When I first read about the “Fling,” I kind of dismissed it as stupid and annoying, and I enjoyed watching some of my favourite bloggers skewer it. But then, NPR did a story on it, and the story sounded like a glorified product endorsement/advertisement, and the NPR story made me want to vomit (I sent an angry letter), and it highlighted how outside the discourse feminism and size acceptance are. Now, you may be rolling your eyes at this, but remember than I live in a bubble in which feminist and size acceptance are prominent, and givens, so I dislike being jarred back into reality.
There are so many problems with this chocolate product that it’s kind of hard to know where to begin.
Let’s start with the packaging. The Fling is packaged in pink, sparkly packaging. The message is clear. This is a candy bar for girls. This is a product while relies very heavily upon the trope that products need to be gendered for women to buy them, and that women will buy pretty much anything that is pink and sparkly. Not only the packaging is sparkly, the candy bar itself is also sparkly, because it’s made with mica.
The product packaging and the website are also both highly patronizing. The FAQ is called “the skinny on Fling,” reinforcing the idea that this candy will not make you fat. The language on the site repeatedly references the connection between sexuality and chocolate, and it plays heavily on the organ of good foods vs bad foods. Women should eat the Fling, the website says, because it’s a good food. It’s “a little naughty, but not too naughty,” which in addition to being the stupidest product tagline ever, also reinforces food anxiety and stress.
The simplistic, patronizing language is exactly the sort of thing I see in gaggles of women who egg each other on to “be naughty, order dessert.” It’s language which is designed to resolve women of guilt over dietary choices, with pseudoscientific language which conceals the real information about the ingredients, calorie value, and quality of the chocolate used in the Fling. And it reinforces the idea that women need other people to tell them what to eat, how to eat it, and when to eat it. Not least because women lack the self control to prevent themselves from getting fat, and therefore it’s necessary to tightly control their diets.
Women should eat their Flings in secret, Mars informs us, but they can enjoy them without being too guilty, because they aren’t that naughty, for which read that fattening. There’s a clear link between the candy and sexuality in the shape, which Mars describes as a “chocolate finger,” defending this as an industry term, although it has other associations for many laypeople, especially when linked with the tagline “pleasure yourself.” The name outright references a passing sexual relationship, which is in direct contrast with the very serious and complex relationships women have with food. Given the complexity with which many women view food, I would argue that the entire marketing campaign which surrounds the Fling is akin to marketing alcopops at an AA meeting.
Calorically, the Fling isn’t that impressive. Many other chocolate products have similar numbers of calories, and they have more flavor, and they cost less. The Fling, targeted at the market of women who want to diet without being “naughty” and succumbing to temptation, has highly inefficient packaging and it’s obscenely expensive for what it is. One might reasonably ask why women couldn’t purchase regular chocolate bars and break them in half to eat in two segments, or split with a friend, or, heaven forbid, why women can’t just eat a damn candy bar when they want to.
The Fling is insulting to feminists and size acceptance activists alike. And, personally, I think it’s insulting to all women, whether or not they identify as feminists and size activists. It’s also a heteronormative slap in the face to LBGQTs, who of course are excluded from the Fling market, just like confident fatties, because they are gross and aberrant and should be ignored, rather than being included in product marketing which might attempt to capture their copious discretionary income. Furthermore, the Fling is an abomination to any self-respecting person who eats food. It’s an air puffed, flavorless pile of crap.
So, what I want to know is, what in the heck was NPR thinking with their fawning feature on it?