Open letter to the Editor of Women’s Health

This letter was written by Tarleisio of Scent Less Sensibilities as a response to an article published in Women’s Health. Some of us commenting on the post decided we wanted to spread the message across – so please read on and everything will be explained.

An open letter to the editor of Women’s Health magazine

An article in the Beauty section of the April edition of Women’s Health, entitled ‘Your Perfect Scent’ was brought to my attention by a friend and fellow blogger, and several statements in the article as well as the overall tone compelled me to write you.

The article attempts to categorize women in a range of ages – from their teens until ‘40+’ according to perfume category, arguing that throughout their lives, women prioritize their fragrance choices differently and gravitate towards the perfumes that reflect those priorities. It then proceeds to cite various perfumes currently available that might appeal, and this is where I feel compelled to protest – both at the underlying assumptions that teenagers want to impersonate walking cupcakes, that women in their thirties wear perfume to feel ‘sexy and secure’ and finally the statement that women in their forties wear perfume to feel ‘elegant’.

Women at any age read magazines such as yours for information and inspiration in their lifestyle choices, and few of them are entirely aware that for print media in a competitive digital age, advertising revenue takes pride of place over relevant content. As a consequence of perfume being formulated to target certain demographics and as a result of what you choose to advocate in your editorial pages, the perfumes sold in department stores and mall chain stores are all indistinguishable from one another. One sweet, fruity floral scent segues seamlessly into the next sweet, fruity floral, and only the name of the designer on the label is interchangeable. So women are shortchanged from both sides of that equation – by the major designer houses that are often the only luxury these women can afford, and by the very magazines they read for inspiration promoting only the brands they already advertise on their pages.

The problem is that neither your readers in general nor women in particular are thrilled about being defined in demographic terms, any more than teenaged girls can be lumped into cupcake fragrance categories, women in their thirties need to feel ‘sexy or ‘secure’ or ‘forty+’ women – a term I personally find more than slightly condescending – want to be considered ‘elegant’ above all other reasons for wearing perfume.

What surprises me more than any other aspect of a very important issue in general, namely the stereotyping of women in the media, is that we live in an individualistic age. As women and as individuals, the opportunity to make individual choices that reflect our unique selves has never been greater, and this includes the very subject matter of your article – perfume. What is more, as social media change how we are informed and entertained and inspired to make those choices, creating and maintaining a dialogue with your readers is a valuable tool to retain the very readership that underlies your role in that media landscape, whether on a newsstand or on the Web.

There is a rich and invaluable resource available to any journalist interested in her subject matter – perfume blogs. We would quite happily have participated and in the process been thrilled to share what we know – that you are not doomed to ‘elegance’ simply for a diminished sense of smell – a claim I find quite unsubstantiated by scientific evidence in the article or in my personal experience, nor are you compelled to waft cupcake as a teenager, simply because there’s nothing else to choose from. There’s not too much else to choose from in the mainstream market because a tiny number of companies determine what scents land on department store shelves, and if one sweet, fruity floral scent becomes a success, it must therefore follow – so dictate the laws of the marketing briefs of these companies promoting this or that ‘exclusive designer’ – that only sweet, fruity, floral perfumes will do.

Women’s Health is a magazine that has a broad scope – to promote a healthy, happy and fulfilled lifestyle for its readership that goes beyond the usual stereotypical ‘women’s magazines’. Even so, when you attempted to inform your readers about a very personal choice, you fell victim to that precise stereotyping, and ignored a perfect opportunity to elevate your editorial content a bit above the stereotypical content of any other women’s magazine currently available.

Which is why we read you, after all.

Yours sincerely,

Tarleisio, perfume blogger at Scent Less Sensibilities

This letter has also been published on the following participating blogs:

Bloody Frida

Olfactoria’s Travels

Eyeliner on a Cat

Beauty on the Outside

Redolent of Spices


Perfume Project

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9 thoughts on “Open letter to the Editor of Women’s Health

  1. Doc Elly April 16, 2011 at 19:50 Reply

    Well said. I'll publish it on my blog, too.


  2. Ines April 16, 2011 at 21:29 Reply

    Hi Doc E, I'm really glad to hear that. I believe it's time to speak up. It might not come to much but at least it's getting said. 🙂


  3. botiquin de armario April 17, 2011 at 00:00 Reply

    Thanks for these nice and healthy advices; I am going to tell all these tips to my grandfather and my whole family also. Everyone should take good care about their health. Health is everything to human's life. 🙂


  4. Rose April 18, 2011 at 15:35 Reply

    I wasn't aware of this article so thanks very much for posting this- and your response is very good


  5. Ines April 18, 2011 at 16:11 Reply

    Rose, I odn't read the magazine but I participated in the debate over the content of the article and once the idea was born, I was in. Tarleisio really put it great into words. 🙂


  6. Beautiful Things April 21, 2011 at 12:20 Reply

    Yes, well put. I think destructive stereotyping true for other aspects as well,fashion, career options. Thanks for posting. x


  7. Ines April 21, 2011 at 17:03 Reply

    Beautiful Things, I've been thinking too how this can apply to many parts of our lives, but getting ypour voice out there for even one is a good start. 🙂


  8. Joan April 22, 2011 at 04:39 Reply

    I agree. I think another prime offense is categorizing everyone over 40 in the same group. Other classifications I've seen are 25-44, 45-60, 61-75, 76-85, 85+. I think there's a world of difference between the interests of a 40 year old and the interests of an 80 year old.


  9. Ines April 22, 2011 at 11:02 Reply

    Joan, classifying someone who is 40 in the same group as someone who is 80 is beyond illogical. I mean, it's that same age times 2.You are completely right saying that the interests of these two age brackets are nowhere near each other.Each time I think about this, I get frustrated all over again.


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