This is the first in a three-part series about women and advertising.
There are plenty of advertisements that target women while featuring low fat or low calorie foods and snacks. Special K is among those. In many of the commercials they claim that healthy eating is the overall message, but this is not true. Often their message is that women should feel guilty about their eating habits — so guilty that they should switch to Special K.
Many of these advertisements are the same. Women are either struggling to get into a pair of skinny jeans (it is always skinny jeans) or a cocktail dress. Or they are hungry, even possibly starving as they stare at muffins, chips, and other fatty snacks. Then guilt takes over and that is when Special K steps in with its promise of happiness and delicious low-calorie, low-fat snacks.
In one of the advertisements, a woman says: “3 o’clock, my daily meeting with a salty snack, and then at 3:15, with my guilt.” The narrator then states, “New Special K cracker chips, 27 crispy chips, 110 delicious calories.”
Another, perhaps more subtle (at least until the end), Special K commercial depicts a women watching TV in her apartment. She feels the urge to eat some chocolate, but then comes to her senses as she walks over to the pantry and pulls out a box of Special K cereal. “For nights like these, there’s Special K chocolatey delight cereal. So you can get your chocolatey fix, without undoing your whole day.” The commercial ends with the slogan, “The guilty pleasure.”
Another Special K commercial for the same chocolatey delight cereal states it simply: “What’s the difference between indulging and over-indulging? Now you know. The difference is K!”
Not only should women not over-indulge (whatever that means), but they should feel extremely guilty about their eating habits. Sure, eating healthy is important, but should “over-indulging” equal extreme guilt? Perhaps Special K is super delicious, but the advertisements stink. Rather than actually eating chips and chocolate, women should endure a lifetime of cardboard-looking crackers and cereal with some chocolate shavings in it.
The overall slogan for Special K is, “What will you gain when you lose?” If women were not told to feel so overwhelmingly guilty over their food choices and their bodies, then perhaps they would not only have to lose in order to gain something. Special K insinuates that its low-fat and low-calorie diet will somehow “save” women, reduce their guilt, and make them feel better about themselves. Women who indulge are not portrayed as feminine. Instead, women who control their bodies and shape them according to the prevailing views of femininity are “true” to themselves and to their gender — a sort of policing of how women should be and how they should look. What would make us feel better is to not be bombarded with advertisements that tell us that we will be more appreciated, and appreciate ourselves more, by losing weight.