Because seeing a smiling black woman on the packaging for pancakes and syrup is triggering, the company that has the iconic image of a Quaker is going to send their iconic image of Aunt Jemimah packing.
I wonder if the Quaker Oats Guy is safe?
Are the Quakers quaking in their shoes at the triggering sight of a Quaker on Quaker Foods products?
Has anyone checked?
Twenty or so years ago Quaker Foods already gave Aunt Jemima a bit of an upgrade. If you’re old (or oldish like me), you might recall that the original Aunt Jemima looked like a caricature of Mammie from “Gone with the Wind.” So Quaker replaced her with the current image — stripping her of that “the help does the cooking” kind of look.
And, really? I don’t blame Quaker Foods for doing that back then. The original Aunt Jemima image was more than a little stereotypey. Is that a word?
And that’s the thing. The current iteration of Aunt Jemima is innocuous. There’s nothing about her that is fraught with negative stereotypes. But even she is too “triggering” for the never satisfied brand bullies. According to Cornell University professor Riché Richardson, this updated Aunt Jemima represents, “a retrograde image of black womanhood.”
Richardson went on, “It’s an image that harkens back to the antebellum plantation … Aunt Jemima is that kind of stereotype premised on this idea of Black inferiority and otherness.”
Is Riché working off the long-defunct iteration of Aunt Jemima? Because, yeah. The old version definitely was retrograde, and most assuredly had that Mammie from “Gone with the Wind” look to her.
But this new version?
What about a generic black woman smiling is “retrograde?” What on earth about her smiling face “harkens back to the antebellum plantation?”
The current Aunt Jemima is just a face. We can’t see her clothes; we can’t see her body. The rest of her could be twerking for all we know. She’s just a smiling face for Pete’s sake.
But for Riché Richardson, this innocuous smiling lady on the box is a symbol “that for some people are triggering and represent terror and abuse.”
Yeah, she’s terrifying.
Not to be too persnickety, but Quakers don’t dress like the Quaker Oats guy anymore. He’s totally retrograde. He harkens all the way back to the Revolutionary War. Which probably explains why he looks like Ben Franklin. Should Quaker update him to look like a Twenty-first Century Quaker?
But I’m thinking the Quaker guy is safe.
Nestle’s Abuelita cocoa on the other hand? That might be facing the same problem as Aunt Jemima.
Wait. Now that I think about it, I did a post about Nestle’s Abuelita cocoa back in 2016 when the Hillary campaign website had a page titled “Seven things Hillary has in common with your abuela.”
Okay, I’m getting off track here.
The truth is, I doubt very highly it is the image of a smiling black woman that put a bug up Riché’s britches.
[Can I say “britches” anymore? It’s kind of a retrograde term for “pants.”]
Instead, I think it’s the brand name “Aunt Jemima” that is the real culprit here.
And at this juncture, Quaker Foods has no intention of scrapping the brand name, just the image. Which leads me to suspect the perpetually offended will not let this go no matter how empowering their new Aunt Jemima might look.
I mean, you can take the Indian off of Land-o-Lakes Butter and the name alone isn’t “triggering,” so Land-o-Lakes is in the clear now.
But “Aunt Jemima?” Nah. I don’t think the perpetually offended will be happy until the brand name itself gets tossed on the scrapheap of history.
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