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Health and Sanity

Valentina Nicolae
Journalist
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piqer: Valentina Nicolae
Tuesday, 12 February 2019

What Chocolate Can Tell Us About Women's History

“You can trace women’s history in the 20th century in the US through chocolate ads. It shows women’s level of social mobility and their relationship to men.”

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, this episode of Stuff Your Mom Never Told You takes on the matter of chocolate and the stereotype about women’s alleged lack of will power to resist it. Is there any truth to it? (As someone who craves chocolate once in a blue moon, I can tell you there isn’t.) And how exactly did this food item become so gendered and eroticized?

We learn that since the early days of its discovery in Mesoamerica chocolate had sexual connotations (the Aztecs ate it off each other’s bodies during sex). When it was brought to Europe it was seen as an aphrodisiac, and people went so far as to believe that it gets a woman pregnant. As with many foods brought from the New World, chocolate was at first reserved for the nobility, and it communicated status and upper class femininity. However, come the Industrial Revolution, it became a common good, and working men out there – specifically targeted by advertisers – were buying chocolates for their ladies to show their love. Things started to change during the Progressive Era, what with the rise of the suffragette movement, so women were now told that it’s ok to crave chocolate and it’s ok to indulge yourself. But along with the green light to eat sweets came a not-so-subtle push for dieting and for feeling guilty about treating yourself to what you like—Lucky Strike advised women to reach for a cigarette instead of a chocolate bar, in order to keep their figure. 

The last part of the episode is reserved for discussing the attempt to attach a self-empowerment message to chocolate during the 2000s and for a most necessary conversation about issues of racism in advertising it. 

What Chocolate Can Tell Us About Women's History
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