From constructed food celebrities like Betty Crocker and Aunt Jemima to real celebrities like Chrissy Teigan and Martha Stewart, consumers have always looked for a familiar face on their food products.
Significant studies have shown that a familiar face on food labels helps consumers identify with companies and maintain consumer relationships.
One of the most prominent food mascots throughout the years of food marketing is Betty Crocker. It is still a trusted household name to this day. As her image evolved throughout the years, her style changed to reflect the time period, but she always remained the epitome of a housewife. She was pretty, classy, trendy, and, as expected, a great mother, caretaker and cook.
There are many different forms of media that these stereotypes are displayed. Look no further than cookbooks as one of the main forms of unrealistic expectations and demands for women. One of the first Canadian cookbooks to be printed was the “Frugal Housewife’s Manual” in 1940’s. Later on in 1950, we start to see Betty Crocker release her own cookbooks. She has released over 250 cookbooks to date.
Since the rise of feminism, there has been a movement to get rid of these stereotypes and we thought we did, or, at least, started to. Yet, these images still litter the pages and TV screens in our everyday life.
The recent release of Chrissy Teigan’s cookbook, Cravings: Hungry for More earlier this year still perpetuates the idea of the perfect housewife. It is a failed attempt at re-vamping the cookbook for modern day families and feminists alike, despite her attempts to market the book for everybody.
She has put together a cookbook, full of easy to follow recipes and quirky commentary that are made to feed the entire family. Once again, her sole goal as a woman is seen as providing for her family. Her picture-perfect body and face are on virtually every page, reminding readers what the modern housewife should look and act like, which is still very much unobtainable for the masses.
Through her political voice on social media, Teigan is a social icon for many young women. She advocates for racial and gender equality, yet her cookbook seems to do the opposite. Her recipes indicate a classist approach to cooking, as most meals require expensive ingredients, such as - not to mention the book is a steep price of $39.99 at most book stores.
Just like Betty Crocker, Teigan’s image is completely constructed.
Her audience only has access to the information that she gives out on social media and in the press. As the wife to EGOT winner John Legend, money and leisure time is at no shortage for the 32-year-old. Although we have no way of definitively knowing how she spends her time, it would not be too far of a stretch to assume that she is equipped with a personal trainer, nutritionist, and someone to stock her kitchen full of health foods. Her famous banana bread did not give her the body that she used to pose for Sports Illustrated.
We are supposed to be advancing in feminism, but if women like Teigan are our only pillars for women in the media, we have to be more critical about the message she’s promoting, especially since her lifestyle is not realistic for most people.
As women and consumers, it is important for us to be hungry for more images of real women in the media.