‘Brown Sugar’

The textual construction of femininity in two ‘tiny texts’


  • Jane Sunderland Lancaster University




advertisement, Africa, discourse, ethnicity, intertextuality


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 café 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.

Author Biography

  • Jane Sunderland, Lancaster University

    Jane Sunderland is a Senior Lecturer at Lancaster University, where she teaches Gender and Language and is Director of Studies of the PhD in Applied Linguistics by Thesis and Coursework programme. An ex-President of IGALA, her research interests are gender and discourse, Harry Potter and boys’ literacies, young children’s fiction, multimodality in relation to gender, and, rather differently, stage adaptations of novels.


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Gender and Language in Sub-Saharan African Contexts: Research Agendas

How to Cite

Sunderland, J. (2012). ‘Brown Sugar’: The textual construction of femininity in two ‘tiny texts’. Gender and Language, 6(1), 105-129. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v6i1.105