Calorie-free sweeteners might sound great, but many of them are actually chemically altered, and all of them are contributing to the collective cultural goal to eventually subsist on, well…nothing. Given that, it came as no big surprise to me that one of these companies, Sugar in the Raw, has a new commercial that takes a swing at what they seem to think are women’s normal eating behaviors. Take a look:
Where to begin. The man is (woefully, cluelessly) shopping for a woman in his life, perhaps his wife. At the start, he takes minor comfort in recognizing the kind of sugar that she usually sprinkles on her morning grapefruit, thinking his search is over.
But no! He then is gripped with a burning question – is she in fact eating sugar this week?!
Next comes my favorite part, when in an attempt to rationalize the decision to get the regular sugar, he recalls that his wife had pizza this week. If she ate pizza, then sugar must be OK. Sugar and pizza = bad. So if she’s eating one bad thing this week, perhaps she’s also giving in to another? But wait – he then quickly checks himself by remembering that she blotted it with a napkin.
What an equation: Eat pizza = regular sugar is OK. Blots pizza with napkin = only calorie-free sugar is acceptable. I think I’ve got it. It couldn’t possibly be more complicated than that, right?
Oh, but it is, as the man soon discovers. If he buys the calorie-free sweetener and it’s not what she wanted, he reasons, his wife will think he’s calling her fat. Why else would you buy calorie-free sweetener, other than to subtly tell your partner that you think she’s fat? (Incidentally, if someone does buy you calorie-free sweetener and tells you they did so because you could stand to lose some pounds, I’d say the lack of tact calls the relationship into question.) What a quandary!
Standing in the middle of the grocery store, this man is trying to remember what approach his wife is taking to food this week. Normal = she ate that pizza. Abnormal and reductive = she blotted the oil off of the pizza, and shoot, I can’t remember if she sprinkled sugar on that morning grapefruit. He definitely doesn’t want her to think he’s calling her fat, but he doesn’t want to end up in trouble because she doesn’t think he’s taking her calorie-restricting seriously, either!
According to the closing line of the commercial, “save yourself,” this guy is also apparently consumed by fear that his wife will totally lose it if he forgets to buy the right kind of sugar. This adds a nice touch by playing into the stereotype that women are emotional pendulums that can swing wildly out of control if their partner doesn’t comply with orders.
This commercial hits a lot of sexist home runs. Viewers are supposed to find it amusing that the man now has a conflicting internal monologue that supposedly mirrors the ongoing battle a woman is apparently constantly waging within herself regarding what and when she allows herself to eat. You’re supposed to be laughing at the woman’s silly restrictive diet of blotting her pizza and having grapefruit for breakfast, ignoring the fact that this commercial feeds into that calorie-cutting hysteria by forcefully marketing its product as an essential women’s product.
This paints an upsetting picture, assuming that women must bargain with themselves as they make their food choices, and only permit consumption of certain foods (pizza) if they deduct others (sugar). This kind of bartering supports a disordered eating mindset as it categorizes some foods as inherently “good” and others as inherently “bad.” Instead, we should be helping girls learn about the nutritional value of various foods and what they offer as part of a balanced diet, while pointing out that occasional treats are actually just fine. Isn’t that pretty sweet?