When an aptly named German chocolate brand “Super Dickmann’s” posted this image of Meghan Markle, some people got upset while others laughed at their sensitivity.
The German employee in charge of the corporate Facebook account was likely not aware that the comparison between African women and chocolate is imbued with historical misogynoir. Misogynoir, a term coined by black feminist Moya Bailey (Anyangwe, 2015), is double discrimination faced by black women where bias is both race and gender-based (Verve Team, 2018).
While women have long been seen as buyers, preparers and religious devotees of chocolate, the earliest depictions associated with chocolate were those of infants such as cupids or angels (Martin, 2020). Later, chocolate became associated with an idealized image of white womanhood, as society women became an important consumer demographic. An 1874 New York Times issue announced that wealthy women were the biggest purchasers of an “elaborate style of French candies.” New ads featured elegant white women and were meant to appeal to both the tastes of upper-class consumers and the aspirations of lower-class ones (Robertson, 2010).
Such ads put white consumers at the forefront and minimized chocolate’s roots in West African agriculture. Romanticized images of white agricultural workers such as of this milkmaid carrying pails attempted to further erase chocolates’ African origins (Robertson, 2010).
These fictionalized images associated the labor required to produce chocolate with “wholesome whiteness” in the minds of consumers (Robertson, 2010). Notably, a 1930 Cadbury ad that does feature African women, shows them as faceless silhouettes balancing baskets brimming with cocoa pods on their heads (Robertson, 2010). While white women associated with chocolate were bestowed with good taste and wholesomeness, black women were dehumanized and fetishized through racist depictions.
In 1947 a new character “Honeybunch” was created to advertise Rowntree’s Cocoa (Robertson, 2010). Honeybunch looked infantile – barefoot and with bows in her hair. In this ad, she is dehumanized through the juxtaposition of her “imagined” character to “real” white people in the ad (Robertson, 2010).
A 1950 ad goes further to depict Honeybunch as a spring bouncing out of tin of cocoa – an example of a common trope of Africans drawn as actual cocoa (Robertson, 2010) This association of a person with an edible object further solidifies the idea that black people are false commodities (Polanyi, 2001). According to Polanyi, labor is one of those fictitious commodities to which the market mechanisms should not apply (2001). According to Polanyi, not only labor but also the laborer can become commodities for sale if the commodity function of labor is prioritized (2001). Commodity function of labor is the low labor cost for the sake of lower prices, and in the case of chocolate, low labor costs help support higher remuneration for cocoa processors and chocolate producers instead of African workers. This problem persists into modernity: according to the Cocoa Barometer, cocoa farmer households earn merely 37% of living income in Côte d’Ivoire, the leader in cocoa bean production supplying 40% of world’s cocoa (2018).
Blackness is also objectified and commodified through the association between black skin and chocolate – a trope that still pervades today. Food-related descriptions have long been used to describe dark skin. While light foundation shades are often called “nude” or “fair,” darker shades are often named after commodities such as cocoa or coffee. This further solidifies the toxic idea that white womanhood is the default, and objectifies black womanhood through comparisons with edible objects.
Even black women of the same status as the white women in chocolate ads are not immune to dehumanizing fetishization. In 1976, a magazine editor described supermodel Iman as “a white woman dipped in chocolate,” (Oliver, 2015). The editor’s baffling comment is akin to Charlie’s question about whether the Oompa Loompas, which were distinctly African in the original book, are made out of chocolate (Robertson, 2010).
The fact that class cannot protect black women from misogynoir sheds critical light on “respectability politics,” an ideology that emphasizes the need for black people to gain respect and “uplift the race” by correcting ‘undesirable” characteristics and embodying desirable ones (Harris, 2014). Racist treatment of Iman despite her social prominence parallels the way companies such as Rowntree or Cadbury used depictions of black girls and women like Honeybunch for their “distinct difference” while dehumanizing them.
Pat McGrath, one of the most prominent makeup artists of the century, also had a cocoa related story that shed light on how designers who hire black models failed to provide them with equal supplies. McGrath often had to use cocoa powder on set because she wasn’t provided with darker makeup shades (Prinzivalli, 2019).
A group of black women has found a way to use the association between dark skin and chocolate for their benefit, creating a food-inspired makeup brand “Beauty Bakerie,” which counts cocoa-flavored powder among its products.
And what about Pat McGrath who had to use food instead of makeup? Her beauty empire is now worth almost a billion dollars – and her dark foundation colors are named Medium Deep and Deep instead of cocoa and chocolate (Mpinja, 2018).
In this paper, I argue that the production and consumption of chocolate has reproduced and perpetuated stereotypes of women as housewives and mothers in less pronounced ways from the eighteenth century to modern day. Not only does it cause this toxic, negative ideology of women in first world countries but it also makes women in third world countries, like Nigeria, become completely invisible to consumers. They are demoralized, undervalued, and subjected to poor working conditions as women working in the agricultural field. This paper will explore class-ism, racism, and sexism within the confines of the chocolate industry through advertisements and images. For supplementary evidence, I describe an interview that I have conducted. It will reveal common chocolate brands that many Americans enjoy, take for granted, and how they are unaware of ethical concerns associated with the everyday chocolate we consume. This will also include gender roles viewed in modern day.
I interviewed a woman that revealed a common and interesting relationship with chocolate. When I asked her what her favorite chocolates were, she said, “Lindt, the swiss brand, dark chocolate. You can get it at the mall and grocery stores. Its fancy but not difficult to access. I like the hollow dark chocolate bunny around Easter. Otherwise, Wegman’s semi-sweet chocolate chips because they are vegan and I like using them for recipes & baking.” The interviewee revealed a lot of information about her relationship with chocolate that can be echoed in many American preferences. One contemporary use is “Its fancy but not difficult to access.” Chocolate has become an inexpensive commodity since the nineteenth century to today, whereas in the sixteenth century after chocolate arrived in Europe, chocolate was predominantly enjoyed by the royal classes (“History of Chocolate”). Now our relationship with chocolate is one where it is easily accessible as the interviewee pointed out “at the mall and grocery stores” in places such as Europe, America, and Canada. Chocolate like Lindt could signify class mobility as the chocolate comes off “fancy” when consuming/enjoying or presenting it as a gift.
Chocolate advertisements portray the opportunity for class mobility (or giving the illusion to raise one’s class status), and they also are problematic because they sexualize and objectify women. Lindt while not only allowing people to appear “fancy,” Lindt aims to make women come off as sexy by portraying sexual readiness. Lindt (as well as many other well-known chocolate companies) attempt to appeal to women by using chocolate in or next to women’s mouths implying sexual connotations that depreciates the value and integrity of women. The ad may also have an effect on male purchasers of chocolate to “win over” a sexually available woman.
This ad (“LINDOR”) for Lindt chocolate represents how women are continuously portrayed as sexual objects rather than people. Viewing this ad, women may be led to believe that they will become the object of promiscuity and desire while men will view this and believe that chocolate can be used as some sort of aphrodisiac to unleash the wild side of the woman of their dreams perhaps.
Not only was the interview interesting because of class changes analyzed over time and objectification of women in relation to chocolate but the interview also availed domestic roles associated with baking recipes using chocolate. When asked about using chocolate in social contexts, the interviewee stated, “ I like making chocolate chip banana bread or chocolate peanut butter pie and bringing it to friends.” Alexis Szmodis in “The Feminization of Baking and Pastry Work: Dissecting Gender Roles in the Foodservice Industry” helps us to understand the fetishization of women using food in domestic roles. Szmodis elicits, “our perception of women as ‘sweet’ and desserts as feminine, which may explain why more women are showing interest in the baking and pastry field” (2018, p.10). Szmodis explains that women today are more likely to be interested in baking and creating sweets as a metaphor for their perceived behaviors (2018). I believe the influence is related to the socialization of women and commercial advertisements encourage these “motherly,” nurturing behaviors. Although women no doubt often hold professional careers, they also hold domestic roles in lesser frequency but while this role is not as visible it is still salient the role of women in families and romantic partnerships as a part-time housewife, who plays two roles in the domestic sphere and professional world. The below traditional advertisement (“New Recipes for Good Eating”) from the 1940’s and 1950’s exemplifies the ideology of fetishizing women as domestic housewives and the mindset has even spread partly in more modern times.
The cover of this cookbook (“New Recipes for Good Eating”) shows just how deep the cocoa industry has invaded the homes of families. We know now that sweets have next to no nutritional value and yet they are featured in a cookbook entitled “New Recipes for Good Eating” and yet this is hardly good eating. You can see that the woman’s role in the home is in the kitchen while watching over the children. Furthermore, you can see the kids trying to grab some of the food on the table to which the mother smiles gleefully in the background. She is meant to be proud of the food she’s cooked/baked as the kids desperately trying to grab the products of her labor indicates her success as a homemaker.
Women were depicted in sexists ways in chocolate advertisements starting in the 1930’s approximately. Early advertisements targeted women and embedded a gendered role. Old ads aimed to normalize the oppression of women and encouraged “motherly” duties: “This particular campaign (Special Mothers Campaign of 1930’s), designed for women’s magazines, showed children attempting to help their parents (usually the mother, particularly for girls) in gendered ways. Daughters attempt to bake and clean, for example, while sons try to polish their father’s shoes” (Robertson, 2009, p. 21). Women were assigned these roles and in the postwar, late 1940’s and 1950’s ads targeted women as housewives that would serve the family hot chocolate drinks (Robertson, 2009, p. 21) and catered to their husbands needs (with domestic tasks like cooking) (Robertson, 2009, p.22). Rowntree was a well known English company to create racist and sexist ads that still have an impact today in society even though his ads are not presented today (“Chocolate and women: The gendered history behind your sweet snack”).
This photo (“Chocolate and women: The gendered history behind your sweet snack”) illustrates how chocolate companies in the early 1900’s targeted mothers as providers of cocoa. Owning cocoa was not optional. It was a part of everyday life. In fact, this ad makes it seem as if the only way to get the family together (including the pets!) was to have cocoa on hand at all times. Even further, by using the word “danger” in the caption “Mother’s cocoa in danger,” the valuation of the cocoa is shown to be of paramount importance as if there’s a need to protect it.
The desirability of a housewife has been on a continuum until today. We see T.V. emphasizing domestic roles like Desperate Housewives and The Housewives of New York amongst other states in the U.S.. Interestingly shows like The Housewives of New York portray women with busy careers but still label these career-oriented women as “housewives.” We have yet to see a T.V., article, or other advertisement that has positive connotations for househusbands. A study discovered the attitude towards women today. The study states, “The results revealed that feminists were evaluated less favorably than housewives, and that the most negative attitudes toward feminists were expressed by authoritarian men” (Haddock and Zanna, 1994, p.1). This reveals that women are not as empowered as we have hoped. Women are preferred to stay at home and perform domestic duties rather than fight for and maintain equal rights in the workplace to have higher roles, equal pay, reproductive rights, and more. The modern Nesquik ad (“Flavored milk power, syrup and drinks”) below encourages the role of women as mothers. The woman below is playful with her daughter (“Flavored milk power, syrup and drinks”) and it implies she will be a good caregiver by providing her daughter with a chocolate drink.
This image (“Flavored milk power, syrup and drinks”) was created for marketing purposes by Nesquik which is a purveyor of cocoa. There is a motherly figure holding a child which one can easily assume is the woman’s daughter. There are no male figures in the photo whatsoever. Next to the woman and girl is an advertisement for a Nesquik breakfast drink. The advertisement shows that in order to nurture a child and grow into the role of a mother, the consumption of Nesquik, and by associated cocoa is a must.
When men in society try to take on a domestic role, society does not share positive perceptions of men as we still associate domestic responsibilities as “feminine” or the woman’s obligation. A study discovered that “Research has found that househusbands suffer alienation and ostracism from a variety of sources” (Smith, 1998, p. 1). When roles are reversed or shared, hostility towards househusbands is great. Househusbands are sadly not welcomed in a society that looks favorable on men as the provider (not the sole one) as they are seen as taking away their masculinity when taking on these roles. Modern and tradition advertisements of food and domestication have taken part in encouraging these more traditions roles in less transparent ways. The language of modern advertisements does not blatantly say or imply sexist statements and promote housewife roles but through the actions of ads by looking more closely, one may see the inherent messages of promoting a double role of housewife and to a lesser degree career-oriented acceptance.
In Nigeria, women were meant to harvest and transport cocoa from the cocoa farms to markets where they would be sold for a great profit (Robertson, 2010). While the cocoa was revered and held high value amongst the land owners, the women who worked the fields to care for and then transport the cocoa were anything but. These women were not valued for the efforts they put into taking care of this cash crop (Robertson, 2010) and were treated similarly to beasts of burden as a consequence. In addition, despite their important role in the cocoa trade, women were paid less than men (Robertson, 2010). While men made approximately 50 to 60 cents per day for their labors, women were only paid approximately 30 to 35 cents per day (Robertson, 2010, p. 95). This is especially unfair due to the fact that these women were also expected by both society and their husbands to assume the role of caretaker of the children in their family while working as manual laborers simultaneously (Robertson, 2010).
As a result of the hard work output by them, these women aged in a harsher manner and grew weaker quicker as a result (Robertson, 2010). They were exposed to harsh conditions such as the raw elements as they worked outside, as well as to the harmful/poisonous pesticides used on a daily basis (Robertson, 2010) to protect the cocoa from their natural predators. It is unfortunate that modern technology was not made available to them in order to assist with the harvesting and transportation of cocoa (Robertson, 2010).
The chocolate industry has worked hard to appeal to white women and reinforce a domestic role and reduced women to objects available for display. In contrast, women in Nigeria and other parts of West Africa have been made invisible to the chocolate products we enjoy everyday as a method to keep consumers ignorant about the injustices the agricultural laborers are subjected to. While women in cacao take part in all stages of its production, women are devalued by not being given credit for their work, discriminated about what job tasks they are capable of, not paid fairly, face harsh working conditions, and have to do “housewife-like” tasks by taking care of children and are required to take care of the farm too. The chocolate industry has done a convincing job of oppressing women in different contexts and societies. White women are made very visible and West African women very invisible but both have devaluing principles in different ways. Chocolate companies are sexist and racist, and have actively reproduced inequalities for women through agricultural labor and their images they portray that help support traditional roles in a modern world. While changes of women’s roles are certain intact, women as equals in the workforce has a long way to go to stop oppressive mechanisms that encourage the modern housewife ideology and invisibility of African women laborers from the chocolate products we consume everyday.
E. R. (2010). Introduction and One: ‘A deep physical reason’: Gender, race and the nation in chocolate consumption. In Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History(pp. 1-63). Manchester and New York, NY: Manchester University Press.
Robertson, E. (2010). Two: ‘The Romance of the Cocoa Bean’: Imperial and colonial histories. In Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History(pp. 64-131). Manchester and New York, NY: Manchester University Press.
Chocolate at the Disneyland Resort is found in nearly every retail and food location in and around the resort with it primarily being portrayed with the same innocence surrounding the founding of Disneyland and its characters (Marciodisney, 2011): yet the marketing of the chocolate that primarily uses Disney characters and images to sell its products while delightful is tainted because a theme of secrecy, sex, and exclusivity exist in and around the resort where chocolate is concerned.
Chocolate and products that contain chocolate surround most of us in our daily lives as consumers (Allen, 2010). As I contemplated what to write about in my final post on chocolate for this class I could not think of another place that I desired to explore how chocolate is used, influences, and motivates behavior than at the Disneyland Resort, a place that holds a special place in my heart. In order to fully explore the relationship between chocolate and Disneyland I traveled to California and spent two days “researching” how chocolate is used, where Disney sources the chocolate they use, and the role that marketing plays in the production and sale of chocolate at Disneyland. What I found was that chocolate, like many other foods and products at the Disneyland Resort is influenced by many factors both positive and negative. Several of the factors used to motivate and guide consumer behavior to purchase chocolate in Disneyland are enjoyment, food, and it is an outlet for consumers to entertain themselves, however it appears that some of the motivation is driven under the often subtle guise of providing a source of supplemental income for the resort at the cost of violations of morals and stereotypes that fuel and drive consumer behavior.
History of Products in Disneyland
Nestled in Anaheim California, Disneyland is advertised as the Happiest Place on Earth (Disneyland, 2014), but is more than a tourist destination, it is a beacon American capitalism generating more than 3 million dollars per day in revenue (Disneyland Resort Public Affairs, 2012). When Disneyland opened in 1955 Walt Disney proclaimed that “Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams and the hard facts that have created America” (Disneydreamer, n.d.), with no hard facts more true that those of capitalism and marketing. Since the beginning Disneyland has incorporated products and businesses into its operational structure to offset costs and guide consumer behavior, a strategy that is still used today as evidenced through my exploration of how chocolate is used and sold in the park and how the success of the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop
Image Source, personal photo, May 7, 2016
continues the trend of outsourcing products and brands for profit. In addition to bringing in the popular chocolate brand Ghirardelli to the resort (Disneyland Resort Public Affairs, 2012), Disneyland sells several products that capitalize on the characters and animations that they have developed and created often using these in seductive and sexually enticing ways, ways that are often copied by other companies as they attempt to capitalize on the success of Disneyland (Coe & Coe, 2013).
Exploring the Chocolate Selection at the Disneyland Resort
Throughout the Disneyland Resort several shops sell a variety of chocolate items that are both prepackaged and “made” at the resort. The items that are available include chocolate bars, prepackaged chocolate items such as nuts and non-perils, items hand created out of chocolate including dipped apples, a variety of desserts at restaurants, and other chocolate items where chocolate is used not as a main ingredient but as a decorative and supplemental additive such as when it is drizzled on fruit and used as a tool to write a message on a plate. Several products are available throughout the resort and most of the stores that sell them all have similar if not an identical selection available no matter where I shopped for chocolate.
As I was shopping throughout the resort for chocolate I noticed a striking similarity, in addition to all of the products being similar and identical in every store all of them, including the products sold exclusively at the Ghirardelli Soda and Chocolate Shop, shared the common characteristic of not being sourced as to where the chocolate originated. Additionally, the packaging on both the prepackaged and in-house packaged chocolate items (see figure 1)
Figure 1, source personal photo, May 7, 2016
made no representation as to where the chocolate originated nor where it was processed aside from where the final product was made (see figure 2).
Figure 2, source personal photo, May 7, 2016
Even upon further investigation and asking employees where the chocolate originated I was left unfulfilled in my quest to find out the source of the chocolate that the use in their products. At one register I inquired if the cashier knew where the chocolate came from and she stated that it “came from the chefs in the back” of which I asked her where the chefs get it and she said it was all made at the resort (A. Cast member, personal communication, May 7, 2016), something that I knew was not accurate because I believe that they would advertise if Disneyland was a bean to bar operation, therefore I believe that they are operating a type of chocolatier making and selling items originally and repackaged.
Disney cast members making chocolate items, source personal photos, May 6, 2016
Exploring the Originally Produced Items
A large variety of items are offered for sale throughout the resort that are produced by hand and not mass produced. Many of these items are quite unique and include a variety of chocolate covered apples, various items dipped in chocolate including nuts, peanut butter, fruit, marshmallows, and candy (see figure 3 & 4).
Various items available for sale in Disneyland, Figures 3 & 4, source personal photos, May 6, 2016
While these items were unique and quite tasty with a desirable aroma, good color, and a flavor characterization that merged into one another in a seamless manner (Presilla, 2009) based on empirical observations conducted using several taste samples, all of the chocolate products shared similar characteristics. The similarities that existed centered around three common themes, the first was chocolate items that represented Disney cartoon characters and other fictional characters such as Darth Vader and Tigger (see figure 5 & 6).
Figures 5 & 6, source personal photos, May 7, 2016
The second theme was several products were created to represent and celebrate the 60th anniversary celebration that is underway at the Disneyland Resort (see figure 7).
Figure 7, source personal photo, May 6, 2016
The third theme that was observed throughout my shopping adventures was that traditional items that are not associated with any Disney specific character or event itself were also available for purchase. In addition to the in-house made chocolate items available for sale several already packaged items were offered for sale as well that included chocolate bars, nuts, and other items all packaged and sold as products that depicted either a Disney character or promoted the Disneyland Resort itself (see figure 8)
Figure 8, source personal photo, May 7, 2016
Exploring the Prepackaged Items
The prepackaged items that were available for sale fell into two categories, those that were formal and directed toward any audience and those that attempted to use humor by portraying Disney characters or Disney quotes in an attempt to grab the consumers interest and motivate them to buy. Within the products that attempted to use humor some were funny, some were silly, and some were offensive and portrayed women in sexual ways that I thought were inappropriate. Some examples of the items that I found to be funny was a chocolate bar that portrayed Mickey Mouse as Sorcerer Mickey with the title “And now I will make this chocolate disappear”(see figure 10). A chocolate item that I thought was silly was a milk chocolate caramel item that was titled “Mood Chocolate” and stated “If you’re feeling Grumpy, it can make you Happy. But don’t be Dopey and eat too much… or you’ll have to see the Doc!” using a portrayal of the Dwarfs from Snow White (see figure 9)
Figures 9 & 10, source personal photos, May 7, 2016
The chocolate bar that I was offended by featured a picture of Jessica Rabbit from Roger Rabbit wearing a low cut dress and showing a great deal of her animated breasts with the caption “I’m not bad I’m just drawn to chocolate” (see figure 11).
This chocolate item in particular is one that Disney is crossing the barrier from cute to sexism because they are using sex to sell chocolate. Despite the overarching theme of innocence in most Disney characters, having this chocolate bar puts Disney into the same category as many other chocolate manufacturers who use sex and sexual innuendo to sell products by reinforcing the dominate ideologies that classify women as sexual objects (Robertson, 2009). While the marketing is at times distasteful and offensive one cannot argue its success with the lines at the chocolate shops often stretching a dozen or more people at any given time of the day or night which not only promotes marketing of this type it reinforces it as well financially.
In addition to the creative and sometimes distasteful marketing that exists surrounding the chocolate for sale at the Disneyland Resort many other concerns exist regarding the price point of the products for sale. Because the Disneyland Resort only sells their own chocolate with the exception of the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop they are free to set whatever price point they desire for their products. Because many consumers who visit plan to spend disposable income on food and beverage purchases a market of willing consumers pays for the privilege to buy the chocolate offered for sale with no possibility of free market competition to help regulate the price market demanded for some of their items. Because this situation exists several chocolate items are priced well above traditional pricing normally found for similar items sold outside the gates of the resort. An example of this can be found when looking at the chocolate covered apples available that are priced between $10.99 and $13.99 apiece (see figure 12).
Figure 12 & 13, source personal photos, May 6, 2016
These prices coupled with 16 ounce box of assorted chocolates being sold for over $23 and a variety of items at Ghirardelli offered for sale over $30 makes buying chocolate at the Disneyland Resort a potentially pricey scenario, all for chocolate that is not sourced, described, or explained outside of its affiliation with the Disney marketing on the packages and the availability to only purchase many of the items inside of the Disneyland Resort after admission is paid which varies but averages $100 per person per day (Disneyland, 2016).
Summary of Chocolate at the Disneyland Resort
During my two-day chocolate consuming adventure, I learned several things including the chocolate at Disneyland is geared toward an American pallet using a formula and process that is very similar to chocolate commonly found produced by mass American chocolate companies (Coe & Coe, 2013). The second thing I learned was that despite the commonality of the chocolate, where the source is kept secretly hidden and the “nothing unique” thoughts I had about its taste, I loved the presentation and the creativity that is put into the manufacturing of the items. Disney does a great job of having their employees visible to the general public as they are producing and packaging many of the chocolate items that they sell. As a consumer I found this to be delightful because I could see for myself how many of the items I purchased were being made. This added a great deal to the experience and motivated me to spend even more of purchasing items to see what they tasted like as I had just seen them being made and was curious.
Aside from the unique items produced in-house at the Disneyland Resort I found many of the prepackaged items to have a similar taste as the in-house made items despite them being produced in a factory. Overall the quality of these items was good and the only drawback that would dissuade me from purchasing more of these items would be the price. In addition to the items available for purchase in the store the restaurant original items that were themed and created were wonderful and would be a motivation for me to return to the park again with friends because the flavors that Disney used created a chocolate taste that mixed fruit, nuts, and cake to make unique flavor combinations that would be perfect to share as a way to bond and come together as we consume items that perhaps may not be the best for us nutritionally but would fill social needs (Mintz, 1985). Even though the price was high for most items, the marketing was somewhat offensive on one item, and the variety between and among brands was lacking I would still recommend sampling items available at the Disneyland Resort because it is one of the most unique chocolate adventures and tastings one will ever have.
Source personal photo, May 7, 2016
Allen, L. L. (2010). Chocolate fortunes: The battle for the hearts, minds, and wallets of China’s consumers. New York: American Management Association.
Coe, S. D., & Coe, M. D. (2013). The true history of chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson.
Chocolate has fallen from its archaic divinity; as industrial chocolate manufactures, such as Hershey, Ghirardelli, Cadbury, Mars, L.A. Burdick and the multitudes of other small and large confectionary manufactures have strategically subverted religion and evaded the creation of a static definition of what can be classified as health food (Off, 2008). This has been done on a global scale (Allen, 2010). Yet, for all of the exploitation of natural and human labor resources in the mad capitalist race to net exponentially larger profits, methods of chocolate consumption have changed. Chocolate has invaded every home in America and continues to spread into even the most remote regions of the world were chocolate is merely grown as a exported market good (and the farmers have never tasted the finished product) (Leissle, 2012) (Martin 2016) (Stuckey, 2012). Modern chocolate consumption has continuously increased and transformed from a relished delicacy into an addiction, one that has fostered a cultic fanaticism in its omnipresence in American culture (Martin, 2016). Chocolate addiction has been fostered by dynamic consumption practices, various health benefits, ideals of beauty, sexualization of female chocolate consumption, and the reframing of sales advertisements to secularize and/or create holidays revolving around chocolate consumption (Leissle, 2012) (Howe, 2012) (Robertson, 2009) (Martin, 2016). Addiction is an all encompassing cultural mindset which has gone further in the continued liminal state of chocolate’s meaning to contemporary American society (Benton, 2004) (Robertson, 2009). Average American households often are not aware that their chocolate consumption is irrevocably linked to the various external methods of ideological implantation of chocolate as a religious iconographic good. A brief ethnographic analysis of an average New England household, comprising of my future in-laws, engenders a radical deviation from chocolate as a coveted, addictive necessity and furthers chocolate’s ideological transformation by coming full circle to again reify chocolate’s worship as a physical manifestation of divinity.
Cacao, or Kakawa, is a substance similar to maize, corn, in its purveyance in Mesoamerican culture and religious iconography (Coe & Coe, 2013). Cacao is also shown in Mayan iconography to have been conflated with the Maize god, this has rendered archaeological interpretations of cacao as the food of the gods (Coe & Coe, 2013). Ancient associations of cacao with the food of divinity has not been lost in modern methods of advertisement (Leissle, 2012). Even analyses of chocolate advertisements can be interpreted to illustrate that chocolate and divinity are intrinsically linked. Capitalism has not so subtlety transformed and secularized religious holidays by constructing the consumption of chocolate as a ritualized activity, in which participants (consumers) will be glorified and feel euphoria through acts the giving and receiving chocolates (Martin, 2016) (Robertson, 2009). Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and even the forty days of Lent have all become associated with chocolate consumption (Coe & Coe, 2013). Lent is the most indicative of chocolate’s association with divinity, through its construction as a vice (particularly for women) which should be avoided so as to liken oneself to the divinity of Christ’s fast and then temptation by Lucifer in the desert. My fiancée’s (F) family is traditionally Irish-Catholic, like much of the greater Boston area, and has their roots firmly set in the nomenclature of religious etiquette. However, like many religious followers, they merely retain a religiously linked ethnic identity. This is not to say that they do not follow a set of religious rituals that underpin their daily lives, but the god (chocolate) to which they devote both cognitive and subconscious worship, is revealed through the family’s vocalization and ritualization of chocolate consumption. Through almost a year of total emersion into their household I have observed both passively and actively their emphasis on the importance of ritual chocolate consumption. By cooking, and baking, with the father (FD); observing F’s sister’s food habits (FS); and through consensual approval to inquire about their chocolate habits during informally structured interviews, I have captured a snapshot of the ethnographic phenomenon by which chocolate has been re-deified.
Anonymity Disclaimer: all proper names are changed to protect anonymity and personal privacy.
The demographic biological sex ratio in my fiancée’s family, including myself, is three females to two males. I entered their household in June 2015, as it was the most convenient way to save up money for our wedding and attend school. My fiancée and her sister both have severe cases of mental illnesses, and have self-proclaimed themselves vegetarians, which has inhibited their ability to consume a wide variety of food products. Prior to my debut, F’s family cooked for and brought FS any food that FS desired, while FS was unable to leave her bedroom due to severe agoraphobia. During this period and into the first several months of living with the F-in-laws, the father (FD) and mother (FM) brought FS mass quantities of sweets (per her request)- the vast majority of which contained chocolate in some form. These sweets were then incorporated into FS’s daily diet through both home cooked treats and purchased delicacies. So pervasive was chocolate into the kitchen and pantry, I could not open the refrigerator without stumbling upon 8 out of 10 items containing chocolate. Even F considered pancakes unsatisfying is they did not contain chocolate chips, accompanied by chocolate milk, and chocolate croissants, from FD’s crafting or purchased from the local French bakery. Upon my alien perspective into this near total emersion of chocolate into every aspect of nutrition, as I prefer recipe purity without the forced inclusion of chocolate, F’s mother (FM) made it quite clear that the extant to which chocolate was considered medicinal. Even long-standing family recipes, such as their grandmother’s scone recipe, that originally contained fruit changed to substitute chocolate chips; this was celebrated not only by F’s immediate family but the extended relatives as well. F, FD, and FM prefer dark chocolate; FS prefers milk chocolate. Methods of dietary consumption are among the easiest to witness, but also the amount to which F’s family purchases or crafts feminine hygiene products known to contain cocoa butter, and the amount of objects, utensils, and other paraphernalia used in the consumption, production, promotion, or distribution of chocolate.
Saying that their mass consumption of all things chocolate is a product of the historical engendering of chocolate as healthy for dietary consumption limits the extent to which FM’s concept of medicinal use resonates with the subjectivity of healthy consumption (Albritton, 2012) (Watson, Preedy, & Zibadi, 2013). FS suffered tremendous weight gain from overconsumption of carbohydrates and sugars (Albritton, 2012), most in the form of chocolate pastries and confections, but FM continued to supply these “medicinal” chocolates. In accordance with popular conceptions of the medicinal use of chocolate, it historically has been linked to a healthy state of mind and postulated to aid the treatment of mental illnesses such as “hypochondriac melancholy“(Watson, Preedy, & Zibadi, 2013). FM’s utilization of chocolate as a medical ritual to expedite the healing of FS’s mental faculties echoes: the Mesoamerican use of cacao as a restorative of the deities, the early European adoption of cacao as a similar but secularized restorative devoid of divine embodiment, and contemporary literature on chocolate’s ability to illicit pleasure responses from the brain. Contemporary concepts of chocolate’s medicinal use illuminate the chocolate industry’s persistent norms of advertisement and the increase of processed sugar consumption and sugar additives into nearly all forms of processed foodstuffs. Yet FM’s use goes beyond these analyses and parallels the sentiments that “‘chocolate is a divine, celestial drink, the sweat of the stars, the vital seed, divine nectar, the drink of the gods, panacea, and universal medicine'” (Coe & Coe, 2013: 206). While FM’s use may be a product of the historical connections of chocolate and sugar with pleasure and medicine, through the incorporation of chocolate into the entirety of the family’s diet, chocolate has been ritualized and elevated beyond the simple medicinal binary to that of a religious deity, with whom daily worship will foster inner-peace, health, and happiness in its followers. FM’s deification of chocolate retains striking parallels to the Christian description of a personal daily relationship with God, as advertised by the Bible.
F’s family’s ritual utilization of chocolate’s medicinal benefits are the product of historical polemics concerning the increase of sugar consumption, the socio-economic shift of chocolate from Mesoamerican stable to European luxury to plebian stable, and subliminally engendering advertisements (Coe & Coe, 2013). Sugar has been directly linked to diabetes, obesity, and increasing addictive behaviors, akin to drug addiction, through it’s association with pleasurable reinforcement as a reward (Benton, 2004)(Mintz, 1985). The historical shift in utilizing sugar as a preservative (Goody, 2013) directly led to the chocolate industry’s use of sugar as a stabilizing agent which also happened to increase sweetness aka. desirability, and thus “unintentionally” producing a method of engendering consumer addiction for chocolates at a early stage of industrialization (Brenner, 1999) (D’Antonio, 2006: 107) (Mintz, 1985). By keeping in context the link between sugar and addiction, the increase of sugar in chocolate opened new possibilities of advertising. Not only was chocolate now sweet, it also had been historically constructed as medicinal; it could now be produced in vast quantities previously unavailable until the industrial revolution (Brenner, 1999) (Coe & Coe, 2013). Chocolate could now be produced cheaply, containing adulterated products and sweeteners, masking the purity of the roasted cacao bean’s savory nature, and enabled new advertising strategies, informed by chocolate’s newly found socio-economic versatility (Stuckey, 2012) (Allen, 2010). These advertising campaigns have been able to pander to chocolate’s versatility in its ability to render multiple positive responses from consumers. F’s family utilization of chocolate as a restorative “cure-all” is the product of sugar’s addictive qualities, but their daily, weekly, monthly consumption of chocolate as a dietary necessity (only in the manner to which it produces a mental release of endorphins via the sugar and the Pavlovian association of chocolate with sugar) goes beyond this sweet binary to echo the mental and physical rejuvenation that religious ritual produces (Benton, 2004).
Mars’ Snickers campaign “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry, Snickers Satisfies” illustrates the multi-faceted approach that the Mars company takes in its marketing (Brenner, 1999). Mars’ advertisements embody the concept of satisfaction through one of it’s original marketing strategies to simply make a larger candy bar cost the same as the competition’s small one, through the incorporation of peanuts, caramel, and nougat (the primary ingredient of two of these is sugar)(Brenner, 1999). The campaign simultaneously engenders the concept that the Snickers’ bar will satisfy the physical manifestation of hunger and that the consumption of the candy will elevate the psyche back to normalcy (Benton, 2004). This engenders the ritualization of chocolate consumption as a divine facilitator of both inner (mental) and outer (physical hunger) peace; thus similarly paralleling the act of taking communion at Catholic Mass, this advertisement reifies a foodstuff to miraculously facilitate the divine restoration of the mortal self. F’s family reflects this theological embodiment of chocolate consumption as a canonized ritual, yet this advertisement does not alone explain why the three women are so captivated by chocolate’s allure.
Hershey’s Dove chocolate campaign (above) has a clear agenda engendering a gender stereotype of women being the primary consumers of chocolate (Robertson, 2009). F’s family represents this as the three women (F, FS, and FM) are the primary consumers of chocolate, while FD is the primary facilitator of consumption through his production of meals and snacks that prominently incorporate chocolate. This stereotype of women as chocoholics is rooted in historical contexts and has long been debunked as an “[addiction not] to chocolate but to sugar” (Robertson, 2009) (Coe & Coe, 2013: 260) (Benton, 2004). However, no matter the scientific or psychological realities of sugar addicts (Benton, 2004), this advertisement embodies chocolate’s reconstructed relationship with divinity by directly linking the consumption of Dove chocolate with the Mesoamerican concept of deification of oneself through the consumption of divine foodstuffs: particularly in their artistic conflation of the Maize god with cacao trees (Coe & Coe, 2013: 39), and through Mayan recipes mixing maize and cacao (Tokovinine, 2015). The Maya considered all objects to be of divine embodiment (Tokovinine, 2015), particularly those containing maize, which they believed was the physical embodiment of their physical selves as they were created from sacred Maize, stated in their sacred origin text the Popul Vuh, and were also divinely given the sacred crops of maize and cacao for consumption (Coe & Coe, 2013). By conflating the Maize god with a cacao pod the Mayans set a ritual precedent for the divine consumption of chocolate as enabling humanity to transcend into a divine state of epiphany. The Dove advertisement then conflates this ancient cultic practice with the more modern concept of women as the primary consumers of chocolate. Women, constructed in the advertisement as the downtrodden and oppressed gender (Bourdieu, 2001), can escape this existence through consuming chocolate and experiencing their own “moment” or existential epiphany outside of this oppression (Robertson, 2009). F’s family’s near unilaterally gender-stratified consumption of chocolate represents the religious epiphany of transcendental existence, which also reinforces the earlier discourse concerning chocolate as a parallel of Communion. Chocolate consumption now enables modern humanity to embody divinity.
Hershey furthers this gender binary of chocolate consumption through Dove’s “Only Human” advertisement campaign, which in chocolate consumption provides and escape from being female (Benton, 2004). The women are shown to be weak and “Only Human,” but Dove chocolate then provides a “real” comfort from the harsh realities of femininity (Benton, 2004). Going beyond this advertisement’s sexist engenderment, chocolate can now be associated with another of religion’s coveted abilities: the offerance of sanctuary. Chocolate makes the difficulties of human existence tolerable by offering brief sanctuaries, at the ‘moment’ of consumption, meta-physically separated from the human experience. The sanctuary that chocolate provides in these ‘moments’ parallels the sanctuary offered to praticioners of prayer, which provide a ‘moment’ with divinity meant to rejuvenate and make right the pain of a human existence. F’s family’s incorporation of chocolate into nearly all foodstuffs is now clearly representative of ritual prayers for protection from the evils and difficulties of a modern human, explicitly female, existence.
Other modes of ritual chocolate consumption are woven throughout the family’s daily lives: that of hygienic products. It has been well documented that cocoa butter, made from hydraulically pressing cacao liquor (Coe & Coe, 2013: 255), is highly effective in the treatment and prevention of various skin, and hair ailments. Placement of cocoa butter into hygienic products echoes both Baptism and the Catholic ritual of the Anointment of the Sick. Both of these religious rituals engage in a ritual purification of the body and soul. Chocolate can be religiously vindicated through the purification of the human existence, and divinely heal the physical manifestations of the human condition. Dissenters, who would disagree with this statement, are to be reminded of the Christian Science movement, whose belief in the healing power of prayer is thought to heal all physical ailments (thought to be sins’ physical manifestations), and scientific medical treatments are spurred as sinful disregard of God’s will (Norton, 1899). Thus a conflated argument to be made is that the consumption of chocolate is equal to prayer, regardless of the science behind cocoa butter’s ability to remedy topical ailments of the skin and hair. Even through dissent, contemporary chocolate consumption has reified itself as divine through F’s family’s hygienic self anointment with sacred cocoa butter.
Ritual can be identified easily through archaeological interpretation of material culture- that is to say, the artifacts by which rituals are carried out with. Chocolate manufacturing has built megalithic structures dedicated to the continual production of chocolate, such that entire communities sprung into existence to support its cultic fanatical production. Milton Hershey’s factory communes illustrate this quite succinctly (Brenner, 1999)(D’Antonio, 2006). Even the consumption of chocolate has ritual implements, such as: stylized porcline serveware, chocolatière, and the appropriated Mesoamerican molinillo (Martin, 2016). F’s family does not have all such ritual implements as modern technology’s updated versions of the chocolatière and molinillo (serving kettle and whisks), but they do have stylized ceramic ware for the sole consumption of chocolate, indicated by the imprinted logo of L.A. Burdick (a chocolatier company). F’s house has designated chocolate cabinets for the storage of preserved “instant” chocolate beverages, edible chocolates, and hygenic cocoa products; while this cabinet space is shared with similar items for drink, eating, and hygeine, the totality of chocolate’s combination with these other products merely increases the variety by which chocolate’s ritual artifacts are incorporated into daily life.
Chocolate’s transtitional state speaks to the originial liminal state by which the Mayans contextualized their existence around divinity. Chocolate has come full circle in the historical utilizations and perperonderances by which chocolate consumption has been stereotyped, redefined, and ritualized. Through the analysis of F and her family’s cultic ritual habits of chocolate, they are revealed to be the ultimate by-product of a centuries-long polemic that has created a new world religion focused on the ritualized production and consumption, based on an engendered, constructed faith that chocolate is divinely able to elevate the human condition out of the mire of oppression, through psychological and physical restoration of peace, harmony, happiness, and self-satisfaction.
Albritton, R. (2012). Between Obesity and Hunger: The Capitalist Food Industry. In Food and Culture: A Reader (3rd ed., pp. 342-352). S.l.: Routledge.
Allen, L. L. (2010). China and Chocolate: East Meets West. In Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers (pp. 7-39). New York: American Management Association.
Allen, L. L. (2010). Going the Distance: China’s 10L Chocolate Race. In Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers (pp. 201-223). New York: American Management Association.
Allen, L. L. (2010). One Country, Three Centuries. In Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers (pp. 1-6). New York: American Management Association.
Presilla, M. E. (2009). The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes (Revised ed.). Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.
Robertson, E. (2009). Chapter One: ‘A deep physical reason’: Gender, race, and the nation in chocolate consumption. In Chocolate, women and empire: A social and cultural history (pp. 18-63). Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Robertson, E. (2009). Chapter Three: ‘There is no operation involved with cocoa that I didn’t do’: Women’s experiences of cocoa farming. In Chocolate, women and empire: A social and cultural history (pp. 91-131). Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Robertson, E. (2009). Chapter Two: ‘The Romance of the Cocoa Bean’: Imperial and colonial histories. In Chocolate, women and empire: A social and cultural history (pp. 64-90). Manchester: Manchester University Press.
I wanted to open this blog post with a witty sentence introducing my topic, why the era of sexualizing women in advertisements needs to end, and googled ‘sex sells’ for inspiration. The second hit had the following description:
Here is the cold hard truth, “Sex Sells.” Hate it or love it, sex attracts the eye more than any other type of advertisement (Ovsyannykov).
In lieu of this, here is my introduction, albeit angrier and less witty than I had originally intended:
Here is the cold hard truth, we live in a patriarchal society: women currently earn $0.79 to every dollar made by men and it will be another century before gender equality is achieved in top management positions if we continue at the current pace (Bloomberg). Hate it or love it, barriers and obstacles to gender parity are rampant in society, one of the most pervasive being the presentation of women in advertisement as sexual and trivial beings. “Sex sells,” it attracts the eye, capturing the attention of audiences, but it is not the only means of effective advertising. In fact, for products or services that have nothing to do with sex, sexual advertisements can be less effective than non-sexual advertisements (Lynn).
The chocolate industry is plagued by marketing campaigns that marginalize women, depicting them as sexual objects unable to resist the temptation of chocolate. By portraying women in this light, these advertisements are helping to maintain gender stereotypes and harming the mental health of young girls. The chocolate industry, particularly as a non-sexual industry, has a moral obligation to move away from using gendered stereotypes in advertisements.
Chocolate Advertisements: A Gendered Portrayal
In “Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History,” Emma Robertson discusses the portrayal of women in the chocolate industry versus the reality of their position. She traces chocolate from the harvest of the cacao in Africa to production in factories to consumption, and offers that advertising “failed to represent the actual economic, political, and social conditions in which Rowntree and Cadbury products, and ultimately profits, were produced” (Robertson, 19). Women were fetishized as housewives and mothers, shown as irrational narcissistic consumers, and objective as “sexual objects to maintain male morale” (Robertson, 30). Prior to WWII, they were solely depicted in the workplace during wartime although they were responsible for the production of chocolate bars in factories during peace times.
For more examples of the sexualization of women in chocolate advertisements, check out this web page from Carla Martin’s “Bittersweet Notes: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food.”
The Sexualization of Women: Dramatic Effects
By depicting women in such a sexualized way, the chocolate industry is subliminally enforcing the antiquated stereotype that women are objects. This bolsters the current societal inequities and provides supporting evidence to stereotypes. This has a couple noteworthy implications for the workplace: it may make people less likely to inherently trust and support the rise of women in managerial positions, and also can serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Constantly bombarded by the idea that women are meant for the house not office, women can internalize this message and consequentially not try to rise the corporate ranks or stand up for themselves and demand an earned salary/position.
In 2007, the American Psychological Association (APA) published a study that found that the sexualization of women in the media has negative effects on young girls who are exposed to it, effecting cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development (Zurbriggen). Research finds a strong linkage between sexualization and eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression, three of the most commonly diagnosed mental problems in girls and women (Zurbriggen). This means that the take away for young girls viewing the sexy chocolate ads described above is not the product advertised but the characteristics of the oftentimes female model.
Changing the Dialogue: Our Kit Kat Advertisement
In hopes of changing the focus of chocolate advertisements, we chose to recreate a Nestlé Kit-Kat advertisement from the “One-minute break” campaign created by Zoopa, an Italian agency in 2008. Inspired by the “One-Minute Sculptures” of Erwin Wurum, this ad campaign features various professionals in silly positions with a Kit Kat bar. Unlike the featured men who are shown in appropriate workplace clothing, the woman is shown in a revealing skirt with a high front slit even though skirt suits generally have a small slit in the back for the sole purpose of allowing for greater leg mobility when walking. While the painter is shown with brushes and a ladder, the doctor with a stethoscope, and the businessman with a laptop, the woman is shown solely with a rolling chair, an object that does not increase productivity whatsoever, particularly as standing desks become more and more popular in the workplace.
Our advertisement (below on the right; the original advertisement is below on the left) is empowering: we clothed our model in a pantsuit just like the other members of the campaign. The laptop she carries and the added tagline, “Two perfect presentations down, two to go. Have a break, you earned it”, not only stress her professionalism but also the role of Kit-Kats as an enjoyable midday energy-booster. With her head turned, the focus is on the Kit-Kat bar, not the model, with the red packaging standing out starkly against the light backdrop. These changes keep the main intended message from the original advertisement intact, “Have a break. Have a Kit Kat,” while dramatically improving the subliminal message – that women can be powerful agents in the workplace.
Moving Forward: A Moral Obligation
The portrayal of women in advertisements has not naturally followed nor kept pace with the changing social roles of women, and it is time chocolate companies, particularly the Big 5, transform their marketing practices. To encourage change, governments should follow the European Union, who in 2008 passed a resolution urging Member States to honor the ‘European Pact for Gender Equality’ by tackling marketing and advertising (Van Hellemont and Van den Bulck). Specifically, they called on Member States to ensure:
“by appropriate means that marketing and advertising guarantee respect for human dignity and integrity of the person, are neither directly nor indirectly discriminatory nor contain any incitement to hatred based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.”
Although enforcing this type of legislation can be difficult, it can create incentives for change. The resolution suggested Member States create public awards for companies and campaigns that create advertisements emphasizing gender equality. This incentivizes companies by providing them with the opportunity to gain free media attention across a large population. The legislation also starts a dialogue, and public pressure can be the strongest catalyst for change.
The overt sexualization of women is pervasive in current chocolate advertising. This is likely an artifact of the portrayal of chocolate as sinful, which has been common in western culture since its introduction to the European market. Chocolate advertising is, and has been for a long time, problematic in many ways, but the sexism and clear sexual innuendo in its advertising seems both the most frequent abuse as well as the most curious. Chocolate is mostly an impulse purchase in the U.S. and Europe, and is most often purchased by women, so chocolate advertising, understandably, targets women (Martin, Lecture 2016). At the same time, however, the portrayal of women in chocolate ads is often incredibly sexist, and sexualizes them in a way that is expected of ads targeting a mostly male audience.
I have selected three chocolate advertisements that use this form of marketing. The first is a frame from an advertisement for a Cadbury flake bar, in which the viewer intrudes on a young woman eating a Cadbury chocolate flake bar in her bathtub, and presumably having an orgasm. Really, the imagery is so apparent that we don’t actually have to presume that much, if at all. It is understandable that a company would want to advertise a product to women as capable of giving them orgasms, at least on the level of ‘sex sells,’ yet ads like this portray the women as obsessive and sex-crazed, at best, and objects akin to a piece of chocolate at worst. Emma Roberts points out in her book that there is a clear link in advertising between women and sex, and that such advertisements “perpetuate western sexist and racist ideologies under a veneer of pleasurable consumption” (Robertson 2009), yet this is often used to sell products to men. In fact, advertisement research on the topic has shown that women in general respond more negatively to sexual advertisements than men (Dahl, Sengupta, & Vohs 2008). Why would ads for women cross the line from selling sex to women, to selling sex to men and falling into sexist stereotypes?
Below are two more ads that fall into the category of sexualization in a way that targets women and is at the same time offensive to them. In the advertisement of Filthy chocolate, the sinfulness and obsessiveness that often ties women and chocolate together is explicitly written in the text of the advertisement. Further, we can see the woman, clothed in chocolate, in a state of what seems to be intense pleasure, but with her body contorted in an extremely unrealistic way, and which portrays sexuality but not ‘properness.’ That is, it buys into a typical representation of women for male audiences, that aims to portray them as sexual objects, but with some degree of resistance to that sexuality, because are not intended to embrace their sexuality as openly as men can. In the advertisement by dove, it is hard to discern any traceable attempt to appeal to women, other than the fact that a woman is eating the chocolate. The woman holds her mouth and consumes the chocolate in an incredibly sexual way, but is disembodied, without any character, and shows no sign of enjoyment of the action, which the other ads, though problematic, at least are able to achieve. This ad strikes me as completely nonsensical, as it only sexualizes the woman but fails to deliver any convincing evidence that the chocolate will maker her happy.
In our advertisements, my group partner and I decided recreated these advertisements with men eating chocolate in the absurd way that women are portrayed as eating chocolate in many of these ads. It is intended to point out the completely flawed thinking that goes into ads that target women at the same time as stereotyping and objectifying them. First, and most apparently, nobody actually eats chocolate the way that these women are portrayed as eating chocolate. It is actually accepted in the media as not being absurd because people are used to this overt sexualization of women, but our ad points out how absurd it is by showing people very different from incredibly attractive, likely airbrushed, women eating chocolate in this manner. These ads include an attempt to portray the contorted, sexual-yet-shy body language of the ‘Filthy’ chocolate ad, to the apparent orgasm that eating chocolate can give a person. In the context of young men doing these things instead of young women, they seem ridiculous.
“As Britain’s Sexiest Chocolate Ad Hits 40 … It’s Joss – Only the Sultriest, Funkiest Flake Girl.” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2016.
Bui, Quang. Filthy Chocolate Ad Campaign. Digital image. 22 May 2011. Web.
Dahl, D., Sengupta, J., & Vohs, K. (2008). Sex In Advertising: Gender Differences And the Role of Relationship Commitment. Journal of Consumer Research, 215-231.
Mauss, Marcel, and E. E. Evans-Pritchard. The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies. New York: Norton, 1967. Print.
Martin, Carla D. “Lecture 9: Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements.” Aframer 119x. CGIS, Cambridge. 30 Mar. 2016. Lecture.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. 2010. 1-131. Print.
Historically, chocolate has been considered an aphrodisiac, associated with love and sex, and perceived in highly gendered ways, with evidence of this in the Aztec culture and Victorian Era, for example (Martin). Modern advertising narratives, such as the Cadbury Flake ad featuring a woman in a bath, continue these traditional themes associated with chocolate by selling the candy with highly sexualized, erotic images and messages. Chocolate advertisers frequently depict the experience of consuming chocolate as “identical to the pleasure of sex or redeemable for the pleasure of sex” (Anderson). I will examine the Dove ad for their Cranberry Almond Dark Chocolate bar, pictured to the right, and consider how the image, and other chocolate ads, create a harmful narrative around chocolate and female sexuality. Too often, they promote a notion of women as weak objects, who, once exposed to the influence of chocolate, which serves as an alternative to men, are completely powerless.
The Dove ad is not true to the actual product: the cranberry almond bar is not a substitute for sex and it will not incapacitate the woman by providing her with irresistible physical satisfaction. By obscuring the reality of the product and depicting women as easily, irrationally entranced by chocolate, and by extension, as helpless, I contend that ads like this Dove ad are promoting an injurious characterization of women as objects without agency, and without interests beyond satisfying their own pleasure. It is important to consider the effects of these messages on female self-perception, and work to create ads that instead more accurately celebrate chocolate as a tasty sweet, rather than a “sexual surrogate” (Kawash), and women as real people with depth and personality.
Samira Kawash, author of Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure, notes the “overt sexuality” of the Dove ad, which she describes as featuring a “lithe woman caressed by brown silk, writhing in pleasure” (Kawash). Upon first glance, the viewer notices a woman wrapped up in a silky brown material with an expression of pure bliss. Her eyes are closed, her features are soft, and her expression is one of peaceful ecstasy. She is certainly in rapture, but her face has been molded in a way so as to not create a dramatic appearance, so she does not appear too powerful. The ad focuses on the comprehensive sum of the different elements of the image: the woman’s euphoric expression, the silky folds of the fabric, the soft lighting, and the suggestive overlaying words.
Noticeably, the whole advertisement is tinted brown and it is difficult to discern sharp boundaries between the woman’s face, her hair, and the silky cloth that is wrapped around her. Dove has carefully crafted and edited the image so as to make the woman in bed resemble creamy chocolate in hue and texture. It is if chocolate is literally taking over the woman because of its overpowering effect on her. She is a remarkably flat figure and resembles a painted face, rather than an individual with a personality, sense of self, and means of influence.
The words at the bottom of the advertisement further reinforce the overt sexual connotations of the image and characterize the woman as easily seduced and without agency: “Now it can last longer than you can resist. Unwrap. Indulge. Repeat.”
My re-designed ad celebrates women as strong, dynamic beings, and markets Dove chocolate for what it is — a sweet. The new ad focuses on the women’s actions, namely, their decision to go for a bike ride together, rather than their sexual satisfaction. It shows that women are strong and in control; they enjoy adventures, represented through biking, and sweets, presumably chocolate, and will not be manipulated or lulled into an euphoric slumber by a mere candy. Furthermore, I incorporated three women into the advertisement to suggest the social nature of chocolate as a food to be shared among friends, rather than an erotic object or substitute for sex that is enjoyed alone in one’s bed, as the initial advertisement suggests with the shrouded woman. The new slogan, “Now life can be full of adventures and sweets,” promotes chocolate as a delicious addition to an active life, rather than an instrument to prod female sexuality.
Considering that most chocolate, and certainly the “My Dove, My Moment” ad, is targeted at women, the implicit messages of female degradation have a negative effect on self-perception. The re-designed ad takes the opportunity to reach so many female consumers to convey a positive, uplifting message by featuring women who are engaged with the world around them and with one another. Dove chocolate will provide women with “sweet” support in their active lives.
Anderson, L.V. “Cuckoo for Chocolate.” Slate Magazine. Slate.com, 13 Feb 2012. Web.
Founded in 1824, Cadbury is no stranger to controversy and has created a legacy of producing stereotypical, racially insensitive advertisements. A few examples are the infamous Drumming Gorilla (2007); and the Mastication for the Nation (2009). Although these advertisements negatively impacted and offended consumers of color in a hurtful way, the Cadbury brand continued to ignore and exploit the offenses for financial gain. In this instance, Cadbury compared their Dairy Milk Bliss Bar to Naomi Campbell–an iconic supermodel of European nationality and Black ethnicity. Campbell, nationally known, recognized and worshipped for her striking features and beauty, signature runway walk, and flawless brown skin; also became known for having violent physical outbursts and tantrums. It is the latter of Campbell’s reputation that Cadbury used to both explain and defend the source of inspiration for the Bliss Bar advertisement. In my critical analysis, I consider Cadbury’s history of racially inappropriate ads; lack of sensitivity to people of color; and refusal to address and eliminate overarching racist themes in their advertisements. Finally, I create an alternative advertisement, which introduces the three new flavours of the Dairy Milk Bliss Bar, inviting diversity through inclusion.
In 2011, Cadbury ran a campaign to introduce its Dairy Milk Bliss Bar in three new flavors (Chocolate Truffle, Toffee Truffle & Hazelnut Truffle). The image is simple: the Dairy Milk Bliss Bar mounted atop a montage of diamonds. But it is the tagline that sucks the life from its debut launch: “Move over Naomi, there’s a new diva in town.” The lifeless ad drew immediate criticism and was hailed as racist among consumers, civil rights leaders/organizations, and most importantly–Campbell herself. Not only was Campbell “shocked and hurt to see her name next to the chocolate bar,” (Daily Reporter, 2011) but felt that being likened to a chocolate bar was in “poor taste on [many] levels” (TheGuardian). Campbell shamed the ad as an “insult to black women” (TheGuardian). Cadbury, who initially defended the ad, citing its creative inspiration with a “tongue-in-cheek play on her reputation for diva-style tantrums,” (TheGuardian) denied that Campbell’s skin color and ethnicity played any factor. Nevertheless, their explanation did not appease the public or civil rights organizations who called for an apology and boycott of Cadbury, which forced Cadbury (who initially refused) to issue an apology to Campbell, her family, and consumers–later pulling the ad.
As the old saying goes: ‘this ain’t their first rodeo!’ That said, I find Cadbury’s apology to be disingenuous. Even if their claim to “poke fun” at Campbell’s “diva” tantrums is true, the word diva itself is a sexist, misogynistic term, used to describe a woman who is demanding, hard to work with, temperamental and superior. Furthermore, was Campbell the only celebrity making headlines for bad behavior? According to FOX News, and US Weekly Magazine, the majority of 2010 and 2011’s biggest celebrity meltdowns were by white men. So why did Cadbury choose to target Campbell specifically? Furthermore, why was her behavior significant enough to warrant a national advertising campaign as opposed to other celebrities? Lastly, how did the connotation of the tagline connect with other sociohistorical themes and stereotypes?
Historically and in present day society, dark colored chocolate is associated with wickedness and impurity; whereas white chocolate is associated with goodness and purity. This is a historical perception that is deified in racism. In the Bliss Bar ad, the chocolate bar is surrounded by white diamonds and a bright-colored background. I believe the imagery was created to distract from the dark, wicked perception of chocolate in contrast with what is acceptable and desirable. In another equally racist and misogynistic chocolate advertisement which appeared in the British editions of women’s global magazines: African women with dark chocolate skin were pictured with a tagline themed “women with attitude,” (Leissle, p. 124) despite the fact that there was no “attitude” upon their countenance. In a world dominated by white men, women have historically been objectified to sell products. However, women of color are usually typecast with themes of negativity or aggression, while white women are cast as well-mannered, welcoming and desirable.
As women of color, there is also a deeper, complex issue that factors into racism: colorism. In colorism, people of color with lighter skin are perceived as more favorable and desirable; where people of darker skin are perceived as less favorable, undesirable and aggressive. These false stereotypes carry deep ancestral history. Although Campbell’s public persona may have contributed to the Bliss Bar ad, the narrative was intended to objectify her skin color and ethnicity in a way that was unfavorable and undesirable.
In my advertisement, I create an invitation for the world to be introduced to the Bliss Bars new flavours. I intentionally excluded all references to race, sex and ethnicity for the purposes of objectifying our common love and desire for chocolate. By choosing to focus on our commonalities and shared love for chocolate, we all feel included. My wish for Cadbury is that they eliminate the racial undertones and narratives of their advertisements. Thereby, choosing to task themselves in becoming aware and sensitized to why people of color feel exploited, humiliated and dehumanized by their advertisements. Inasmuch, their most racially offensive ads have been created by an agency, Fallon, who clearly lacks sensitivity to racist connotations, imagery and historical context. Maybe therein lies an arrogant resistance to humility and responsibility. Perhaps Cadbury should allow Campbell to stay… and invite Fallon to ‘move over.’ Permanently.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Outside of models seductively pressing squares of milk chocolate to lips with a playful look and women with dark satiny fabrics outlining their curves in the name of chocolate bars, there is another stereotype being framed for women by chocolate company advertisements that is less loud and glamorous than the sexualization in chocolate advertising, but still problematic. For more than a century, and still in the present, chocolate companies have advertised their products to mothers as nutritional food products to feed children. The role of chocolate buying as a part of motherhood has historically been portrayed to consumers through advertising once as a nutritional obligation for mothers who want to nurture their families well, and later on as a way to appease children and husbands and be the best kind of mother. These messages, while less obvious today, can still be picked up on from commercials, especially for chocolate milk, and while some advertising has moved on to include women in roles outside of motherhood, chocolate milk industries still seems to fetishize the housewife role (Martin, Lecture 7, Slide 25).
The identity of women as mothers and housewives in chocolate advertisements became this controversial way after chocolate became less of a luxury and more commonplace through improved packaging, preparing, and distributing (Martin, Lecture 7, Slide 6). Chocolate was no longer for male-dominated chocolate houses, and instead being pushed to consumers as an energy-renewing and restorative snack and household necessity (Martin, Lecture 7, Slide 25). Industrialization of chocolate manufacturing made it more available to families for buying, and it became apparent to chocolate companies that they should advertise to the mothers of children buying food for their young ones. Shortly after, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, teaching women domestic skills became extremely popular, as evidenced by cookbooks by Maria Parloa and Fannie Farmer (Martin, Brownies). As a result, chocolate companies shifted to advertising their products to women, and encouraging them to feed their children and husbands chocolate as a healthful food (Robertson, 20).
Those creating these advertisements saw housewives as their target customers and in their advertising, showed these women as the family members in charge of the domestic jobs of food shopping and feeding children, and this influences the way mothers are portrayed in a hugely domestic role in chocolate milk advertising today. One example is the TruMoo commercial below.
In this advertisement from TruMoo, the woman considering the product is cast in a specific role that is not very different from the target audience of chocolate advertising in the past century.
This shows that even today, mothers are a target audience for many chocolate drink advertisements. These commercials still appeal to the concerned emotions mothers have for the health of their families. Boasting fortifying vitamins and energetic properties, chocolate milk commercials tell moms that they should feed their children chocolate milk if they have their health in mind. In these advertisements, young ones look to moms with wide, approving, grins while swirling Hershey’s and Nesquik. The companies are marketing children’s approval alongside the healthful benefits of the products vitamins and minerals. The role women play in grocery stores, pushing carts, and making important decisions about brands, health, and prices is a historic and sexist storyline women which chocolate companies have chosen to use. As ultimate grocery decision-maker, women in these commercials do not have jobs or interests or lives outside of the light we see them in, a strict domestic, housewife sort of role. Ultimately, the TruMoo commercial mother listens to “the voice of reason” angelic advice and decides on TruMoo. Her son’s satisfaction suggests to women (and their children) that buying TruMoo makes women nurturing and fun moms.
An alternative I’d like to see? Dads shopping. Moms and dads shopping together. Two moms shopping together. Grandpas and grandmas and uncles and aunts shopping. I’ve included an example of a response to all of the shopping moms are doing in chocolate milk advertisements. In it, parents visit the grocery store together alongside their child, and both have a say in the approval and denial of supermarket products.
Besides the unbridled obsession with mothers that chocolate milk advertisements seem to have, what this response advertisement also addresses is the manipulative way the commercials portray chocolate milk as a wholesome treat for growing kids. Today, advertisements like the TruMoo one included in this post boast vitamins, minerals, and other dietary bonuses. Like Rowntree’s adverts from almost a century ago, TruMoo and other chocolate milk advertisers appeal to moms’ concern for the health and nutrition of her family. It is an effective marketing ploy, but duplicitous, indeed: a glass of chocolate milk can have more sugar than a can of soda (Martin, Lecture 9, Slide 23).
It also is an old technique of chocolate companies. Rowntree cocoa sold itself to mothers as “more bone and muscle-building than ordinary cocoa” (Robertson, 21). The company aimed to sell to mothers in this manipulative way, deciding that women were the “purchasing agent” they had to win over by tapping into their desires to nurture their families and husbands (Robertson, 20). This sounds cringy and sexist, but what TruMoo and other chocolate milk sellers are campaigning with the “health benefits” in their own products, combined with the supermarket-mom scene is not far at all from Rowntree’s manipulative principles. My advertisement counteracts this message by selling the chocolate as a fun and special occasion treat, which is still enjoyable, instead of as a nutritional form of sustenance, which sugary chocolate cannot be when eaten in access.
One way these gendered advertisements are being changed, but not necessarily for the good, is through Hershey’s recent advertisement which includes a father and his daughter enjoying chocolate together. While this advertisement is a shift from chocolate marketing normally aimed toward women and children, and instead toward men (specifically dads!) and their kids, it still does so in a way that shows dad, who is absorbed in Skype conference calls and too busy to leave work to spend time with his eager daugher, as the breadwinner. The man in this commercial never leaves his house to grocery shop for Hershey’s, and instead his daughter purchases chocolate for the two to share. While this advertisement refrains from the traditional chocolate advertisement portrayal of women as the housewives and domestic gurus, its storyline with a father still casts the man as the working parent. He is completely uninvolved in the nutritional and health concerns for his daughter in his role as her parent, like a mother in so many chocolate commercials might.
In an age where the awareness of these advertising messages and the roles in which women are portrayed are scrutinized and considered more than in Rowntree’s advertising days, it is still a shame to think of the sexist ideologies in chocolate commercials like TruMoo’s and Hershey’s. And while the examples of women fetishized in housewife roles and men as breadwinners is less conspicuous, it is absolutely prevalent and problematic.