"Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don't have for something they don't need." – Will Rogers

This Site Has Moved: Please Update Your RSS Reader!

Posted: April 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: "The Illusionists" documentary, announcements | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Dear followers,

The Illusionists‘ website has been entirely redesigned to integrate social media: www.theillusionists.org

The site’s blog has moved to a new address, so this feed will no longer be updated.

Please change your RSS settings for the Illusionists blog by following this link:


All my best,


Poking Fun at Objectification

Posted: February 9th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: advertising, billboards, body, exploitation, inspiring women, objectification, self-image | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

© Cathy Thorne – everydaypeoplecartoons.com

For other inspiring, thought provoking cartoons by Cathy Thorne, check out her website: everydaypeoplecartoons.com

“Everyone Is Beautiful” – On Beauty & Self-Image

Posted: February 8th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: body, change for the better, inspiring women, self-image | Tags: , , | 3 Comments »

By writer Katherine Center.

The slideshow was inspired by Katherine’s new novel “Everyone is Beautiful“; photos and design by Mary Swenson.

My favorite quotes:

Beauty comes from variety, from specificity, from the fact that no person in the world looks exactly like anyone else.


It’s more important to be interesting, to be vivid, and to be adventurous than to sit pretty for pictures.

Bravo Katherine!

Related links:

Katherine Center’s official website.

Katherine Center on Twitter.

Twitter Updates for 2010-02-06

Posted: February 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: twitter | Tags: , | No Comments »

Australia Bans Images of Small Breasted Women

Posted: February 4th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: body, breast surgery, corporate hypocrisy, film, media, print, self-image | Tags: , , | 2 Comments »

I have recently received an email from a dear friend, outraged at the announcement that the Australian government has decided to ban adult publications and films featuring small breasted women. I have asked her for permission to republish her message here, since her reaction speaks volumes…

Here is an extract from the article, featured on Boing Boing, which my friend quoted:

The Australian Classification Board (ACB) is now banning depictions of small-breasted women in adult publications and films. They banned mainstream pornography from showing women with A-cup breasts, apparently on the grounds that they encourage paedophilia, and in spite of the fact this is a normal breast size for many adult women. Presumably small breasted women taking photographs of themselves will now be guilty of creating simulated child pornography, to say nothing of the message this sends to women with modestly sized chests or those who favour them. Australia has also banned pornographic depictions of female ejaculation, a normal orgasmic sexual response in many women, with censors branding it as ‘abhorrent’.

Full article here.

And here is the commentary from my friend:

As a “small-breasted” woman who sees how the entire world is becoming silicone-injected, this is infuriating, insulting and enraging!  This is just another thing that is pushing images of women farther and farther from reality.  And for those of us who are real and want to love our bodies as they are, this kind of thing makes it an even steeper up-hill battle. And that last sentence, while I don’t watch pornography, is shocking in 2010.  “Abhorrent”?  Seriously?

Disturbing indeed.

What are your thoughts on the issue?

Fighting the Beauty Myth, One Cartoon at a Time

Posted: February 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: body, fashion, hidden propaganda, inspiring women, print, self-image, women's magazines | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »
© Cathy Thorne – everydaypeoplecartoons.com

© Cathy Thorne – everydaypeoplecartoons.com

For more amazing cartoons by the über-talented Cathy Thorne, visit her site: everydaypeoplecartoons.com

Guest Post: “Paris Gyms: a Spectacle”

Posted: February 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: body, fashion, self-image | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Intrigued by my friend Lindsey’s tales of Parisian gym culture, I have asked her to write a blog post about it. Here it is:

From a very young age my mother instilled in me a certain logic, if you can call it that. There were clothes that could be worn to school, to friends houses, out to dinner and to events and then there were what she called “play clothes” – clothes for hanging around the house, playing outside or engaging in any kind of athletic activity. They were not to overlap. From the minute I would get home from school I was told to go upstairs and change into my play clothes before doing anything else. I never found this to be unusual since the only time I would see my mother in anything but her play clothes (jeans, a sweatshirt and slippers) was when she’d run errands or go out to dinner with my father on the weekends. It was an irritating habit but not something I perceived as abnormal.

Although I had many friends whose mothers did not maintain such an approach to dressing, I grew up buying into this notion that there was a time to get dressed up (aka make an effort to look good) and a time to be comfortable. In my experience, this is very American.

I didn’t realize how American it was until I came to Paris where looking good is an art form, an innate ability that we sartorially inferior beings lack. It goes far beyond good grooming and fashion sense. Nowhere was this made more obvious to me than at the gym in Paris (the French are late adopters, fitness being no exception. Indoor exercise is a relatively recent phenomenon).

To a certain degree I can understand how looking good for your workout might contribute to a positive body image. I refuse to believe, however, that I should be spurned because I left the house in running shoes, stretchy yoga pants, a t-shirt and a trace of the previous night’s mascara. I’ve been a member of a fitness club since High School in a culture where, unless you go to the gym straight from work, you arrive in sneakers and fitness gear without thinking twice. This falls into the “play clothes” category of dressing. However, looking sporty in Paris is a major faux-pas, one that provokes looks of disdain steeped in judgment – as if I’m not only inferior but about as stylish as a bag lady. The only context in which athletic-wear is permissible is for running outdoors but let’s be honest, this also confuses some Parisians. Why would anyone subject themselves to such sweaty torture?

I was immediately astounded by the get-ups women would sport to the gym, women that I would quickly learn were either stay-at-home trophy wives or stay-at-home mothers.  Even at 9:30 on a Sunday morning, these characters would show up to the gym in heels, skinny jeans or a skirt, a painted face and an aroma that could only come from an entire bottle of perfume, and not the pleasant kind. All of this just to head straight for the locker room, gossip with their girlfriends, change (into what can only be considered in appropriate gym-attire) and, presumably, sweat off their liquid foundation.

The first time I saw some of these women I thought I was stuck in an 80’s horror flick, convinced that a crazed killer was going to storm through the gym and ravage one of them. Leotards, fishnet stockings, brightly colored spandex, scrunchies (gasp!), jewelry, lingerie, converse sneakers – all have made up the Parisian interpretation of athletic-wear. Yet somehow, in my City Sports Philly tee, yoga pants, pro running shoes and a slicked back ponytail I am the evil-doer, the one who merits the looks. And when I head to the weight lifting room where the smell of sweaty socks fills my nostrils and hits me like a brick, I am the outsider among virtually all men. Some hopelessly scrawny nerds, some beefed-up meatheads, some flirty homosexuals in short-shorts that leave little to the imagination and a lot of excessive staring. As a female, I breach the male-dominated muscle fortress the second I sit down on the hip-abductor machine. Because of this, these surly representations of French masculinity feel the need to comment on how I use the machines, remarking that muscles aren’t attractive on women. Luckily, I have perfected my look of death and am able to shoot them down without even opening my mouth. I have also learned not to take this personally and have concluded that French men are merely unaccustomed to seeing women with a little meat, muscles and tone (aka real).

Yes, these seemingly bizarre clothing choices and social behaviors could be attributed to a difference in culture (didn’t their parents ever teach them not to stare and judge?) but it really speaks to a much larger issue in the Parisian gyms, the idea of spectacle and prestige. It’s all for show – the outfits, the blatant yearning for perfection, the condescension, the visual competition – a great number of these Parisians are not there to lose weight, get fit or stay healthy (besides, any health benefit is negated by the smoking the moment they leave the gym) but to socialize and show off.  Chalk it up to American Puritanism but I find it quite uncomfortable when women of ALL shapes, sizes and ages lead full-fledged conversations in the nude, often while oiling down.

This approach to fitness wouldn’t necessarily be problematic if it weren’t for the scowls and looks that scream “you’re inferior, you don’t look good, you have no style”. I’m not sure which is worse, their occasional blatant disregard for my existence or the more frequent looks of disgust likening me to a hobo.

Paris is not only the capital of fashion but of the thin ideal. Sure, it underwrites almost all messages diffused by American fashion media as well, but you can feel the yearning to be thin and stylish on and off the runway in Paris. For the most part, the women don’t have “play clothes” because, well, you never know who you might run into on a quick trip to the market or pharmacy so looking your best is imperative. I’ve had to completely change my habits and approach to dressing and I fear my American nonchalance is being quickly replaced by Parisian snobbism. But as much as I become more French in my style, I will always follow my mother’s logic and wear my “play clothes” to the gym. I can take the looks.

Note: I have since joined a different gym which seems to welcome a more Americanized fitness crowd, serious about exercise. I think it voids everything I have just written. I’ll report back in a year.

Lindsey is the creator of Lost In Cheeseland: Musings on food, love, life and struggles in Paris. She is a Paris transplant from Philadelphia, married to a Frenchman and on a permanent quest to understand the idiosyncrasies of the French. Having battled food and body image issues, she has struggled to find a balance in Paris where food is ubiquitous and bodies are tiny.  In real life, she is in charge of Marketing & Communications for an online boutique. Check her out!

The Evolution of Beauty Commercials: Once Upon a Time…

Posted: December 3rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: advertising, feminism, media, television, TV commercials | 5 Comments »

Media messages directed at women and advertisements for beauty products have changed significantly in the past 20 years.

In the early 1990s many TV commercials for beauty products portrayed assertive businesswomen:

1990 Italian commercial for L’Oreal Elseve Shampoo, starring Cindy Crawford

1990 L’Oreal Plenitude Anti-Wrinkle Cream:

And these days, nearly 20 years later, we can notice a shift in the subtext of ad messages. The focus is solely on seduction and leisure time:

Italian commercial for L’Oreal Elseve Shampoo, starring Laetitia Casta

Side note – in case you do not speak Italian, I must point out that the language used in this ad is deliciously ridiculous:

“Il primo balsamo alla proteina di perla” = “The first ever conditioner with pearl proteins” ??????

“Trasforma i capelli lunghi in luce scintillante” = “Transforms long hair into sparkling light” ??????

“Lucentezza a specchio” = “Mirror shine” ???????

“Tocco cashmere” = “Cashmere touch”

And a commercial for L’Oreal Plenitude, from the 2000s starring Virginie Ledoyen… at the beach:

Bring back the strong businesswomen!

Objectification, Amsterdam Style

Posted: November 30th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: advertising, billboards, discrimination, exploitation, men, objectification | Tags: | 1 Comment »

Last week, I was in Amsterdam for IDFA – the biggest film festival in the documentary world. In between film screenings and networking events, I would walk around town indulging in my favorite activity: street photography. What struck me the most was the ubiquity of ads that objectified both men and women: they were strikingly similar to those that I see every day around Paris. I somehow didn’t expect to find this in the Netherlands, a country that consistently ranks in the top 10 of gender equality nations and that is far more progressive and down to earth than France.

A couple of examples that were plastered all around town:



I’m thinking of starting a regular feature on this blog, posting offensive ads that I see around town (Paris, that is). Thoughts/suggestions?

Color Apartheid & Gender Polarization: Why Pink Stinks

Posted: November 30th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: change for the better, children, consumerism, corporate hypocrisy, hidden propaganda, KGOY, new markets, schizophrenic messages, sexism, toys | Tags: , | 3 Comments »

"Snow Queen Palace" from the Early Learning Centre

The UK Telegraph recently ran an article about Pink Stinks, an organization founded by my friends Abi and Emma Moore, that “challenges the culture of pink which invades every aspect of girls’ lives.”

Pink Stinks just launched a campaign against Early Learning Centre, asking the toy retailer to stop pinkification and gender-stereotyping of children’s toys.

Some interesting quotes from the Telegraph article:

The campaign has been backed by Ed Mayo, the former government “consumer tsar” and author of Consumer Kids, How Big Business is Grooming our Children for Profit.

He said: “There may be worse things to worry about, but I feel this colour apartheid is one of the things that sets children on two separate railway tracks. One leads to higher pay, and higher status and one doesn’t.”


“Why on earth do girls need to have a globe in pink?” said Mr Mayo. “Does it ultimately lead to the 15 per cent pay gap suffered by women further down the line?. That’s far too simplistic, but I feel gender roles are becoming polarised far too early on.”

Some fascinating trivia about the color pink and child play:

[B]efore World War II pink was more usually associated with boys, while blue – traditionally the colour of the Virgin Mary – was linked with girls.


The Telegraph: “Pink toys ‘damaging’ for girls” (full article)

Pink Stinks : The Campaign for Real Role Models (official site)

Follow Pinks Stinks on Twitter