Nosy Girl has the most spectacularly simple concept. Elizabeth asks each of her interview subjects just two questions: what do you smell like? What do you like to smell? (Was there ever a blog so ripe for a book deal?) I am delighted to announce that my own Nosy Girl interview was posted today! This is probably the closest I will ever get to being famous, so please check it out!
It occurred to me the other day that I am not a particularly good perfume blogger. Don’t cry for me, Argentina- I’m super proud of this blog, and I think that I generally do a good job with it. The reason that I don’t consider myself much of a perfume blogger is because I’m not very good at describing how perfumes smell. Most of my reviews contain, at best, two or three lines about the actual smell of a given perfume. And this isn’t a quality-over-quantity thing, because those two or three lines are usually something to the extent of, “Oh yeah, and it smells like strawberries.” This definitely isn’t the first (or tenth) blog you’d check if you were looking for accurate, detailed perfume descriptions. My descriptions of perfume are all about how they make me feel, what memories and associations they evoke for me.
All of this navel-gazing got me to wondering: what kind of perfume blogs do you prefer to read? Are you looking for hard-hitting analysis or perfume-related anecdotes? Or, if you’re a perfume blogger yourself, what kind of perfume blogger do you try to be? My reading list encompasses a bit of both, I think. I’m so thankful for the perfume bloggers who are better at describing smells than me (such as the astonishingly detailed Elena of Perfume Shrine), but I also love reading more personal discussions of perfume (Meg at Parfümieren is my favorite scented storyteller).
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.