Although the U.S. government has a long history of warehousing people of color, its overt foray into large-scale concentration camps intended for desperate asylum seekers is relatively new. And the video of a Trump administration lawyer coolly offering a rational argument as to why basic humanitarian rules do not require the government to facilitate sleep, […]Read More Soap and toothbrushes: Mundane symbols of compassion and respect
When I finally got around to reading the first book in the historical mystery series featuring amateur Egyptologist Amelia Peabody, I was struck by its overtly imperialist aesthetic. Set in the late 19th century, it parodies and celebrates English archeologists. It also patronizes the local people at every turn. For the White Western reader, it […]Read More Vicarious living through Comme des Garçons: Exoticism and cultural appropriation
Many outspoken male fragrance enthusiasts share childhood memories of being captivated by their mothers’ perfume. It’s such an iconic moment among non-gender conforming male perfume connoisseurs that it deserves its own film sequence: the mother sweeping up her little boy in a cloud of No. 19, Diorella, Chloe, or Halston. And then his secret missions […]Read More Gender-bending fragrance choices: The courage to be queerly perfumed
It is popular in North America to insist that we make choices about how we present ourselves for our own comfort, self-expression and pleasure and not to impress others. In fact, many of us in the U.S. would be almost embarrassed to acknowledge that others’ values and tastes shape our style. “I wear it for […]Read More Beast-mode perfumes and unspoken rules: How much is too much?
The very notion of finding a commercially available scent that somehow expresses one’s unique style, flair and presence, is paradoxical, if not downright contradictory. And the goal of selecting a mass market olfactory symbol that both captures my uniqueness, but also guarantees I will be lost in the crowd, reflects much of what is mythical […]Read More Signature scents and the myth of unique individualism
When political prisoner Ingrid Betancourt was released after six years of captivity, she was asked how the experience had changed her. Her complicated response included a commitment to “always have flowers in my room and wear perfume.” The experience of being brutally treated, and, she emphasizes, isolated from most of the human cultural forms she […]Read More Perfume as luxury, art, and consumer compulsion