Monday, January 3, 2011

A smooth, rich, creamy, intense dose of sexism

So I want to talk about a few commercials I’ve seen recently. Typically in advertisements, women are displayed as being sexual and/or objectified, or it's usually as a nagging partner, the naive partner, or very strict motherhood (cleaning, caring) roles. This can also shift and change when you intersect race and size and the product, but those tend to be the general images.

The commercials I want to talk about are the Ghirardelli chocolate and York Peppermint Patty. Here is a link to the Ghirardelli and here is a link to an older York Peppermint Patty commercial  , and here is a link to the newest one that I saw (it’s not on YouTube).

I have quite a few issues to point out in these commercials. Firstly, it’s women being portrayed as having a sexual experience from eating. This sexual experience comes from food. It puts women hand in hand with an object, something that you pick off a menu and enjoy, creating that image by association. This also plays off of the "XYZ object inserted into woman's mouth is something she will enjoy and induce an orgasm. You don't need to discuss what this woman likes sexually, just any (literal) thing will do."

Additionally, despite the fact they're usually alone (the only person in the ad) these women need something else to make them sexual (the food), and that is something inserted into them. We might consider the whole "Oh, women love chocolate!" mentality when you look at multiple chocolate advertisements. "Let me buy her some chocolate, it'll get her in the mood, and then I'll give it to her, obviously."

These ads also prescribe a specific type of look regarding a sexual or orgasmic experience. Fingers in the mouth (as opposed to chewing or eating), licking the lips, goose bumps, open mouthed (again, as opposed to eating), arched back, shocked expression, heavy breathing, big eyes, hair flying back, etc. So, not only is this not what happens when you eat a simple piece of chocolate, it's neither what might happen when you orgasm or are aroused.

This is a typical occurrence, but it’s important to note that the types of women being displayed (sexually) are incredibly thin and incredibly white. (And always with luscious lips.) I highly doubt that if a woman who wasn't very thin was in this commercial, because of how our society mistakenly views health and body fat percentage and beauty, the commercial would have been received the same way. "It's okay to enjoy chocolate because you're thin, in the same way that it's okay to be sexual when you're thin. Otherwise? Not wanted.” 

It's also important to note that these advertisements usually involve commands. This is obvious considering it's supposed to get you to buy something, but because it is displaying women in this specific way, the message changes from "everybody should enjoy this chocolate" to a direct order towards women or how people are supposed to understand women. "Women, you need to get this sensation" / "Men, women want to receive this sensation" or "Women, you want an intense [chocolate] experience? An intense, slow melting, rich, smooth, silky one? Enjoy it slowly… So don't enjoy it quickly, and when you do eat it, you should enjoy it for the reasons we mentioned."

We are told that, as women, enjoying food is supposed to be a sexual experience. We are told that in order to be sexual, we need some help, we can’t do it alone. We are told that in order to enjoy food and/or be sexual we need to look and act a specific way. With all these problems in mind, I find it an even bigger problem that this sexism is being openly displayed under the guise of “just an innocent food commercial.” At the end of the day, they’re using women’s bodies in a specific way not only to prescribe specific things about our bodies and women as people, but to also sell their product. What does that say about the company and the product? Like that popular image, if the product was so good, it wouldn’t need sexism to sell it. If this chocolate was so yummy for my tummy, it wouldn’t need to objectify women to sell it.

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