Tag Archives: white women

“A White Woman Dipped in Chocolate” Misogynoir and Cocoa Throughout History

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 infamous tweet depicting mixed-race Meghan Markle as a chocolate-covered marshmallow

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).

Aspirational chocolate advertisements, such as this image from the 1970s, continued into the late 20th century

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).

Early 20th century Cadbury advertisement

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).

Honeybunch and “real” white consumers

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.

A 2004 ice cream advertisement conceived in Brazil

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.

The “Beauty Bakerie” website

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).

Sources:

Anyangwe, E. (2015, October 5). Misogynoir: where racism and sexism meet. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/oct/05/what-is-misogynoir

Fountain, A and Friedel, H. (2018). Cocoa Barometer

Harris, F.C. (2014). The Rise of Respectability Politics. Dissent 61(1), 33-37. doi:10.1353/dss.2014.0010.

Mpinja, B. (2018, July 23). Why Makeup Artist Pat McGrath Is the Self-Made Beauty Billionaire We Need. Retrieved from https://www.allure.com/story/pat-mcgrath-self-made-billionaire-success

Phillip, N. (2018, October 23). My Very Personal Taste of Racism Abroad. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/23/travel/racism-travel-italy-study-abroad.html

Oliver, D. (2015, September 10). Iman Opens Up About Deeply Upsetting Career Moment. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/iman-racism-fashion-industry_n_55f02b31e4b002d5c0775000

Polanyi, karl. The great transformation: the political and economic origins of our time. Boston: bEACON, 2001. Prin

Prinzivalli, L. (2019, May 21). Why Makeup Artist Pat McGrath Grew Up Using Cocoa Powder as Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.allure.com/story/pat-mcgrath-cocoa-powder-foundation-dark-skin-tone-shades

Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History.

Team, V. E. R. V. E. (2018, September 4). Feminist Facts: What is Misogynoir? Retrieved from https://medium.com/verve-up/feminist-facts-what-is-misogynoir-5392c29d6aab

Sexy Chocolate: How white women and black men are aphrodisiacs in advertising

Axe’s Dark Temptation commercial (2008) portrays a young white man who morphs into a “chocolate man” with brown skin, an exaggerated smile and bulging eyes after using the body spray. He then walks around a city while young thin white women scramble to snap his arm off, aggressively lick and bite his ears, and seem controlled by their cravings for chocolate/his body. They have no hesitations about consuming him and do not ask for permission to touch him. He seems in on the joke; at one point he breaks off his nose and sprinkles it into two white women’s ice cream cones without asking, because he already assumes their reaction will be delight and ecstasy. Even though the chocolate man is carnally exploited by white female desire, his plastered smile underlines that this is exactly what he wanted, and that is why he used the product in the first place. Despite that this commercial does not advertise a chocolate product, the fact that chocolate is used as a vessel to advertise the deodorant is significant in understanding how Western society conflates race and sexual desire, masculinity, heterosexual relationships, and chocolate as a food.

The commercial operates on the stereotype that women cannot resist chocolate and therefore will not be able to resist men who use this dark temptation spray. This is even literally written on their website advertising the fragrance today (2015).

axead

This trope has been done again and again in chocolate advertising involving young white women; it is implied that chocolate is something that they irrationally, orgasmically enjoy, and that in exchange for affection from these women, men should give them chocolate products (as evidenced by Valentine’s Day marketing).

http://bittersweetnotes.com/1642-valentines-day-women-being-seduced-by-chocolate

The blatant undertones of race take center stage in this ad; the chocolate man looks like a classic minstrel blackface stereotype, and the exaggerated smile has a history in chocolate advertisements such as the French company Banania’s ads that echo the Uncle Tom motif, a black man content with his exploitation for the pleasure of white consumption. There is also a history of black bodies posing as literal chocolate snacks for white cravings in Western advertising (i.e. Little Coco and Honeybunch from Rowntree’s Cocoa in the U.K., Conguitos in Spain), so this Axe storyline is nothing new (Robertson 42-44).

blackface     “classic” minstrel make-upScreen shot 2015-04-10 at 9.41.38 PM (screenshot of video above)

 

banana  Uncle Tom imagery  (France)

Axe is simply following tradition (i.e. Old Spice) by conflating the black male body with white female sexual desire and white male longing and envy when marketing their product. Axe is operating on the idea that in order to obtain the sexual attention of white women one must acquire “dark” characteristics (the product’s name isn’t even “Chocolate Temptation”—it’s “Dark Temptation.”) This ad shows that American society has a long way to go concerning portrayals of white women serving as the ultimate “trophy” for male sexual desire and black male bodies as sexual, hyper-masculine objects in chocolate advertising.

The second advertisement is for a fictional perfume for women called “White Chocolate Truffle” with the tagline “Anything but Vanilla”.

2sexy

The image of a young, curvy white woman wearing a revealing evening gown while unwrapping and eating a white chocolate truffle already echoes many themes already mentioned in this essay; white female beauty, lust, and chocolate products are all fused together, and the presence of the evening gown implies wealth and upper class status. White skin, specifically white female skin, has long been associated with quality and high social capital.  Here intersectionality plays an important role (Martin Lecture 16 Slide 11)—for even though her white skin is historically viewed as superior and desirable, she is still a woman, and ultimately in many chocolate advertisements her body itself is a commodity to be consumed, not unlike the truffle in her hand, or the implied truffles popping out of her neckline waiting to be “unwrapped” and enjoyed.

nakey

Commodification of women’s bodies (vimeo)

The message is clear: Women need to buy this perfume to smell like white chocolate—a desirable, sweet treat so they can smell as appealing/be as appealing as this sexy woman eating an actual white chocolate truffle, with curves that mimic the truffle shape of the candy to be consumed to satisfy another type of desire (male desire), yet again drawing a connection between receiving heterosexual attention by becoming more like a chocolate product.

Whereas the Axe commercial may be seem odd at best, offensive at worst to 2015 viewers, the White Chocolate Truffle ad looks like something we have all seen before in magazines, and could easily star a buxom white celebrity such as Christina Hendricks, Scarlett Johansson, or Marilyn Monroe, which brings up other complicated issues. White women who showcase their curvy bodies are associated with glamour, class and sex appeal in Hollywood, whereas women of color with round bodies in many cases are criticized for being overly promiscuous or classless for displaying their curves (one just has to look at the backlash for the recent cover art for Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda album to understand the double standard.) (Duca).

 

red

 

dolce

 

vintageboobs

booty

Why is society not offended when white curves are showcased? Would a milk chocolate truffle ad using Nicki’s curves be effective? 

This taps into Western cultural associations with the words “vanilla” and “chocolate” and their conflation with blandness, boringness, pure, clean, and whiteness and spiciness, exciting qualities, dirty, naughty, and people of color. This ad is communicating that this perfume is “anything but vanilla”, implying the user will be the opposite of vanilla–like chocolate—embodying the scandalous, sexually titillating qualities that chocolate (people of color) supposedly imbibe, but still while staying safely within the privilege of being white, and therefore “classy”, and like cocoa butter, sweeter and without as strong a kick. (Martin Lecture 16 Slide 12). The metaphorical imagery is allowing the white female consumer to become sexier and more sexual through the means of chocolate, while still safely and demurely playing up to common images of white female sexuality.

Ultimately, both white women and black men are consistently portrayed as sexual objects in chocolate advertising. Time will tell if this trend will continue.

Works Cited (in order of appearance)

“Dark Temptation” 10 April 2015. http://www.theaxeeffect.com/#/axe-products/dark-temptation-body-spray

Robertson, Emma. “Does you mean dis?: cocoa marketing and race”. Chapter 1: “A deep physical reason: gender, race, and the nation in chocolate consumption. Chocolate, Women, and Empire A Social and Cultural History. Manchester University Press. New York. pages 35-44.

Blackface. February 6, 2014. Hulton Archive Image. banana1015.com 10 April 2015.

Banania, French Chocolate Drink. Image. Slide 13, Lecture 16: Race, ethnicity, and gender in chocolate advertisements. March 30, 2015. AAAS 119x, Carla Martin. Harvard University.

Conguitos, Spanish Chocolate Candies. Video. Slide 14, Lecture 16: Race, ethnicity, and gender in chocolate advertisements. March 30, 2015. AAAS 119x, Carla Martin. Harvard University.

White Chocolate Truffle Ad original work of Julie Coates, conceived by Julie Coates and Dami Aladesanmi.

Six Basic Tenets of Critical Race Theory. Slide 11, Lecture 16. Race, ethnicity, and gender in chocolate advertisements. March 30, 2015. AAAS 119x, Carla Martin. Harvard University.

Naked lady covered in chocolate. https://vimeo.com/6742298

Christina Hendricks advertisement. 20 Sept 2014. http://www.dailymail.co.uk./tvshowbiz/article-2074214. 10 April 2015.

Scarlett Johansson Gallery. mobile.fanshare.com. 10 April 2015.

“Marilyn Monroe voted cleavage queen.” http://www.santabanta.com/newsmaker/3892. Image.

Duca, Lauren. “Nicki Minaj’s ‘Anaconda’ Cover Reveals Something Way Bigger than Her Butt”. HuffPost Entertainment. 31 July 2014. Huffington Post. 10 April 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/30/middlebrow-nicki-minaj_n_5635394.html

Chocolate and Vanilla. Slide 12.Lecture 16. Race, ethnicity, and gender in chocolate advertisements. March 30, 2015. AAAS 119x, Carla Martin. Harvard University.