Perfume and... bullies?

Let's get something straight: I abhor a bully. I always have. And I'm not afraid of them. I know their secrets, you see.

I am raising my children to behave with respect and kindness, and I'm sure they'll make me proud. We talk about introducing ourselves to people who look scared, alone, or different. We talk about including others in activities, even when we don't really want to. We talk about being fair, playing nice, and discussing our issues calmly but honestly. Of course, all of this is done in a way that they understand - they are only children. But I see them putting these things into action when they interact with each other and with the children they meet. And it makes them feel good - and it makes me feel good!

Last year, bullying really came to be an issue that was (finally) talked about plainly and in public. The torturing of gay kids was discussed and fought against, as it should be. I was so proud to see people stepping up to speak against such horrid behaviors against other human beings! I hope it saved some lives and some hurt feelings.

But it's not just select groups who encounter bullying. I have seen it lately in the strangest of places. I'm not sure if it comes from a place of jealousy, bitterness, or just plain meanness? It's probably a mix of all of the above. And it seems that the more perceived power one has, the more likely one is to fall prey to those feelings and have the inexplicable urge to try to smack down other people.

Running a group doesn't make you the queen. Having a website doesn't make you perfume tsar. These things do not mean anyone owes you anything. These things do not mean you can make the rules up as you go along. These things do not mean that you can act unprofessionally, rudely, or arbitrarily. These things do not mean you can manufacture facts (and ignore them when you get called out on them). These things do not mean that anyone needs to kiss your feet or ring or ass.These things do not mean you deserve a damn thing. These things do not mean you get to act like a bully.

"Bullying is when someone keeps doing or saying things to have power over another person. The behavior can be verbal, emotional, and physical. Some of the ways they bully other people are by: calling them names, saying or writing nasty things about them, leaving them out of activities, not talking to them, threatening them, making them feel uncomfort­able or scared, taking or damaging their things, hitting or kicking them, or making them do things they don’t want to do."
That quote above was written about bullying children. It still applies to adults, doesn't it?

I considered highlighting the important bits, but it's all important. Bullying is an attempt to have power over another person. It can be verbal, emotional or physical. It includes name-calling, saying or writing nasty things, leaving people out of activities, not speaking to people, threatening. Making someone uncomfortable or scared can be bullying. Damaging someone's things - or taking them away unfairly - is bullying.

Some of you have probably pieced together the cause of my ire. I'm referring here in part to Dawn Spencer Hurwitz being shoved out of the Nature Perfumer's Guild nest unceremoniously. Yup, it was unprofessional. Yup, it was handled poorly. Yup, it appears to be completely ridiculous. If Dawn was accepted into a group with certain parameters (please label clearly your botanical/natural products and don't use the guild's logo on anything else) and followed those parameters (which I believe until shown the alleged screenshots), then I am completely confused as to why she was shoved out. And she was shoved out. No amount of double-talk will convince me that taking away her standing in the group by demoting her in a blindside move is a not a shove. And if indeed Dawn did not follow the rules, this still does not excuse the suddenness of the actions taken by the guild. It does not explain why a polite conversation to clear up the concerns was not the first step, rather than a termination of privileges being taken as first course of action. Bizarre. Unprofessional. And rather bully-like behavior, wouldn't you agree?

But what you don't know is that there was another catalyst here for this post. What? More bullying in Perfume Land? Yes, my dears. Sad, but true.

I have noted bullying behavior from a person who runs a prolific website. I have discussed said behavior with this person personally, so I'm not going to spell it all out here or "name names". But I will if it continues. For my part, I have politely stated my case. I have told this person about how the behavior appears to me. I have told the person I will no longer be visiting the website in question. I have blocked the person's email and blocked all other contact with this person. I feel better, but if the behavior continues with other people I will not feel afraid to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

Running a website or group does not mean you can send aggressive emails to people. Just because you have contacts in an industry does not make you someone who does not need to follow the basic rules of how to behave. Being An Artiste doesn't mean you can act in any way you like without affording your fellow humans the basic right of respect.

I am asking my 4 readers to take a stand, please, against bullying in any form. If you have children, teach them how to be kind and fair. If you are an adult and you see someone behaving poorly, pushing people around, making threats, or otherwise acting poorly, gently but firmly call them on their behavior or remove their (perceived) power by removing yourself from their little world. Block them on Facebook. Ask them to stop contacting you. Leave a group. Stop reading their blog. Tell your boss. Ask a friend for help or support. Whatever it takes to get away from the negativity and lessen the impact of the bully without resorting to nasty tactics yourself.

I abhor a bully. I always have. And I'm not afraid of them. I know their secrets, you see: they are scared and small people.

If you'd like to pick on someone, please c'mon over here. I'm more than happy to discuss it with you - but watch out, because karma is a bitch ---and so am I.

Note: I can't believe I had to write this on a perfume blog. A PERFUME BLOG! It's fragrance, for Pete's sake! People --- get some perspective!


  1. I prefer my perfume without politics thank you very much. Give small minded people a group & some kind of governing power and THIS will happen. Question: Who cares what The Natural Perfumers Guild thinks? Hasn't anyone told them that natural/organic perfumes & cosmetics make up the tiniest itsy bitsy segment of the industry? They are ensuring that it stays that way.

  2. Well said as always, Jane. The great thing is, I can still buy my lovely natural botanical scents from my favorite non-guild members whether the guild likes it or not!

  3. I was thinking Jane's thoughts exactly as I read your post. I think the Guild needs Dawn more than she needs them.

  4. Right? Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face! lol

  5. And that was my thought as well while this bullyfest unfolded...Professional and/or personal...envy? jealousy? can be a terrible thing, which is still no excuse not to be civil about it.

    Jen, you're rad! Thank you ever so much for joining the fray!

  6. I don't know anything about this particular situation, but I am sometimes surprised at the nastiness that can occur in the blogging world and within various niches. Sometimes I think that the lack of face to face contact increases it. It is easier to be mean through a computer than it is to a person's face. In any event, I always appreciate it when I see people stand up for others, and I think calling out bad behavior can help to combat it. So thanks for the article and important reminder that bullying has no place in any niche, especially those made up of adults who really should know better.

  7. Tarleisio, I agree. If you're going to make odd and/or brash choices, at least cover your ass and follow your own rules - and be polite and civil.

    Carleen, if my kids can behave kindly, I really don't understand why adults can't. Hell, one of my kids isn't even potty trained!

    Thanks for your comments, ladies, as always.

  8. As someone on the outside looking in, I could see evidence of this behavior just by casually reading blogs, FB and Guild messages. I am not a professional but I can certainly recognize unprofessional behavior. This situation is actually a blessing to me because now it is out in the open and I don't have to second guess if my intuition is correct or not. Thank you to all the bloggers, perfumers and perfume lovers who are speaking out and shedding light. May all people have an open heart. Lisa Woodward

  9. Lisa, I hesitated to speak out because I am not a professional or a perfumer or "on the inside". But I have heard so many tales over the last 48 hours. Add that to my own recent experience and I just had to talk. I really, really hate a bully. From what you have said, I say trust your judgement. It seems on-point. Love to you! xoxo

  10. It sucks when people can't play nicely. There's room for everyone in the scented playground, really!

    *sigh* It's a damn shame, and it's unprofessional, and disgraceful. :(

    We do our best to teach our children to be kind, and then they see adults do these things, it's embarassing.


  11. Great article, Jen. It's refreshing to find a person willing to shed light on this dark subject. Will you write next about what the "kids that get bullied" can do to themselves to put it to a stop? Many of us have been targets and would appreciate and benefit from learning practical strategies!

  12. Great article and I agree completely. The tales I've heard and some experiences that I've had with one (probably the same as yours..its a small world here) who runs a website and has quite a bullying reputation have been enough to almost (note I said Almost...I love perfume too much!) stop me from writing about it. I too abhor bullying and was quite the mama lion when it happened to my son. I don't put up with it...when bullied by aforementioned website, immediately called my lawyer which stopped the whole problem in its tracks. There's too many great blogs and perfumers out there to have to put up with bullshit!

  13. Good on you Jen for speaking up. Naturals, shmaturals, who even cares. Thank you for the wonderful article.

    Terry DeMeo

  14. Thank you Jen for this thoughtful post about the current nastiness in our beautifully scented world. I appreciate your taking a stand against this meanness. It is one of the big reasons I left the Guild.

  15. I have been bullied by the same people over and over in the naturals world, never by professional perfumers, I may add and I have boycotted this person from EVER being in The Perfume Magazine along with the blogs she is affiliated with. I think it has been disgraceful for YEARS and am sick of the MAFIA mentality that has been displyed. There are some of us and many perfumers who has experienced the said bullying for years and I have always wanted to support those that have been kept apart. The Perfume Magazine (formerlly Sniffapalooza Magazine)will no longer support bullies and friends of hers that belong with this group or affiliated blogs that she gets a great deal of attention on! It has gone on for too long-we all know it too, I can count 10 peopel that I know personally that has been bullied,it is not new news.. Jen, I have never seen your blog before but thank you for letting me for barging in and speaking up!
    Raphaella, The Perfume Magazine

  16. Hi, Jen, thank you SO much for speaking out, since this happened to me, too, in 2007. I now feel vindicated and affirmed; your article has further strengthened my resolve to keep doing what I'm doing.

    I have tweeted and face-booked your article. If we all do this, the word will circulate quite quickly around the world that bullying of any sort has to stop.

    I agree - it's Perfume, People!

    I also appreciated the support I received from Raphaella and her article on me. It has been one of the highlights of my career, so thanks again, Raphaella.

    I think I read that Amanda wrote something, too, so off to read that then on with my day.

    Love Lyn

  17. Excellent piece, and you highlighted the biggest problem here really, the bullying. I could go on for days about why all of this has upset me, and I'm the type of relentless b*tch that has never let anyone bully me, but I can't stand for injustice, especially against someone I care about.

  18. Unfortunately, politics permeates everything. Those of you who have remembered your history know that it is a constant battle to keep tyranny from overpowering democracy and fair play. I, too, have been rudely bullied, lied about, ostracized, shunned, banned by this quarter. We now form an exclusive club of our own, most of us stronger yet more considerate as a result of the experience. Personally, I have far more aromatic friends, patrons and allies than previous to my ousting. I have a feeling that Dawn will, too. I wrote this blogpost back then; perhaps it will provide a broader perspective and reinforce what is said here for the need for transparency that sheds the light of day on this ugliness . . . and transforms it into the beautiful perfumed harmony that it can ultimately be.

  19. Really nice to see the atrocious behavior of the guild and it's current militant leadership exposed to the light of the blogosphere. That said, these tactics have been standard operating procedure going way back to the original incarnation of the Guild and its leadership, and Dawn is in EXCELLENT company, as both an exiled perfumer working with natural aromatics and as a decent human being. There are MB, probably GB of data documenting this history of behavior, but so few people want to deal with this type of hatefulness, and it's very hard to go up against bullying on this scale when the bullies have the biggest megaphone. It's taken years, but social media is finally providing a remedy to this situation, and the blogoshpere is playing a wonderfully significant role as well. Thanks for fighting the good fight!

  20. Thank you so much Jen for addressing this. This is a great post. And yes, it is bullying. Makes me mad.

  21. I don't know all of the history or the politics surrounding this. I do know that being unceremoniously dumped from a guild or a professional organization with no forewarning is shocking and anxiety-provoking. So many of us know Dawn and have experienced her as an ethical, kind and talented perfumer. There were so many other ways that the Guild could have handled this. And, as you noted, if Dawn was not complying with new, more stringent rules, there were still other ways to manage this. Blind-siding was unnecessary.

    Online communication unfortunately lends itself to fast, "click it and send it without censoring" messages. We've probably all seen some nasty responses to people on FB, blogs etc. I'm glad that you addressed the larger issue as well.

  22. It's fabulous you have addressed this, it's been quite prolific for a long time. I was one of the original members of the Guild until the axe came down on me and several others. Thanks for pointing this out.

  23. Everyone, I am so thrilled that people found it helpful that I wrote this. I am touched by the responses I have had, but also appalled at so many stories about bullying in Perfume Land. Some with the same people who have put Dawn in their sites, and others who correctly identified the person who attempted to bully me. I hope we can put these people in their places and stop this needless nonsense. Let's all smell great - and play nice!

  24. Thank you, Jen, for your eloquence and full on refusal to accept bullying, no matter where it shows up. I feel a little 'odd' being at the center of this controversy, as I don't like to mix politics with perfume either (unless we're talking IFRA/ safe cosmetics act stuff) but it's been amazing to witness the space open to give voice to others who have been bullied or treated disrespectfully. Thank you for taking a stand, everyone. We have the power to create a better place for each other..lets do it. (And smell great doing it!)

  25. Thanks so much to you Jen for taking this stand. I feel that Dawn is better off without the NPG affiliation and am so glad she is receiving an immense amount of love and support during this ugly situation that was needlessly created.

  26. ***Applause***

    Well said, Jen. I've faced more than a few bullies in my day, and what you say is true: they are scared small people. If we stand together, we can keep the bullies out, and keep this wonderful community a comfortable place for those who want to be a part of it.

    Four readers? Are you kidding me!? LOL, you don't give yourself enough credit ;)

  27. I am so sorry about Dawn , a truly great perfumer.

  28. Thank you Jen for stating the truth. Bullies, in whatever shape, form or size are cowards. I agree they act out of fear,jealousy or both. I wrote to Dawn ( privately) to express my outrange of her treatment. Dawn is not only a talented perfumer, but a very (underline that) decent person; what was doen was not only unkind and uncall for but just plain rude. So thank you again for such a well worded article. Jane

  29. My take is that the Guild has gotten it all wrong. It doesn't look or act like a "Guild" and some how it has made itself the authority on Natural perfumery. The bullying is in a sense "perfect" because it reflects the glaring wrongness of the whole ridiculous thing. Really glad to see the great bloggers, natural perfumers and perfume lovers standing up for what is right.
    Thank you Jen!!


  30. Thank you for taking a stand , and I reiterate what has been said already by many others here , all of whom I respect and have dealt with before . hugs to all of you .
    I have stated elsewhere - we can support those we believe in by buying their creations . Those we don't support , we don't buy !!
    I have removed/blocked any blogs who are invloved with the guild online and on facebook .

  31. If my relatively long life has taught me one thing it is this sad fact: People in groups often behave like beasts.

  32. Thanks so much.This is really a great post.....

  33. First: Thanks for posting this.
    Second: I do hope it's okay that I've read your blog. I hope I haven't read it too much; I deeply apolgize if I have.
    Third: Because apparently I read Anya McCoy's blog too much, and have had my IP blocked from her store website and the NPG website.

    Bully, indeed. Apparently my money isn't green enough for her or others in the guild. DSH, Aftelier, and Ayala Moriel have gotten several hundred dollars from me, thanks to Anya's paranoia.


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