sources

Loeb, Walter. “Sephora: Department Stores Cannot Stop Its Global Growth.” Retail. Forbes, 18 Apr. 2013. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

Norton, Marcy. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.” The American Historical Review 111.3 (2006): 660-91. Oxford Journal. Web.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester U Press, 2013. Print.

Wessel, Marius, and P.M. Foluke Quist-Wessel. “Cocoa Production in West Africa, a Review and Analysis of Recent Developments.” NJAS – Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences 74-75 (2015): 1-7. ScienceDirect. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

The Over Sexualization of Chocolate Marketing

Sex sells. It is a phrase, a method, and/or  a motto that is used to advertise certain products. From cars, to Carl Jr.’s burgers, to chocolate, there is always a sex appeal to advertisements for their products. I can remember when I was little girl that I would usually see these advertisements between commercials of my favorite TV shows and/or in magazines. Since I was young, I was also naïve and not really aware of what was going on. I would mostly look at the chocolate rather than the actress in the advertisement. While watching Univision, a channel that’s in Spanish, with my mother advertising it but then my mom would say sometimes like “okay, that’s ridiculous”. The next time I would see the commercial,I would try to pay more attention the actress in the commercial.

20-things-which-make-women-so-women-15.jpg
Figure 1.

 

In Figure 1, you see a woman relaxing on a white couch, planning to eat an entire box of chocolates alone and she looks like she’s taking immense pleasure of eating chocolate. In my opinion this picture looks silly. First of all, I would never eat chocolate on the couch that way. That just seems like you’re asking a chocolate accident to happen. But this picture does have context and is relatable from its original source. This picture came from an article by Mirror UK, stating the 10 reasons why chocolate is good for you.
They state, “ One theory why we love chocolate so much is that a brain-active chemical called phenylethylamine in cocoa allegedly stimulates the same reaction that we experience when we’re falling in love”.

The model in the photo does seem to be in love with her chocolate. Maybe that’s what the marketing team was going for when they were trying to find a picture to match this article.

chocolate-ad.jpg
Figure 2.

 

In Figure 2, This is an ad for Godiva chocolate that was found in a magazine. This displays a beautiful woman laying down somewhere in a not so casual pose but emphasizing the piece of chocolate that is among her chest. Why is she not eating it? Godiva Chocolate is really good it shouldn’t just be on your chest is someone else going to eat it? Is that what they’re trying to sell? That there can be a lucky person looking at the magazine can find a beautiful woman with a piece of chocolate on her chest that they can eat from?

Rita_small_V_10jan11_639.jpg
Figure 3.

Figure 3 is a very different kind of advertisement compared to the others. A lot of what these advertisements show the slogan that sex sells. We are seeing  woman experiencing some sexual euphoria when she eats or is around chocolate. We don’t learn exactly where this chocolate came from, where it came to be,  and where was the Cacao from. There should be more marketing telling us more about the process of chocolate and its history. Figure 3 is an advertisement for Divine Chocolate. They have a more campaign ads similar to the one I selected  that represent more about chocolate where it came from and who’s producing it.

 

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Figure 4.

In figure 4, I chose to recreate an ad  to something simple, an image of what eating chocolate is really like without the ludicrous sex appeal. Chocolate can be a dessert or a snack that can be either consumed alone or with friends but I am not completely consumed by the thought of eating chocolate. I don’t eat chocolate alone and relish in immense pleasure from it. I eat while I’m doing my homework or writing papers or blog posts. Chocolate can take form in memories.  Some of my memories of eating chocolate is sharing it up the movie theaters with friends, or growing up with my mom making Abuelita hot chocolate from Nestle.New memories of chocolate include taking this chocolate class.

Figure 1. – http://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/health/10-reasons-why-chocolate-is-good-for-you-1369798

Figure 2. – http://www.coloribus.com/adsarchive/prints/godiva-dark-chocolate-6481905/

Figure 3. – http://www.vogue.co.uk/blogs/livia-firth/2011/01/18/livia-firth-divine-chocolate-competition

Figure 4. – Provided by me.

 

 

Marketers, sell your product, not social norms

The aim of an advert is to promote a product and entice people to buy it. Marketing companies use people’s desires and emotions to promote products. However, in attempt to attract the largest audience, they often appeal to the general population and use social norms and stereotypes to advertise. For example, the vast majority of chocolate advertisements are targeted at women because women are stereotyped to consume vastly more chocolate than men, even though research has proven otherwise. Mintel found that females only consume 4% more chocolate than males (CNN; Mintel 2010; Mintel 2014). This is a surprising statistic. Many people expect a larger difference since advertisements have fostered the stereotype that women eat more chocolate than men. With advertisements present on televisions, billboards, the internet, magazines, newspapers, taxis, supermarkets, public transport, and many more places, it is estimated that each person is exposed to 3,000 advertisements per day (Johnson; Story). Therefore, problematic social beliefs are affirmed daily, as we are exposed to thousands of advertisements that perpetuate stereotypical representations of social norms. Therefore, even if an advert is based on a small idea, with daily exposure it becomes a stereotype, and the young next generation are fed these stereotypes and social norms such that they no longer see them as ideas but as truth. Thus, marketers have a huge influence and power on creating or affirming society’s beliefs. Therefore, marketers must be conscious of the message they send out as they advertise their products.

 

The Original Dove Advertisement

In 2007 the marketers of Dove were not careful with their advertising power and released the advert below. This advertisement is built on many troublingly social beliefs and is discriminative.

dove-chocolate-dove-chocolate-small-500651

Firstly, Dove has completely sexualised men here. They centred and enlarged the abs to fill the entire advertisement, blurred out the sides and background, increased the shadow under each ab, and increased the light reflected off of each ab. This highlights and make us focus only on the muscle and its definition, as if that is the only thing that is important. The human body has many components: emotional, spiritual, mental, physical, and intellectual components. Even physically the human body has many parts and yet Dove chose to show only the male’s abdominal muscles. This promotes a superficial attitude towards men and degrades them to being an aesthetic pleasure, something of only physical worth.

Furthermore, Dove does not only degrade men to a physical body but even more so, their choice to use of a man of colour degrades black men to an object. Dove has used the racist social construct that as Caucasians are to vanilla, Hispanics are to caramel, and Asians are to butterscotch, blacks are to chocolate. Their use of a black model and dim enticing sexual lighting shows that Dove is fostering the idea that while whiteness symbolises ideas of cleanliness, purity, dullness, and blandness, blackness denotes themes of dirt, sin, extreme sexuality, and interest. Therefore, the lack of use of the model’s face and the use of the model’s skin colour to compare him as chocolate represents the disrespectful degradation of black men from a person to an object – a chocolate bar that is worth roughly one dollar.

From the small text at the bottom of the advertisement we see that the intended audience of this advert is a girl. The first issue is that Dove promotes heterosexual relationships and excludes homosexuals. Therefore Dove has tagged along and helped grow one of the biggest problems in chocolate advertising today – extremely frequently, only heterosexual relationships are used to sell chocolate. This Nestlé compilation video shows three examples of such exclusion towards those who are in the minority and are not heterosexually oriented.

 

Dove’s advert is not only sexist and discriminates against men, but their specific wording fosters common stereotypes that surround women too. The word “melts” plays on and encourages the idea that women are overly emotional and irrational over chocolate and muscles, so much so that their most vital organ will melt after one look at a six-pack and a taste of Dove’s chocolate. Additionally, the use of the word “girl’s” instead of “woman’s” is demeaning because it suggests that in this heterosexual relationship the male is superior and the female is inferior. All in all, Dove’s wording suggests that men are more dominant and in control, which promotes a patriarchal social construct and prevents us from moving towards a gender equal society.

 

The Recreated Advertisement

To show that it is possible to advertise chocolate without fostering disrespectful social norms, being racist, sexist, or excluding people, I have recreated Dove’s chocolate advert below.

final version

The primary goal of an advertisement is to promote the product that you are trying to sell. Unlike in Dove’s advertisement, chocolate is clearly the product here. It is at the centre. It is large. It is clear. In Dove’s advert “Dove chocolate” was finely printed at the bottom and the tiny chocolate bar and pieces were in the lower bottom right corner. Previously, only if you looked closely could you have been able to tell that it was an advertisement for chocolate.

Furthermore, the recreated advert has moved away from promoting social norms. Since a six-piece chocolate bar has replaced the previously racialised and sexualised six-pack, the advert no longer degrades a person to their physique, nor to an object. The recreated advert also includes numerous races and people of different ethnicities so that the advertisement is neither exclusive nor racist. The ideas of a patriarchal society, overly emotional and irrational woman, and the exclusion of non-heterosexuals have been removed. Instead, the audience has opened up to be all-inclusive as the recreated advertisement plays on the idea that chocolate is fundamentally social: The Maya word “chokola’j”, a potential source for our Spanish and English word for chocolate today, means “to drink chocolate together” (S. D. Coe and M. D. Coe 61).

 

Concluding thoughts

Marketing companies need to be more conscious about the methods they use to promote their products. There is no problem in promoting products to inform potential consumers what they might want to purchase; however, this should be done in a way that does not exclude, racialise, sexualise, discriminate, or degrade people or communities, or affirm or encourage the growth of disrespectful social norms. A safer way to ensure moral marketing is to keep the adverts focused on the product itself – what it can do, its purpose, and why it is worth purchasing. This will help prevent the fostering of disrespectful stereotypes and social norms and enable us to be a progressive society.

 

Works Cited

“Anywhere the Eye Can See, It’s Likely to See an Ad.” 2007. Louise Story, The New York Times. 15 Jan 2007. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/15/business/media/15everywhere.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1 08 April 2016.

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. “The True History of Chocolate.” Thames & Hudson 2007 (1996). 61. Print

“Consumer Demand for Chocolate Stays Sweet.” Mintel. 08 October 2010. Retrieved from: http://www.mintel.com/press-centre/food-and-drink/consumer-demand-for-chocolate-stays-sweet 08 April 2016.

“Nation of Chocoholics: Eight Million Brits Eat Chocolate Every Day.” Mintel. 17 April 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.mintel.com/press-centre/food-and-drink/nation-of-chocoholics-eight-million-brits-eat-chocolate-every-day 08 April 2016.

“New Research Sheds Light on Daily Ad Exposures.” Sheree Johnson, SJ Insights. 29 September 2014. Retrieved from: https://sjinsights.net/2014/09/29/new-research-sheds-light-on-daily-ad-exposures/ 08 April 2016.

“Six Pack that Melts a Girl’s Heart.” 2007. Dove Chocolate, Mars Company. Digital File. 08 April 2016.

“Who consumes the most chocolate?” CNN. 17 Jan 2012. Retrieved from: http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/17/who-consumes-the-most-chocolate/ 08 April 2016.

 

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. 

References

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

 

Chocolate and Females: A Relationship Study

Chocolate is one of the most gendered and sexualized products being sold today.  Its many forms serve many purposes and there are marketing techniques to sell every single one of them.  But in nearly all cases, in each ad there is some reference to a woman in a hetero-normative manner.  All the depictions of women in these commercials imply that the featured woman is in some kind of relationship, usually one with a man.  In order to explore chocolate’s role in relationships, I first examine the overabundance of ads targeted towards heterosexual couples and the idea that men give chocolate to women.  Second, I detail the lack of non-heterosexual ads and show how some ads could be converted in order to begin to break the gendered stereotype.   Third, the relationship specifically between a woman and her chocolate is described and dissected.  Overall, in conducting interviews with couples and delving deeply into advertisements I learned that chocolate is intrinsically linked both to femininity and to relationships, though chocolate’s exact place in a relationship is variable.

Chocolate and the Heterosexual Relationship

The traditional heterosexual relationship is defined as a female engaging romantically with a male.  Romantic interactions may include, but are not limited to, spending time together, exchanging gifts, and engaging in sexual intercourse or other more PG-13 physical encounters, like kissing.  Those three components of relationships feature heavily in the majority of chocolate ads, though often they are not all present in the same ad as that overcomplicates the ad.  Romantic interactions can be generalized to any type of relationship (heterosexual or other), but in chocolate ads we only see them in the heterosexual context.  There is no database of chocolate ads that confirms this. I make this claim using my own knowledge, gathered from years viewing chocolate ads in the media and more significantly, from four months intensely studying chocolate advertising in Dr. Martin’s course.

Let’s begin by examining a 1967 Brach’s ad for Valentine’s Day chocolate (Figure 1 below). I first saw in a Slate Magazine article titled “Cuckoo for Cocoa”.  The article expounds upon women’s supposed craving of chocolate and how the media portrays and takes advantage of it (Anderson).  In this ad, Brach’s claims that the giver of the chocolate will receive “free kisses with every box of Brach’s Valentine Chocolates you give to her”.  Note the use of the word “her” in this advertisement.  Brach’s is specifically marketing this box of chocolates as a gift for a woman.  The gender of the giver is not specified in the ad, but using a number of context clues, we can determine that the giver is almost certainly male.  First, the ad is for Valentine’s Day, a conventionally romantic holiday.  The box of chocolate is given in the attempt to get “free kisses”, which again falls under the umbrella of traditional romantic relationship activities.  Together, these two facts lead us to believe that the chocolates are given from one partner in the relationship to another. The third context clue is that defines this as a heterosexual relationship is the knowledge that this ad was created and distributed in 1967, a time where non-heterosexual relationships were still very much hidden, or at least not publicly marketed towards.  We’ve determined that this Brach’s ad targets males, inciting them to give chocolate to their girlfriend/wife in order to get “free kisses”.  Of course, the kisses aren’t actually free.  They cost either $2.95 or $5.50, depending on which box of chocolates is purchased. The ad is overly feminized, featuring a lacy chocolate box covered in ribbons, many heart shapes, and the imprint of very female lips.  This ad not only reinforces the heterosexual relationship, it furthers chocolate’s classification as “feminine”.

 fig1.4

 

The gendered nature of chocolate probably began when chocolate was carried to Europe.  Robertson argues that the “consumption of chocolate in the west became feminized early in history” and that “chocolate became associated with luxury and leisure in the domestic sphere from the eighteenth century” (Robertson 20). From Robertson, we know two things: that chocolate became associated with luxury and also became feminized. Because of the strict gender roles of the era and the difficulty of transportation, both associations make a great deal of sense.  Cacao was only grown in the New World, so getting it to Europe was an expensive and lengthy process.  Thus it could only be purchased by those with enough coin and so it became associated with luxury.  In the 1700s, women did not have the power to make all their own purchases.  While they did have some autonomy, European women were largely reliant on men for their clothing, shelter, and spending money.  Only in rare cases would women have enough money to purchase their own chocolate.  Instead, men could present their female sweethearts with gifts of chocolate, thereby feminizing chocolate.  For example, in the 19th century, it became popular for men to give their partners “an elegant box of imported bon-bons” (Kawash 1).

The idea that men give chocolate to women has been perpetuated in the modern era.  Advertisements specifically targeted towards men as chocolate-givers continue to reinforce the idea that the gifts are unidirectional and appropriate to give in a romantic context.  A recent New York Times article titled “Sex and Candy” and published right before Valentine’s Day said that “nothing is more symbolic of the romance of Valentine’s Day than a box of chocolates, traditionally a gift from Him to Her” (Kawash 1).  The article goes on to pick apart the reasons why chocolate marketing is aimed at women and why the gift from “Him to Her” is no longer accurate or even appropriate in today’s much broader relationship spectrum. But despite forward-thinking articles like Kawash’s, the “conventional wisdom is that women naturally crave the stuff [chocolate]” (Kawash 1). To determine whether this was true or whether people believed it was true, I interviewed a number of couples –same sex and opposite sex.

Diana and Felipe, 22 and 23 respectively, have been dating for five years.  Three of those years have been long-distance and have involved quite a large number of in-the-mail presents.  Interestingly, most of those presents are sent by Felipe to Diana and many of them feature chocolate or flowers, two stand-by romantic gifts.  When asked why he sent chocolate to Diana, Felipe replied that he believes people, women in particular, feel happy when they receive and consume chocolate.  He wants Diana to associate that feeling of happiness with him, so he sends her chocolate in the hope that, by the transitive property, she will feel happy when she thinks of him.  Where did Felipe get this idea that chocolate makes women happy? “First-hand experience”, he stated, “along with media, family, and friends telling me so”.  Diana and Felipe fall firmly in the heterosexual relationship standard shown by the media, but that does not mean all heterosexual couples do.

The Lack of Non-Heterosexual Chocolate Advertising

After scouring the internet, I was unable to find an overtly homosexual advertisement for chocolate.  There are ambiguous ads that market chocolate to women without directly saying that the chocolate will be given to them by men, but they are much fewer in number than those that firmly depict men giving chocolate to women, or at least feature men and women in some kind of relationship exchanging chocolate.

Follow this link to see an ad by Bonjour Chocolate.  It features very attractive, shirtless men preparing a chocolate creation sensuously.  In this video, there is no implicit male-female relationship.  In fact, it could even be argued that there is some kind of male-male relationship going on.  A group of attractive, naked men making chocolate together? For each other?  The sexual tension in the ad is palpable and if this were the entire ad, one could make a very convincing case that it breaks the heterosexual norm.

Unfortunately, the ad viewed isn’t the entire ad.  In this depiction, I omitted the first twenty seconds.  The full ad can be seen below.

With the additional twenty seconds, the entire gender status of the ad changes. Women are seen coyly flirting with men and almost throwing themselves at the men.  Because they are attractive?  Certainly.  Or at least, before we see the chocolate, that is the primary reason.  After the conclusion of the ad, we might guess that the women are throwing themselves at the men because they know that they make these delectable chocolate creations.  And really, according to today’s society, women are after the chocolate, not the men.  Though if men have chocolate, that certainly increases their chances.  This ad, which is effective even without the first twenty seconds, places itself firmly in the hetero-normative category, when it could just as easily be gender-neutral.

But even in the last forty second of the ad, the men and chocolate are portrayed as feminine.  Note, they are not portrayed as being for women, more that they themselves are feminine.  The portrayal of femininity comes across because the men are being viewed by an outside party and being objectified.  They are being sexualized in a way that usually only women are.  The ad focuses on the lines of their bodies, the play of shadows on muscle and the silkiness of their smooth, hairless skin (almost like that of a woman’s).  The men in the ad are objects to be admired because of their physical beauty and their sensuality, not at all because of their personality or skills. They are preparing food, a traditionally feminine task, and the food they are preparing is delicate and sweet, again expressly feminine.  This ad, while it could break the heterosexual trend in traditional chocolate ads, nevertheless reinforces chocolate’s femininity.

We’ve seen that there are virtually no advertisements targeted specifically towards homosexual couples, so the question becomes, do these couples still exchange chocolate?  The answer is clearly yes.  Just because there ads are not specifically targeted at a given group of people does not mean that they are not affected by the ads.  In fact, because women are so “chocolate-crazy”, wouldn’t it be a logical conclusion that women in same-sex relationships purchase and enjoy chocolate more than their heterosexual counterparts?

This assumption breaks down for a number of reasons.  First, studies have shown that women do not actually desire chocolate significantly more than men do.  A UK study by the Mintel research group showed that 91% of women admit to eating chocolate while 87% of men admit to consuming it – a mere 4% difference (CNN).  Second, unlike the common assumption, PMS has nothing biological to do with the desire for chocolate (Nutter). The association of chocolate with PMS is largely a social construct and continues to exist simply because it is well established. Third and most importantly, women have more wants and needs than chocolate.  In fact, chocolate ranks pretty low on the list for many women, such as for Ana and Wynn, one of the couples I interviewed.  They prefer to give and receive meaningful gifts as opposed to chocolate, which another interviewee, Charlotte, calls chocolate “the gift you get when you don’t know what to get”.   So chocolate isn’t destined to be the ultimate gift for same-sex female couples, but many still appreciate and enjoy it.

I Take Thee, Chocolate

We’ve talked about male-female relationships and female-female relationships, but we haven’t yet talked about the female-chocolate relationship, which is probably the most interesting and newest to advertising of the three.  In this relationship, chocolate becomes the female’s partner.  Take the ad below (Figure 2) for example.  Though it appears to be an older ad, it is a modern take on a 1950’s era chocolate cake ad.  The tagline, “because chocolate can’t get you pregnant,” directly urges the viewer to buy chocolate because it does not have the sex’s potential side-effect of pregnancy.  As only men can cause women to become pregnant (assuming standard biological procedures) it is clear that chocolate here is a substitute for sex, for men.

Figure 2.4

But why is chocolate an acceptable substitute in the present day?  What about contemporary chocolate makes it so similar to men/sex that it is commonly thought to be an appropriate replacement for either?  There are certainly numerous parallels.  First, for “chaste” women, and women are still supposed to be chaste in today’s world though there is much more sexual freedom, both sex and chocolate are forbidden fruits (Parkin). Sex is forbidden because engaging in it reduces a woman’s virtue and chocolate is forbidden because its consumption will eventually lead to weight gain, which is perceived as a negative consequence by much of society.  Second, both chocolate and sex are luxuries, chocolate because it can be expensive, sex because finding a good partner can be quite difficult.  Third, both chocolate and sex can only be had in limited quantities because a healthy body can only handle so much of either.  Basically, chocolate, like sex, is an indulgence, a temptation.  Women want it because they know they shouldn’t have it, and that only makes them want it more.

Chocolate is much more manageable than a man, than sex.  It doesn’t argue, it can’t cause pregnancy, and it is always, always there when a woman wants it. She can pick the brand, the cacao content, even the packaging, to suit her mood, whereas a man cannot be similarly engineered.  True, chocolate cannot give a physical hug in times of trouble, but the media’s portrayal of chocolate as a comfort food means that many people convince themselves that they are comforted simply by the act of eating chocolate.  The media, by continually advertising chocolate as a carnal pleasure (and therefore similar to sex) and by portraying it is as a comfort food (replacing a man’s emotional value), has effectively made chocolate a substitute for men.  But it is even better than men because it is always available and requires much less effort to keep around.  The Axe commercial below shows how crazy women become over the “chocolate man”.  In this ad, chocolate literally takes the place of a man (and by implication, sex).  Women want the chocolate more than they do the man.

Modern women can purchase chocolate by themselves, thereby asserting their independence and placing them in somewhat of a masculine role.  However, the femininity of chocolate reduces the effect of that masculinity.  In fact, consuming chocolate, especially luxury chocolate, which is a firmly feminine food, enhances a woman’s femininity every time she eats it simply because chocolate is so essentially female.  Combined, chocolate’s femininity, the ease with which it can be acquired, its numerous parallels to men, and the media’s continual, in-your-face depiction of chocolate as a substitute for men have made American society believe that chocolate really is an appropriate, even desirable, candidate for a woman to have a relationship with.

Chocolate fits into relationships in a variety of ways, but always it carries a feminine connotation.  Its status as a heterosexual gift could be changed with a large media effort, but its feminine status will not be so easily altered.

 

Works Cited

Aaron, Shara, and Monica Bearden. Chocolate: A Healthy Passion. Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2008. Print.

Anderson, L. V. “Cuckoo for Cocoa.” Slate 13 Feb. 2012: n. pag. Web. 4 May 2015.

Kawash, Samira. “Sex and Candy.” The New York Times 14 Feb. 2014, Opinion Pages sec.: A31. The New York Times. 13 Feb. 2014. Web. 4 May 2015.

Nutter, Kathleen B. “From Romance to PMS: Images of Women and Chocolate in Twentieth-Century America.” Edible Ideologies: Representing Food and Meaning. By Kathleen LeBesco and Peter Naccarato. Albany: State U of New York, 2008. N. pag. Print.

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

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

“Who Consumes the Most Chocolate?” CNN. N.p., 17 Jan. 2012. Web. 4 May 2015.

Multimedia Sources

TV Ad – Axe Dark Chocolate Temptation: Chocolate Man. Adapt. adsoftheworld. YouTube. N.p., 3 Dec. 2007. Web. 3 May 2015.

DK, Anna. Retro poster, “Because chocolate can’t get you pregnant” Digital image. Bird Reynolds. N.p., 24 May 2012. Web. 5 May 2015.

1967 Brach’s Valentine Chocolates. Digital image. AdClassix. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May 2015.

The Sexiest Ad for the Sweetest Thing. Adapt. ZazulaTheGreat. YouTube. N.p., 14 Mar. 2007. Web. 1 May 2015.

 

Women, Body Image and Chocolate: A Case Study through Advertisements

If a very skinny woman buys chocolate, people might think that it is not unusual because how would she be able to maintain that body while eating chocolate? However, if people were to see a larger woman buying chocolate, they might think that her chocolate consumption explains why she has a bigger body. Both guesses can be wrong in reality; maybe the larger woman buys chocolate only once a year but this example demonstrates the connection we often make between women, body image and chocolate.

Since the 19th century, women have been confined to distorted beliefs about beauty, health, eating, and appetite. Having a lean, fat-free body became the new religion. Like any religion, failure to follow it, meaning becoming overweight, results in damnation. In following the religion, one is guaranteed a more beautiful, sexy, successful self. However, historically, the ideal body image was not skinny women. Plumpness was a sign of emotional well-being and good health (Seid, 1994). In time, the obsession with slenderness emerged, and certain food such as chocolate started to be vilified. Slim became attractive, sexy and healthy. As the ideal body image as well as the image of dieting and the understanding of health for women changed, chocolate advertisements have also changed to parallel these broader concepts. We can see this through early advertisements, a close analysis of Dove chocolate commercials since 2000 and the raw cacao movement.

As women and children became the primary consumers of sugar products in 19th century, chocolate advertisements quickly started to market to women not as individual consumers but as mothers and wives. Mintz discusses in his book “Sweetness and Power” that as sugar became cheaper and more popular in households, wives and children drastically increased their sugar consumption (Mintz, 1985). Around early 20th century, chocolate advertisements started to focus on this consumption trend. As Robertson mentions in her article, the consumption of chocolate became feminized (Robertson, 2009). Women, as the main person responsible for the family’s health, were assigned by advertising companies the role to provide wholesome cocoa for the family (Robertson, 2009). As an example, the Rowntree advertisement below highlights the relationship between a mother and her children. Her children desperately want chocolate but the mom, who also looks like a housewife, perfectly balances the chocolate in her hand that she is probably about to give to the children to calm them down. In this advertisement, chocolate is shown as an intermediary in a mother-child relationship.

Rowntree advertisement of a mother and her children
Rowntree cacao advertisement of a mother and her children

Appealing to women as mothers in advertisements varied by product: the image of women as mothers in cacao advertisements changed into wives who get their husband to buy chocolate for them in chocolate advertisements. The Rowntree chocolate advertisement below portrays a woman receiving boxed chocolate from her husband who is eager to see her reaction. Similar to the advertisement above, women are shown in the context of a family and not primarily as individual consumers.

Rowntree chocolate advertisement of a couple
Rowntree chocolate advertisement of a couple

Over time, however, the portrayal of women as wives or mothers changed into a focus on them as individual consumers. Dove chocolate is a chocolate company that builds on the image of women who buys chocolate to enjoy by themselves. Dove chocolate, sold as “Galaxy” in the UK and other countries, is a brand made and marketed by Mars Company since 1986 (“Mars Acquires the Dove Bar” article). It started in Chicago as “Dove Candies and Ice Cream” by Leo Stefanos in 1939. Dove produces a variety of chocolate products including milk chocolate, chocolate truffles, chocolate with nut varieties and ice creams. Since 2000s, the brand’s advertisements have been mostly focused on women, often hyper-sexualized, indulging in chocolate and losing control. Although women are typically portrayed as indulging in chocolate in their advertisements, the message given about indulging changes over time.

In Dove’s “Eat Up Your Moment” commercial, released around early 2000s, a woman is portrayed as simply indulging in chocolate without any concerns about her body image. She is literally “eating up her moment,” meaning the only thing she cares about is her ice cream. Her hair is messy, adding to her sexualized image because of the stereotype of women with messy hair after sexual intercourse. As chocolate is depicted as an innate desire for women, it goes together with other innate needs such as sex. Thus, she is portrayed as an “irrational narcissistic consumer” (Robertson, 2009), who demonstrates the wonderful feeling of indulging in chocolate. The camera is only focused on Dove chocolate ice cream and her face. The camera does not even show the rest of her body. Her body image, or any other concern about life, does not matter. As can be seen from this advertisement, the association of a slim body image and beauty and sexual appeal is not emphasized. This advertisement approximately corresponds to the time in the 19th century when dietetics and nutrition separated from medicine as a field, and when chocolate came to be as much associated with health problems as with health benefits (Watson et al., 2013). However, it does not acknowledge the concerns that a woman might have by gaining calories from chocolate and potentially getting fatter and less attractive. It does not acknowledge the concerns regarding ideal body image and how eating chocolate deviates from that ideal.

Dove’s “Senses” commercial resembles the previous advertisement and does not overtly refer to any body image or dieting concerns. The commercial is all about senses and being aroused. It demonstrates chocolate as a freedom from adulthood (Barthel, 1989). According to this notion, chocolate relieves people from the boredom of the real world and puts them in a euphoric state in which they give in to their innate need for chocolate. The woman in the commercial is very thin that even her collarbones are prominent. She looks very aroused and enjoys the stimulation in her body from eating chocolate. The background voice in the commercial is soft and sultry, and resembles a female bedroom voice that is indicative of her increased sensations. The message implied in the advertisement is clear: indulge in chocolate and you would still be able to have your ideal, thin body.

Around 2010, Dove released a series of “Only Human” and “Confessions” commercials that acknowledge women’s concerns of body image more directly and emphasize that it is okay to indulge and not have a “perfect” body. The advertisement starts with an average looking woman saying, “we are only human but we try to be perfect.” In these commercials, women pretend as if high heels are comfortable, or waxing does not hurt much in time. Although women are aware of the sensory gratifications of chocolate, they are also concerned about potentially unhealthy nutritional properties and weight gain associated with over-indulgence in chocolate (Benford and Gough, 2006). Thus, they reduce the use of chocolate or omit it completely to lose weight (Mooney et al., 2009). As portrayed in the advertisements, just like the pain of high heels or pain of waxing, gaining weight from chocolate can make women feel bad or guilty. However, instead, as the commercial communicates, they should “cut some slack” and let themselves indulge in chocolate.

Divine chocolate advertisement
Divine chocolate advertisement

In Divine chocolate advertisements, women farmers are depicted as producers and cosmopolitan consumers of chocolate (Leissle, 2012). As Robertson discusses in her book, women as consumers of chocolate have historically been depicted as obsessed by chocolate (Robertson, 2009). The woman in the advertisement is a Ghanian cacao farmer of the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative (Leissle, 2012) holding a piece of chocolate in her hand. She is wearing revealing clothes that highlight her breasts and has an alluring pose. She looks thin, sexy and sassy. The advertisement makes the viewer think that if even a female farmer who produces chocolate, and thus likely consumes a lot of it as well, is that thin, an individual female consumer would be able to stay thin too. She would be inspired by the standards of physical “excellence” that the model in the advertisement represents (Joshi et al., 2004).

As chocolate and advertisement companies cultivated the understanding of women’s concerns about their body images, they sparked a raw cacao movement. Raw cacao is the raw cacao nibs and beans that do not go through processing used in making chocolate such as roasting and steaming. In this way, raw chocolate companies intend to create “diet chocolate” that is especially endorsed by the popular Paleo diet. In his interview, David Wolfe, founder of various health and nutrition websites, discusses the potential benefits of raw cacao. He mentions that it is “10,15,20 times more antioxidants than green tea” and “30 times higher in antioxidants than wine.” He also suggests that raw cacao food is high in Vitamin C and antioxidants, different than processed chocolate that contains no vitamin C because “it is all destroyed through the process by heat.” He adds that raw cacao is one of highest natural sources of magnesium, copper and iron. As a result, he emphasizes that raw cacao can be used as a mineral supplement. However, he does not provide any evidence to back up his claims, not does he mention the potential health risks of raw cacao such as containing mycotoxins or salmonella (Copetti et al., 2011). As corporations realize women’s emphasis and concerns about their body image, they can be deceptive and make claims without backing up with any scientific evidence. The raw chocolate companies, and other chocolate companies such as Dove and Divine, market their products to women while deceiving them as if the companies take into account the concerns related to women’s body images. It is crucial to not fall into media traps about health and nutrition. You are beautiful and your body is perfect, no matter what you consume.

References

  • Barthel, Diane. “Modernism and Marketing: The Chocolate Box Revisited.” Theory, Culture & Society (1989): 429-38.
  • Benford, R., & Gough, B. (2006). Defining and defending ‘unhealthy’ practices. A discourse analysis of chocolate ‘addicts’ accounts. Journal of Health Psychology, 11, 427–440.
  • Copetti, M., Iamanaka, B., Frisvad, J., Pereira, J., & Taniwaki, M. (2011). Mycobiota of cocoa: From farm to chocolate. Food Microbiology, 1499-1504.
  • Joshi, R., Herman, C. P., & Polivy, J. (2004). Self-enhancing effects of exposure to thin body images. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 35, 333–341.
  • Leissle, Kristy. “Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies2 (2012): 121-39.
  • “Mars Acquires The Dove Bar.” New York Times. 1986-08-12. Retrieved 2010-01-05.
  • Mintz, S. (1985). Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books.
  • Mooney, E., Farley, H., & Strugnell, C. (2009). A qualitative investigation into the opinions of adolescent females regarding their body image concerns and dieting practices in the Republic of Ireland (ROI). Appetite, 52, 485–491.
  • Seid, Roberta P. 1994. “Too Close to the Bone: The Historical Context for Women’s Obsession with Slenderness.” In Feminist Perspectives on Eating Disorders, ed. Fallon P., Katzman M. A., and Wooley S. C. New York: The Guilford Press.
  • Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  • Watson, Ronald Ross, Victor R. Preedy, and Sherma Zibadi, eds. 2013. Chocolate in Health and Nutrition. pp. 11-22, 265-276.

Images (in order of appearance):

DIVINELY PROGRESSIVE: How Divine Chocolate is changing the Cacao Industry

Contemporary West African cacao agribusiness is fraught with problems. Most farmers are not adequately financially compensated, involved in the corporate decisions that affect their farms, and usually do not have access to the finished chocolate product that their crop creates for the Western world.

West Africa provides the majority of the world’s cacao supply, with Ghana producing 17.5%. There are about 2 million African family cocoa farms, most of which are very small, and more than 75% of cocoa farmers state that they do not want their children to go into cacao farming. Even though Ghanaian farms yield 2.8 million metric tons of cocoa per year, in 2011 the average income per capita per day for a Ghanaian farming household is less than 30 cents USD (Martin 15: 1-9).

African women, despite being an integral labor force behind the cacao industry, are many times not empowered and are disenfranchised due to problematic power structures inherent to the cocoa supply chain that echo from European colonialism and continue in many rural areas. Cacao farming is culturally considered “masculine work” and men typically are the heads of cacao plantations; as a result too many times female farmers slip through the cracks within the chocolate industry’s distribution of wealth. (Martin 15:1-9, Robertson 124-125).

femalefarmer

Cocoa Ghana Project photo.

Another problem with modern cacao farming is the use of child labor, which is defined by the International Labor Organization as work that is likely to harm the physical as well as psychological health of children, either due to the nature of the work or because of hazardous conditions in the workplace. According to a 2009 Tulane University study, there are about 1 million children in Ghana working on cocoa plantations, where children can experience dangers such as heavy loads, sharp tools, and pesticides with little to no protection or training. Hard labor at a young age can delay children’s development and increases a child’s likelihood of dropping out of school. (Martin 15:11-26).

Responses to the issue of child labor on cocoa farms such as boycotts, the formation of the International Cocoa Organization, World Cocoa Foundation, and the 2001 Harkin-Engel Protocol that have aimed to eradicate child labor have mixed results at best. Many corporations have denied the problem in public forums and almost never tackle the question of paying living wages to cacao laborers. (Martin 15:26-34).

And lastly, in addition to anxieties about the harms of mass cacao production on the environment (Ford) there is unfortunately a long legacy of community upheaval in West African cacao-growing societies, i.e. Ghana:

“Conflict over cocoa resources fueled monumental upheavals that took place in Ghana over the past thirty years, against the background of competition between capitalist-oriented peasants, regional ethnic groups, and a national government which sought to control export production…contributed to the fragmentation of lineages and other kinship/community groups.” (Mikell, xix)

Some ways to combat these issues include equal rights interventions, especially for women and children, grassroots in lieu of top-down approaches, knowledge and resource sharing both on the production and consumption sides of the chocolate industry, and increase pay for cocoa. When chocolate is a $100 billion/year industry, cacao farmer poverty is avoidable and inexcusable. In order for the industry to improve as a whole, there needs to be cross-sector cooperation among governments, NGOS, chocolate manufacturers and consumers with active involvement and leadership from cocoa farmers. (Martin 15).

realcost

Martin, Lecture 15, Slide 26.

Divine Chocolate, a U.K./Ghana-based chocolate brand founded in 1998 that is increasing in popularity in both Europe and the United States, seems to tackle seemingly daunting issues in ways not unlike the solutions Gwendolyn Mikell proposes in her book Cocoa and Chaos in Ghana:

“(Because) rural vibrancy contributes to national stability…(it is in both the chocolate industry’s as well as national governments’ best interest) to…(allow) local agricultural organizations to address local socio-economic needs…(while) establishing rural labor policies which encourage a sexually balanced rural labor force.” (Mikell 253).

yummy

Divine website.

In the 1990s a group of farmers, including Nana Frimpong Abrebrese from the Ghana Cocoa Board, set up a farmers’ co-op called Kuapa Kokoo (“good cocoa growers”) that would trade its own cocoa rather than relying on the middleman system of government cocoa agents. Kuapa co-owns Divine Chocolate Ltd; the company is dedicated to providing cocoa farmers with improved quality of life, to increasing women’s participation and recognition in cocoa farming, in addition to developing environmentally friendly ways to cultivate cocoa while contributing to community development and enrichment. The company is committed to transparency and democracy; as shareholders in the company themselves, the farmers receive a share of the profits from the sale of Divine chocolate bars, have two representatives on the executive board so they can influence how the company is developed, and one out of every four annual board meetings are held in Ghana. In 2007 after Divine Chocolate paid off original loans, the company was able to present their first cheque to the cooperative. This was a milestone in chocolate history, and a step in the right direction concerning Divine Chocolate’s mission.

Divine is made with cocoa bought from Kuapa Kokoo at the guaranteed minimum Fairtrade price of $2000 per ton which protects the farmers from the unreliable, ever-changing market.  The cooperative receives an additional $200 per tonne, which the cooperative invests into Producer Support and Development Funds.  Kuapa Kokoo weighs, bags and transports the cocoa and handles all legal issues for its members. The association now has upwards of 65,000 members in approximately 1400 village societies. (Divine: The Divine Story).

The company is also trailblazing in regards to chocolate advertising; their campaigns broaden consumers’ conceptions of African female farmers in the supply chain as well as providing positive representation of women of color, a rarity when it comes to chocolate advertisements. The women are presented as confident, independent business owners, countering stereotypes of African portrayals in the media. (Leissle 121-139).

blackskin

A not uncommon example of how African bodies are hyper-sexualized and dehumanized in chocolate advertising.(cocoh.net).

http:/http://impressivemagazine.com/2013/07/24/divine-chocolate-with-social-flavour/

Ghanaian female cocoa farmers tend to have smaller, less productive farms due to low literacy rates that make them more susceptible to being cheated. Divine and Kuapa currently work towards increased literacy and numeracy training for women so that they can earn outside income through other enterprises such as selling clothing. By increasing education opportunities to Ghanaian women and girls, many of the prime causes of child labor (such as poverty) are being combatted as well. With more educated families, there is more gender equality and potential for financial mobility, all factors that decrease a region’s “need” for child labor. Divine’s Dark Hazelnut Truffle honors the work Divine and Kuapa do to ensure equality for women cocoa farmers. You can buy one here:

http://shop.divinechocolateusa.com/Dark-Chocolate-with-Hazelnut-Truffle/p/DIV-001453&c=DivineChocolate@Bars

Divine refuses to use palm oil in its products out of concern for environmental sustainability in cacao production. The company also has its own radio program that spreads farming techniques even to remote villages, a still immensely popular tool in Ghana. Since many of Ghana’s farmers are not literate, radio programs provide them with the information and advice on various agricultural issues (such as pests and fungus) in the format they can best understand it. By having this radio program, Kuapa Kokoo creates a more truly democratic cooperative by ensuring that all members understand and have access to the tenets of the organization, learn about Fairtrade standards and benefits, learn about their company’s progress, as well as hear updates on child labor programs from government officials, regardless of literacy rate. Ongoing sales of Divine chocolate fund this and other programs that focus on access to clean water, health care, education, supplying new farming equipment and sanitation to improve standards of living.  Kuapa Kokoo has also taken a lead on addressing child labor and adapting to climate change.  Today Kuapa Kokoo produces up to 5% of Ghana’s cocoa (up to 640,000 sacks of cocoa a year!) (Divine Kuapa Mmere).

In conclusion, increasing pay for cocoa farmers, empowering and educating women, protecting children, while simultaneously innovating environmentally beneficial cacao-growing techniques and improving quality of life in cocoa producing regions is going to have to be a multifaceted effort, with cooperation across multiple sectors of the chocolate industry over time. The growing success of Divine is indicative of the plausibility of this type of cross-sector cooperation (Kuapa set up Divine in 1998 with the help of The Body Shop, Christian Aid, The Department for International Development and NatWest) and highlights the success of alternative business models involving communal indigenous practices and farmer involvement, not unlike Bolivia’s El Ceibo (Healy Ch. 6,7). Because Divine was created in order to propel change in the chocolate industry, it was a historic moment when UK chocolate giant Cadbury’s converted its most popular brand Cadbury Dairy Milk to Fairtrade standards. Divine had succeeded in creating and expanding a market for Fairtrade chocolate and creating a supply chain with the capacity to support a mainstream product. When Cadbury made its decision Kuapa Kokoo started profiting from the Fairtrade premium on cocoa bought for this commodity.  Super-giants Nestle and Mars have since taken their first Fairtrade steps by choosing to buy cocoa primarily from Cote D’Ivoire.  In 2013 11% of all chocolate sold in the United Kingdom now carries the Fairtrade Mark.  Over the past 17 years. Divine has grown in popularity around the world, now available in Europe, the U.S., South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia. Chocolate companies should seriously consider adapting similarly to Divine’s missions and business practices, for they are radicalizing the way that chocolate can be done.

Works Cited

A Tale of 2 Women, 2 Races, and 2 Chocolates. N/A. Image. 1 May 2015. http://www.cocoh.net.

Cacao Ghana Project. Image. 5 July 2012. Web. 1 May 2015. cocoakiss.blogspot.com

The Divine Story, Divine Chocolate. About Us. 2011. Web. 1 May 2015. http://www.divinechocolate.com

Ford, Matt. “Chocolate’s bitter sweet relationship with the rainforest.” CNN. 7 July 2008. Web. 1 May 2015.

Healy, Kevin. Llamas, Weavings, and Organic Chocolate: Multicultural Grassroots Development in the Andes and Amazon of Bolivia. Notre Dame, UND Press, 2001. Chapters 6 and 7. Print.Martin, Carla D. “Lecture 15: Modern Day Slavery.” AAAS 119x. Harvard College. April 20, 2015. course website.

Kristy Leissle (2012): Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements, Journal of African Studies, 24:2, 121-139 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13696815.2012.736194

Kuapa Radio Hour:Kuapa Mmere http://www.divinechocolate.com

Martin, Carla D. “Lecture 15: Modern Day Slavery.” AAAS 119x. Harvard College. April 20, 2015. course website.

Mikell, Gwendolyn. Cocoa and Chaos in Ghana. New York: Howard UP, 1992. Print.

Nita, Catalina. Divine Chocolate with Social Flavor. Impressivemagazine. 24 July 2013. Web. 1 May 2015.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, women, and empire: a social and cultural history. New York: Manchester University Press, 2009. 124-125. Print.

Russell Brand Trews Extra. “The Dark Side of Chocolate-Modern Slavery//Top Documentary Films.” Online video clip. Youtube.com. 22 Nov 2014. Web. 1 May 2015.

VPRO Metropolis. “First taste of chocolate in Ivory Coast.” Online video clip. Youtube.com. Feb 21, 2014. Web. May 1, 2015.

The Innocent, the Grotesque, and the True “Dark” Side of Chocolate  

While advertisements and marketing are meant to draw positive attention to their products, oftentimes they only cause controversy and scandal. Marketing promotions are often riddled with sexist, racist, or classist undertones that overshadow the true meaning of the advertisements; one of the biggest offenders is the food industry, specifically advertisement for sweets and chocolates. Chocolate marketing often relies on portraying women and children as innocent and sweet creatures that turn sinful and corrupt from the sensual tastes of chocolate. However, sometimes these campaigns can backfire, instead causing controversy and scandal that overshadow the initial intents of the advertisements.

Chocolate is a highly sexualized product ever since its popularization as a food product in the early European periods. Even before print adverts of chocolate and its mass production with the growth of large chocolate producers, chocolate was already a food targeted at women. In anecdotes that spread in the in the 1800s, women were portrayed as weak to the ways of chocolate; in Chiapas, Mexico, women would have to interrupt religious ceremonies in order to consume chocolate midday (Robertson, 68). These types of stories imply that women are unable to sustain or fuel themselves without chocolate, going so far as to suggest that they cannot perform basic functions (such as religious Mass) without taking time off to consume chocolate.

Furthermore, these stories paint pictures of women as unable to control themselves in a chocolate-induced rage. Continuing the story above, the women of Chiapas supposedly poisoned the bishop for not allowing them to eat their chocolate (Robertson 68). This paints the image of the typical “chocolate consuming” stereotype of women, creatures unable to control themselves around chocolate, and induced to perform sinful and carnal acts, such as killing, to get what the sweets that they crave. As historian Emma Robertson puts it, “chocolate becomes explicitly associated with sinful temptation in this tale, with women ruthless in its pursuit” (68).

This stereotype of a sinful, craving woman, cultivated by historical anecdotes as old as the history of chocolate in the modern world, persists today stronger than ever. In chocolate commercials, women are still lustful after chocolate. While examples of women depicted with this stereotype abound, this commercial from Nestle in Kazakhstan is particularly representative:

Here, a beautiful woman, happy with a teddy bear gift from her boyfriend, suddenly rips up the cup stuffed animal, and proclaims that it has no almonds or wafers. While this ad might seem harmless and cute, it is a prime example of how chocolate ads depict a woman’s lust and overpowering desire for chocolate. The woman, who is initially cheerful, becomes angry when he finds that she does not receive a sweet treat, leading her to rip up a cute stuffed animal and toss it away with little concern.

While these ads may have tones of sexuality and sinfulness imbued in their images, some ads can take this idea too far. In 2009, an advertisement by Peruvian chocolate company Caribu, produced by the ad agency El Garaje Lowe, generated lots of negative publicity and controversy.

caribucanari

In this print ad, we see an innocent, sweet, smiling young girl playing “kitchen” in her room. However, looking more closely at this ad reveals a truly horrifying scene; the little girl is killing a baby chick by grinding it up in a meat grinder. This innocent scene now looks extremely eerie; the green background of the room becomes creepy, and the girl’s sweet smile suddenly seems perverse and sinister. In the corner of the image, we see the tagline of the image: “The Dark Side of Sweetness”. The dark humor here is revealed; when you give little girls chocolate, their truly “dark” side comes out, and they can be motivated to do horrible things, including killing an animal for fun. While this ad may have intended to be dark humor for the intellectual who could look past the girl’s heinous acts, this ad severely miscalculates how disgusting it is, and is rendered ineffective. People cannot get past the image of a young girl, the usual picture of innocence, killing an animal in a disturbing way, after having consumed chocolate.

This ad attempted to, and failed, to represent a dark humored “dark” side of sweetness; however, what is even more sad and dismaying about this ad is the true “dark” side of the chocolate industry. While ads such as the ones shown above by Caribu and Nestle joke about the sinful acts that chocolate induce, the chocolate industry is suddenly mute at the true sins of the industry regarding child labor practices. In the Cote D’Ivoire, where almost 40% of all cacao beans come from (Mammel), there is a strong prevalence of child labor, where children, 60% of whom are under the age of 14, are forced to toil on cacao farms by their families and “owners” whom their families sell them to. These children make no money, and are often given dangerous and gruesome tasks to do, such as wielding machetes with no protection or hauling bags of cacao for miles (Mammel).

ad-all

With this truly dark side of chocolate in mind, we decided to rebrand our chocolate advertisement from showing (failed) dark humor to depict the true dark side of chocolate: child labor practices. In our revised ad, the true evils of the chocolate industry are revealed; when the children eat chocolate, they are now directly contributing to the child labor present in the chocolate industry. Their lips are stained with red blood, and they are “whipping” the children laborers, who toil to make them their delicious sweets.

While our ad may not actually sell anything, it instead acts as a PSA for the real dark side of the chocolate industry. Instead of continuing to sell chocolate as a sexualized, passionate, and sometimes sinful delight, we hope with our PSA we can contribute to exposing the true evils of the chocolate industry, and close the gap of knowledge between the fantasy of marketing and advertisements, and the true hardships behind what we eat.

 

Bear | Heart | Kitten- Nestle Chocolate TV Commercial Ad. Youtube. Youtube, 14 Oct 2014. Web. 10 Apr 2015.

El Garaje Lowe. “Caribú Bitter: Canari.” Ads of the World. N.p., Jan. 2009. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.http://adsoftheworld.com/media/print/caribu_bitter_canari.

Mammel, Mitchell. “Child Slavery: The Bitter Truth behind the Chocolate Industry.” Terry. Nov 2013. Web. 10 Apr 2015. http://www.terry.ubc.ca/2013/11/26/child-slavery-the-bitter-truth-behind-the-chocolate-industry/.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. 1-131. Print.

 

 

From “Jezebel” to “Diva”: How Cadbury Plays Off The Evolution Of Negative Stereotypes Surrounding Black Women  

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Cadbury’s May 2011 Ad Targeting Supermodel Naomi Campbell

Since the 19th century, African American women have been the victims of many harsh and untrue stereotypes surrounding their appearance and behavior. Unfortunately this still holds true even for today. In May 2011, Cadbury, a well known and successful United Kingdom (UK) chocolate manufacturer, decided to launch its campaign for its chocolate bar, Dairy Milk Bliss. This campaign proved a wrong move for Cadbury as it displayed overtly racist undertones, inciting anger from Naomi Campbell, the model who was targeted by the ad, and the international African American community. Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Bliss not only directly likened Campbell to chocolate but also perpetuated a negative Diva stereotype about African American women, unnecessarily adding to a long history of African American women being wrongly characterized and portrayed at their own expense for the profits of others. By promoting such hurtful stereotypes Cadbury not only further damaged the image of African American women across the globe, but also contributed to the psychological trauma of African American girls of today.

Jezebel
Typically depicted Jezebel

To understand the Diva stereotype, one must first understand the Jezebel, the stereotype from which Diva evolved. The Jezebel was the “young, exotic, promiscuous and over-sexed woman (Stephens, 2003).” She was primitive, attention seeking, and could not control her own sexual appetite (Stephens, 2003). The Jezebel only thrives on the attention of men, using her sexuality to gain her access to her material goods and needs. Light skin, long straight hair, curvaceous, and loose, the Jezebel was used to justify the rape of enslaved women by their masters due to their “insatiable appetites” and continuous “seduction of white men”; in reality these women were continuously abused by their masters, used to satisfy their sexual desires and economic need for more “slave babies (Stephens, 2003).”

Destiny's Child--A group according to Stephens et al, 2003 that has been promoted using the Diva stereotype
Destiny’s Child–A group according to Stephens et al, 2003 that has been promoted using the Diva stereotype

However, around the late 20th century the Diva stereotype broke out. Similar to the Jezebel, the Diva is light skin, long straight hair, and is traditionally pretty in a Eurocentric way (Stephens, 2003). She is considered a high maintenance woman with an attitude. She needs to be at the center of attention, and is incredibly appearance driven, spending tons of dollars and hours to keep up her clean, polished look (Stephens, 2003). Sexually, the Diva diverges from the Jezebel because although she is seductive, sultry, and at times immodest, she is never explicit or overt; she cultivates the image of being attractive yet unattainable through her smoldering looks, tight fitting clothing, and sassy walk (Stephen, 2003). Materialistically driven, the Diva is considered a woman who has made it and can afford to purchase her own goods. On the other hand, the Diva is also looking for a man who can “enhance what she already has” bringing a rise in income and status to her name (Stephens, 2003).

Supermodel Naomi Campbell
Supermodel Naomi Campbell

This is why with such a history behind the word Diva, Cadbury’s ad is 100% inappropriate. First, directly likening Naomi Campbell to chocolate is an insult as chocolate has many negative connotations such as dirty, impure, sinful, and exotic (Martin; Rosenthel et Vanderbeke, 2015). Cadbury cannot argue against this fact because out of thousands of models they chose to single out Campbell because of her race and because of her ability to fit the Diva stereotype. Light skin, long straight hair, and slim, Naomi physically fits the Diva mold. Because of her successful career as a model, she is seen as an African American woman who has “made it.” As a model, she is regarded as seductive and sultry, and is always put together. The materialist needs of the Diva (and essentially Naomi) are exaggerated by Cadbury as the Dairy Milk Bliss Bar is sitting in a sea of gems with a purple backdrop, suggesting luxury. The lines “Move over Naomi” and “I’m the world’s most pampered bar” adds insult to the wound as it continues the idea of Divas, specifically African American women, being rude, spoiled, and high maintenance.

The implication of Cadbury’s ad on young African American girls is also frightening. Currently, African American girls are one of the fastest growing groups contracting HIV and other STDs due to unsafe sexual practices (Davis et Tucker-Brown, 2013). In an attempt to understand the cause of this, researchers Dr. Davis and Dr. Tucker-Brown went about questioning African American female adolescents about potential causes for such sexual decisions. One topic was mainstream media’s affect. The adolescents felt that status for African Americans was tied into involvement in pop culture, specifically rap videos, where the women depicted were extremely sexualized and degraded. Because status for these girls is tied to luxury items and attention, many desire such status and are willing to do whatever it takes to get it, even if it requires degrading one’s body and self, promoting unsafe sexual practices, and having inaccurate portraits painted of one’s self. One of the girls, Peace, reported, “You get the bling [diamonds] when you are a video girl” noting “Everybody wants to wear Gucci or Prada and at our age how else are you going to have that kind of money? (Davis et Tucker-Brown, 2013)” Sabrina, another study participant, elaborated further stating “that girls her age just want to be known and have stuff (Davis et Tucker-Brown, 2013).” By perpetuating the Diva stereotype and the need for status and a sexual identity, Cadbury is further harming African American girls who already encounter such negative stereotypes in current mainstream media.

LessRacistCadburyAd

Thus, in an attempt to fix Cadbury’s ad our group created a new ad, removing all race analogies and Diva stereotypes from the article, changing it to reference Mr. Sandman and Dairy Milk Bliss’ superior dream inducing qualities. While we could make those changes, sadly some things could not be changed. For example, by using the color for royalty and fancy, elegant, cursive font, Cadbury is making a divisive statement about its company as a luxury brand, one that can only be afforded and should only be dreamt of by the upper classes. Therefore for future reference and success, our group recommends that Cadbury stop trying to create a divide between the classes and instead employ marketing techniques that attract people from all backgrounds, without it being at the expense of any marginalized community.

Works Cited

Davis, Sarita, and Aisha Tucker-Brown. “Effects of Black Sexual Stereotypes on Sexual Decision Making Among African American Women.” Journal of Pan African Studies 5.9 (2013): 111-28. Www.jpanaafrican.com. JPAS (Journal of Pan African Studies). Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://www.jpanafrican.com/docs/vol5no9/5.9Effects.pdf&gt;.

Knowles, Beyonce. Destiny’s Child Playlist. Digital image. http://www.beyonce.com/destinys-child-playlist-2/. 8 Oct. 2012. Web.

Naomi Campbell Calls Out Victoria Beckham About Racism on Runway. Digital image. Http://atlantablackstar.com/2013/10/30/naomi-campbell-calls-victoria-beckham-racism-runway/. Web.

Martin, Carla. “AAS 119x Lecture 16:Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements.” Harvard Emerson Hall, Cambridge. 30 Mar. 2015. Web. 30 Mar. 2015.

Rosenthal, Caroline, and Dirk Vanderbeke. “On the Cultural Politics of the Racialized Epidermis.” Probing the Skin: Cultural Representations of Our Contact Zone. Cambridge Scholars, 2015. 88. Print.

Stephens, Dionne. “FREAKS, GOLD DIGGERS, DIVAS, AND DYKES: THE SOCIOHISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF ADOLESCENT AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN’S SEXUAL SCRIPTS.” Sexuality and Culture 7.1 (2003): 3-49. Http://faculty.fiu.edu. Florida International University. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://faculty.fiu.edu/~stephens/documents/DStephens_FreaksGoldDiggers.pdf&gt;.

Sweney, Mark. Cadbury Apologises to Naomi Campbell over ‘racist’ Ad. Digital image. http://www.theguardian.com/media/2011/jun/03/cadbury-naomi-campbell-ad. 3 June 2011. Web.