Why A “Just For Women” Chocolate Bar Gives Me a Toothache
Sales of chocolate are reportedly down 6.6 percent at Cadbury because women are buying less: What’s a candy company to do?
Make a product just for that demographic (women) — with fewer calories (165) than ye typical candy bar’s 260 – because, as a company spokesman tells the Daily Mail,
The mix of wafer and chocolate is a lighter way to eat chocolate and we know from experience that women are attracted to this particular format.
It will also appeal to women because it is in three separate portions so they can consume a little at a time rather than in one go.
That’s right. Not only is Cadbury telling woman that its new Crispello bar is “a little treat for you,” it’s telling women how they can best go about eating this new “gynocentric” product. It’s even invested about $10 million in a marketing campaign to that end.
What makes Crispello “for women” is, says Cadbury, that it has “three curved crispy wafer shells, each one filled with a smooth creamy center, dipped in Cadbury milk chocolate” in a resealable package. The idea seems to be that women will want to eat only one piece at a time because of their dainty appetites or because they have to watch those calories?
What’s Wrong About Cadbury’s “For Women” Candy Bar
Business Week spells out why the Crispello is offensive. As marketing consultant Joan Steuer says, telling women how to eat their food is a “bit of a no-no” as “women have an emotional relationship with chocolate, it’s the most emotional food on the planet. We don’t need to be told what to do with our chocolate. We’ll do the opposite.” From the Cadbury spokesman’s comments to the Crispello’s packaging, this candy bar is simply condescending.
Cadbury has also made the fatal error of presuming that all women have similar eating habits. Emma Barnett of the Telegraph notes that people and women “fail to fit into little boxes quite so neatly as they once did”; both candy bar and the accompanying marketing campaign are reaching back a few decades and are “unbelievably retro.” The Crispello plays right into long-established, hopelessly outdated gender stereotypes, says Barnett, in contrast to the marketing campaign for another candy bar, Nestlé’s Yorkie which deliberately played with gender roles:
The Yorkie bar approach of yesteryear – which was marketed with the slogan ‘It’s not for girls’ featuring truckers chowing down – did seem rather tongue in cheek – and if anything made women enjoy eating the forbidden bar spurred on out of mock rebellion. And because of this funny approach, neither gender really felt excluded from buying it.
It might seem excessive to devote so much energy to criticizing a candy bar, whoever it is targeted for. But the case of the Crispello raises questions about anything denoted as “just for women.”
To take another example, do we still need “women’s pages” in media publications?
Are “Just For Women” Products Totally Passé?
Natalie Guest considers this question in the New Statesman, in asking whether the Telegraph‘s new “Wonder Women” section is warranted. Emma Barnett (whom I quoted above) is its editor; as she writes in a blog post, Wonder Women is meant (1) to be “playful” and not too serious about itself; (2) to take into account the fact that many women “feel as if they are wonder women, before even having children, as they continue to do the majority of the housework and ‘womanly chores’ gals always did – while keeping down a full-time job; and (3) to play into the idea of ”wondering about things and wanting to learn about new people and stories.”
It all sounds very good but, as Guest points out, after two days of publication, Wonder Women fell right into “old bad habits” with its “Board Babe” series. The title of this series, written by “anonymous high-powered woman,” made me cringe immediately and no wonder. The first article, “Secret Diary: Our Board Babe on Naked Ambition,” offers “misogyny masquerading as empowerment,” says Guest:
Despite our writer having ascended to the top levels of the boardroom, she’s still referred as a “babe,” a term that both sexualises and infantilises at once. Her ambition is “naked”; as is she, underneath that trouser suit – because just in case you’d forgotten, women are there to be looked at.
Guest concludes that there is a place and a need for women’s pages. But they need to be “progressive, not regressive” and focus on “what we are, and what we want to be, instead of on what we used to be made to be.” They need to be about all the things that women can be and can do that have yet to be acknowledged, yet alone written about.
Women’s pages most certainly do not need to reinforce worn-out stereotypes about “what women want” or come with instructions about how they should be used. As social media consultant B.L. Ochman says in Business Week, “Products aimed at women always seem to treat women more like children than thinking adults.” Clearly Cadbury needs to realize this is the 21st century when women can buy whatever chocolate bar they want and eat it too — and that, should they want to, they can also just skip the candy aisle in search of something more fulfilling.
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Photo by Chocolate Review