International Wimminz Day: Honoring the Pioneering Perfume Bloggers

Happy International Wimminz Day! Today I would like to talk about a subject close to all of our hearts: perfume blogging. Perfume blogging is one of the very few female-dominated fields on the internet (or, let’s be real, anywhere). And why wouldn’t it be? Wimminz always be writing about girly, frivolous things, amiright?

Except… the Financial Times didn’t seem to find perfume blogging quite so frivolous when they recently recently reported that Now Smell This receives one million views every month. UK publishing firm Collins, which has represented the likes of Stephen Fry, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Agatha Christie, weren’t laughing when they decided to publish The Perfume Lover, written by longtime perfume blogger Denyse Beaulieu. Neither was Viking Adult, publisher of Steinbeck, Kerouac, and Stephen King, when they took on Alyssa Harad’s Coming To My Senses.

Perfume bloggers get a lot of shit. There’s no nicer way to put it. Gilles Thevenin, owner of niche perfume brand Lubin, called us “noxious”. Bernard Pommier, founder of Perfume Expo America, complained, “What Is This New Trend Allowing People With No Knowledge, No Training, And No Clue Of Our Industry, Opening [sic] Blog’s Calling Themselves ‘Perfume Expert’s [sic]’, ‘Perfume Critic’s [sic]’ Or Better Yet ‘Perfumer’s [sic]’.” Raymond Matts, a “fragrance designer” who has worked for Estee Lauder and Elizabeth Arden, wrote an article for “The Perfume Magazine” snarking that “It is hard to debate when one side of the argument is lacking in substance or knowledge”.

You know what I hear in these critiques? I hear, “Hey! Who told the wimminz that they were allowed to have opinionz on our Very Important Work?”

You can’t convince me that the disdain of the perfume and perfumery industries for perfume bloggers does not have a gendered component. We already know how highly the perfume industry thinks of us wimminz- they expect us to buy Michael Kors Very Hollywood, for God’s sake. You may be surprised, however, to learn that the people behind the perfumes are also largely men. In a 1947 New York Times article, Donald William Dresden wrote, “Only a few people have the supersense of smell necessary to become a Nose– for reasons known only to Noses themselves, no woman has ever had it.”

Mr. Pommier was right! The vast majority of us perfume bloggers have “No Training, And No Clue Of Our Industry”. Well, that’s a perfectly legitimate reason to discount our criticism. After all, no one takes Robert Ebert’s movie reviews seriously because he didn’t attend film school or major in film studies, right? Right?

Really, I can hardly blame the perfume and perfumery industries for feeling squeamish about us perfume bloggers. Perfumery is a sausage fest that has been largely immune to any sort of criticism until as recently as seven years ago, and when that criticism finally came, it was from the wimminz. I mean, can you imagine the indignity?

Yes, perfume bloggers are amateurs. What the hell else would we be? The only things that you need to judge perfumes are a nose and a brain, and we have those in spades. How dare you create lazy, tedious perfumes and then claim that we are the ones with no knowledge or judgment? Did you really believe that no one was ever going to tell the emperor to put on some damn clothes?

Mr. Pommier may have been right, but Mr. Matts was dead wrong. Perfume bloggers are “lacking in substance or knowledge”? Bitch, please. Knowledge? Any perfume blogger worth her salt can argue the impacts of Roudnitska, Cellier, and Beaux on perfumery until the sun goes down. Substance? The best perfume bloggers’ writing makes the most celebrated literary geniuses look like clumsy amateurs. Victoria Frolova’s reviews for Bois de Jasmin are goddamn transcendent. March of Perfume Posse can make you laugh and sob in the space of a single paragraph. The unflinchingly reasoned tone of Robin at Now Smell This makes the famously plain-spoken Hemingway sound like a hysterical harpy. Only an utter fool would deny the value in these voices.

So today, I would like to honor the pioneering women of perfume blogging. Please join me in celebrating the achievements of Elena Vosnaki, who founded Perfume Shrine in 2006; Patty White, who founded Perfume Posse in 2003; March, who has been writing for Perfume Posse since 2006; Gaia Fishler, who founded The Non-Blonde in 2006; Marina Geigert, who founded Perfume Smellin’ Things in 2005; Victoria Frolova, who founded Bois de Jasmin in 2005; Ann Gugliotti, who founded Blogdorf Goodman in 2005; Katrina Voll-Taylor, who founded Scentzilla! in 2005; Kristen Kelly, who founded Beauty Addict in 2005; Melanie Sweeney, who founded Platinum Blonde Life in 2005; Marie-Helene Wagner, who founded The Scented Salamander in 2006; Amber Katz, who founded Beauty Blogging Junkie in 2006; Angela Sanders, who has been writing for Now Smell This since 2006; and Robin Krug, who founded Now Smell This in 2005.

Your successes are a source of joy and inspiration to us newer perfume bloggers. Thank you for sharing your glorious voices so that we could someday share ours.

26 thoughts on “International Wimminz Day: Honoring the Pioneering Perfume Bloggers

  1. *standing ovation*
    Thank you for this inspired article, Ari!
    The most recent blogger bashing by a man of knowledge, as opposed to us wimminz of egocentric, knowledge-free feeling (see Octavian Coifan’s diatribe on blogging), is still ringing in my ears. So your refreshing words are balm on my uneducated, frazzled, emotion-addled, little brain.
    Long may we go on broadcasting our uninformed sentiments to the world!

    1. Birgit, would you mind sharing the link for that charming-sounding diatribe? I must admit that I don’t keep up with that particular blog, as I find it, well, pretentious (especially in the absence of a comment section).

      I am so glad that you enjoyed the article, and I am greatly looking forward to your uninformed sentiments for many years to come.

        1. Ah, yes, we are all just tourists in the “Louver”.

          I’ll be honest: I have absolutely no idea what that article was talking about. There were like 18 different topics and some rather odd metaphors (“a cave with 3D shadows”??). I also don’t understand how Octavian could have been on the internet for more than 5 minutes and still maintained the belief that a consumer’s “ignorance” is enough to shame them into shutting up.

        2. As with previous critics, I have a hard time taking this seriously. There is something so ironic about a man criticizing people for writing subjective things on the internet when he himself is writing subjective things on the internet.

          On a blog with a horribly pixelated header image, mind you.

          I mean, really. Really?! How long will it be before these people realize that until they can appropriately wield some powers of logic, not to mention the possessive apostrophe and the most basic tools of Photoshop, they are doing nothing but making themselves ridiculous?

        3. OH pttphtptpt. I beat him over the head with my Ph.D.

          I had not seen this. This is like catnip to a kitten. I might have to write a blog entry on this.

          This makes me think of the lines from the movie “A Fish Called Wanda.” “Apes don’t read Nietzsche!” “Yes, they do, Otto; they just don’t understand it!”

          Yes, physical objects have a reality different from the subjective perception; that does not prove that Plato’s cave and the theory of “ideals” is accurate. Is it possible that there’s an “ideal” scent that all the scents we perceive are mere shadows of, and we compare our perceptions weakly because we have no access to the reality of the cave? Yes, but it’s about as likely as that there’s a big man in the sky with a beard telling us what to do. It’s an unsophisticated, uncomplicated understanding of idealism – or objectivity – that doesn’t even do justice to Plato’s original version of it.

          Art of any of the senses does not exist without the perceiver’s perception of it. There can be an object, but there is no beauty, without perception. Unless you want to argue that the artist’s pure intentionality is enough to make it “art” – but I have never met an artist that is truly happy until their art has some sort of an audience (even if it’s their mom; even if it’s the cat; even if it’s their own older self).

          Aside from the English interference (interference from some primary language the writer writes, which makes the English a bit harder to understand, which is unfortunate when the person is trying to make complicated points like this one), this essay is neither lucid nor deep. It’s just “me expert, you not” – and that makes this scholar of popular culture see red. It’s a profoundly anti-democratic and anti-modern understanding of the operation of art.

          Pfppfffptt on this person, I say.

    1. Thank you, Dionne! The ones that you do not recognize are probably the ones that have been out of action for a few years now (Scentzilla! and Beauty Addict, for example). But I felt that their contributions still should be acknowledged, even though their blogs are no longer with us!

  2. Oh my comment got eaten!

    Retyping …

    I have a hard time taking these critics seriously. Like Octavian: there is something so ironic about a man criticizing people for writing subjective things on the internet while he himself is writing subjective things on the internet.

    On a blog with a terribly pixelated header, no less.

    I mean, really. Really?! When will these people learn that until they can apply some rudimentary logic, not to mention wield the possessive apostrophe and some basic Photoshop tools, they are doing nothing but make themselves look petty and ridiculous?

    Bravo to the women you’ve named for pioneering perfume blogging and for not being jerks.

  3. A tour de force… : – 0 And thanks for those {sics} – I would have had to add them if you hadn’t kindly taken the trouble…

    Which perfumer was it who was quoted recently as saying: “If you can smell something in a perfume, it is in it?” There’s licence for subjectivity if ever I heard it. However, I am a wimminz (what is the singular of wimminz exactly?) prone to senior moments and can’t recall who said that – maybe several of them. Men even!

  4. Thank you, Ari. Your own blog, unique voice and wonderful spirit are not just a joy to all who know you, but also an important addition to the perfume (and kitteh) discussion.

  5. *standing up and cheering* “How dare you create lazy, tedious perfumes and then claim that we are the ones with no knowledge or judgment?.” Well said, Ari! So the widdle boys don’t want the girls horning in on their exclusive clubhouse? Tough! Wake up and smell the perfume, boys, it’s the 21st century. The wimminz not only have the brains to judge good quality from bad, they also have control over an ENORMOUS percentage of the money spent on consumer goods. And as they say, money talks and B*S* walks. Female perfume bloggers are speaking the truth and calling the emperor naked. The wimminz, as consumers, will no longer believe the lies of perfumers and perfume companies. My fellow wimminz, take note of those who made the disparaging comments above, and then vote with your purse by boycotting their products!

  6. Ari, I want to join you in honoring pioneering perfume bloggers. Of any gender. I do not think we should fight descrimination with the retribution descrimination.

  7. I am thinking of ideas to add to my financial capabilities and these advance ideas will be a good tool all of us must grab to finally have something more reliable than the usual thing we are doing.

    1. Thank you for this article…we perfume bloggers must stick together..we may not be so called experts in the sense that e are formally trained, but we certainly have a voice, whether its the voice of the consumer or not, we are all lovers of scent…to discount us would be a grave mistake, it is us who reintroduce scent lovers to long forgotten perfumes or bring the newly composed to the forefront…our opinions and ideas do matter what the powers of be say

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