Representations of Women’s Indulgence in Advertising

By: Katrina

While reading Bordo’s Hunger as an Ideology, the concept that struck me as most obvious is the representation of a woman’s indulgence as illicit, secretive, and often sexual. Upon investigating advertisements that show women indulging in some kind of food, I found that most ads were directed at diet foods or healthier snacks that help to curb cravings.

This commercial for Special K chocolatey cereal shows a woman, alone, fighting her intense craving for chocolate. But, like the average American woman, she is constantly dieting and doesn’t want to “undo her whole day” of eating healthy foods and suppressing her cravings:

Similarly, this commercial for Dannon Light and Fit Yogurt depicts a young women who cannot control her craving for…healthy yogurt. She is seen stocking up her cart with Light and Fit that only has eighty calories. The woman–weak in mind and self-control–cannot stop herself from tearing open the yogurt while still inside the grocery store and sucking the whole thing down within a matter of seconds. The creepy smile and licking of lips at the end of the indulgence has not only a sexual connotation but also a shameful, “I just did something bad” appeal:

The Dove Chocolate “Only Human” campaign is especially interesting. The commercial attempts to reach the average women by saying, “although women think they can handle everything that comes their way, sometimes they need to give themselves a break and indulge.” While this commercial appears to send a different message than most food advertisements directed at women, a closer inspection of the ad reveals classic tropes.

While the commercial claims to support a woman’s indulgence every now and then, the commercial still limits the amount of indulgence severely (seriously? One tiny chocolate?) and depicts only beautiful, shapely, and stylish women as deserving of indulgence. Also, as always, the woman indulges alone in secrecy.

However, advertisements that featured men had almost the opposite message.Take for example two different commercials for Applebee’s under 550 calorie meals. One commercial features a group of men, and another shows a group of women going out to eat at Applebees.



The differences are quite apparent. The men order “manly” dishes; burgers and ribs. When one man decides to try one of the lower calorie dishes that Applebees is advertising, he is met with snickers mockery. The others in the group insinuate that he is not acting with masculinity, not eating as a man should.

On the other hand, all the women enter the restaurant with the intention to stick to their new year’s resolutions of controlling cravings and showing caloric restraint. While it’s subtle, the noises of satisfaction and anticipation the women make have a sexual connotation to them. With the group of men, there is no sexual suggestion whatsoever.





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One Response to Representations of Women’s Indulgence in Advertising

  1. Pingback: Model Entries – Previous Terms | Popular Culture

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