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Following on from ‘If Eating Makes You Feel Guilty It Might Just Be Staying On Your Hips‘, you might be interested in how the environment and the media can contribute to your choice of food. And, have you noticed how the advertisers have gendered food?

You probably know this without knowing you know it. For example, think about the Yorkie Bar. Okay not for too long, but what are your initial thoughts about this particular chocolate bar? The adverts usually have a fully-clothed, alpha male-type driving a truck. It’s either late at night or early morning, he’s tired, he’s hungry, he needs sustenance. So he takes out his Yorkie; unwraps the first couple of squares, and with a big grin takes an exaggerated bite out of it. Oh the satisfaction! It’s big, it’s chunky and it’s just for the boys. Sorry girls!

That particular media campaign has changed over the years, with one 21st century advert replacing the man with a girl disguised as a male builder (fake moustache to boot), because even she knows that being male is really the only way to get one. In fact, it’s such a male-only chocolate bar that a recent wrapper came with the warning “It’s NOT for girls”, which Mills (2003) in her paper on ‘Third Wave Feminist Linguistics and the Analysis of Sexism’ argues that it is ‘indirect sexism’. What do you think?

As an advertiser, by deliberately targeting men for what is arguably a gender-neutral product you risk alienating 50% of the population. However, in the UK that figure represents 60% of the population, because the 2011 census indicates that “women outnumber men by almost a million”… with “27.6 million men registered, compared with 28.5 million women”. So let’s hear it for the girls!

Nestle’s official line on their website regarding the Yorkie is simply referred to as “a delicious treat for the family“. No argument with that. Maybe it’s their way of encouraging the person who prefers that particular chocolate bar in any household to share it?

About turn now for the female only Cadburys Flake. Hands off my Flake boys!

Flake. Image credit to Bodo

Can you remember the words of the song? “Only the crumbliest, flakiest chocolate, tastes like chocolate never tasted before”. Boy can I belt that one out!

Flake was making curves in the headlines from the late sixties. Unlike the fully-clothed Yorkie man, the Flake woman was usually more scantily-clad. Instead of a quick, hungry, bite into this bar, the emphasis here is on the slow, sensual, oral delight of eating. Freudian slip anyone?

Bordo (1993) corroborates with this Freudian connotation and suggests that in our modern culture, the act of a woman eating is equated with her ‘sexually devouring a man’. You have to admit, it’s evident this tactic was used to elicit maximum suggestive effect in the Flake adverts. But if just a one minute advert of a woman enjoying a chocolate bar generates all of this sexual, mouth-watering attention, it’s probably no surprise that an hour-long TV programme of finger-licking Nigella has earned her the title of ‘the queen of cookery porn’. I’d be happy to cook with Nigella any day, and isn’t ‘Domestic Goddess’ a much nicer title?

Is this gendered advertising simply sidelining us into thinking that women who might have a healthy appetite and reach for the larger, chunkier chocolate bar are somehow outside of the ‘norm’? Is our culture still uncomfortable with the female appetite? Cairns et al’s 2010 research suggested that if a woman is interested and enjoys food (a ‘foodie’) she may have to silence, or at least curtail her passion about it. It appears our culture can still only handle regular-sized women, who have the ability to ‘constrain and control’ their appetites. So that begs the question then? How does our society handle the man who chooses the Flake?

Bordo, S. (1993) Unbearable Weight; Feminism Western Culture and the Body, Berkley, University Of California Press.

Cairns, K., Johnston, J., Baumann, S., (2010), Caring About Food: Doing Gender in the Foodie Kitchen, Gender and Society, 2010 . 24 No. pp. 591-615 [Online]. Sage CA: Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications, Inc

First Published on Platform 505 in June, 2014