A perfume blogger hard at work.
My interview with the wonderful Natalie of Another Perfume Blog yesterday had me thinking about the various misunderstandings and skirmishes that have taken place between perfume bloggers and perfume companies over the past few years. I will not be naming any names. This will not be particularly juicy. Please read it anyway.
I believe that as a perfume blogger, my role is to talk about perfume. Hopefully we all agree on that part. But how do we talk about perfume? I sometimes get emails from people who dislike the sometimes snarky tone of Scents of Self. They remind me that “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. I truly believe that this is impossible for a perfume blogger. Let’s just get this out of the way: the majority of new perfume releases are bad. They are generic, dull, and mediocre. This is true regardless of whether we are talking about mainstream or niche perfume houses. If I only talked about the perfumes that I liked, I would not have very much to talk about.
I am also not a big fan of the “tone argument”. The tone argument, as defined by Abagond, is “where you object to someone else’s argument based on its tone: it is too angry, too hateful, not calm enough, not nice enough, etc. It is a logical fallacy because none of those things has anything to do with whether the truth was spoken.” In my particular case, my occasionally inappropriate tone when discussing perfume is because I am not neurotypical. However, I do not see why any perfume blogger should have to be unfailingly diplomatic when it comes to bad perfume. Nobody expects film critics to be polite and discreet in their reviews of “Transformers 8: Now With Even More Victoria’s Secret Models!”
In my more cynical moments, I fear that the reason that perfume bloggers are so often criticized for criticizing is that, unlike book critics, food critics, or film critics, perfume bloggers are predominantly female. The perfume industry is also male-dominated. I have never gotten the sense that perfume companies think particularly highly of us wimminz. I believe that the perfume industry is used to seeing women as vague muses (“we created this perfume for the modern woman!”) or as mindless drones who will buy anything in a pink bottle, not as thoughtful, well-informed critics.
I do not criticize a perfume just for funsies, and neither do any of the perfume bloggers that I know and love. We do it because we really and truly love perfume. What purpose would be served by perfume bloggers staying silent as the standards for perfume drop lower and lower? If we do not object to boring and unworthy fragrances, then perfume companies will assume that all is well and will continue to make boring and unworthy fragrances. When I criticize a mediocre perfume, my intent is not to say “this perfume is bad”. I am trying to communicate that “this perfume is not good enough”. I know that perfume companies can do better, and I want to push them in that direction.
What do you believe is the role of a perfume blogger? Do you feel that perfume bloggers are overly critical, or perhaps even overly lenient? Are perfume bloggers necessary, or are we doing more harm than good to the perfume industry?