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“Brown Sugar”: the textual construction of femininity in two “tiny texts”

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date2012
JournalGender and Language
Number of pages25
Original languageEnglish


Advertisements are a key site for gender and language study, many ads constructing relationships between femininity and consumption, and gender relations of a (hetero)sexual nature. In this paper I look in a qualitative way at how two ads in the form of 'tiny texts' indirectly index gender inflected with both ethnicity and sexuality. Printed on sugar tubes found in a cafe in modern urban Botswana, one of these ads shows a Black woman, the other a white woman. I adopt a feminist discourse analytic approach to argue that the many lexical and other intertextual associations of 'sugar' and ‘sweetness’ in relation to women and sex function to sexualise the Black woman (in particular), and that these in turn intertextually sexualise the white woman, in ways which index women's ‘availability’ within an overall discourse of multiculturalism and social liberalisation.