"No other industry - not wine, not chocolate, not beer, not tea, not coffee - nobody else uses this term. [Oriental is] basically a fake marketing word . . . that just means anyone who's melanated. Then you realize, 'Oh my gosh, this is white supremacy . . . we realize the industry has been stacked against us. It's been primarily Eurocentric.'"
"Under the layers of incense and roses, however, the term 'oriental' hides much more unsavory associations with exploitation and colonialism. For the colonized lands, the European quest for spices, gold, and raw materials had tragic consequences, many of which are still with us today."
The gist: "oriental" is a baddy-bad word in perfumery terms because of evil Europeans conquering, colonizing, fetishizing, sexualizing, exoticizing, "othering," and otherwise wantonly degrading people of color throughout history. While none of these magazines or blogs are able to give specific examples of how using the oriental category of perfumery is/was degrading to anyone, and are quite prolific at offering only the vaguest correlations to these unnameable race crimes in their historically-bemoaned contexts, I'll give you my hot take. I think at this point it's safe to say that people are full of it.
To be perfectly clear, I'm not supporting the use of the term "oriental" in any context. Frankly I find the semantic argument boring and pointless. We don't need to call things "oriental." We can call the rugs by whatever country they're from, simply saying Turkish rugs, Japanese rugs, etc. Ditto for perfumes, although there is some utility in eschewing nationalities altogether by deferring to terms like "ambery" or "spicy." I'm of the opinion that if people are offended by the use of a word, and that word is applied to pursuits that all people should enjoy without an unreasonable sense of ennui attached, we should jettison the term and find linguistic replacements. The English language is wide and far-reaching, with tens of thousands of viable options. We can request substitutions. That's not a problem. Why not ditch an old-fashioned term? It's not a big deal to do so.
Where I get annoyed is when people resort to bullshit reasons for making the change. They needlessly complicate the issue and obfuscate the rationale for a solution. If the word offends you, just say it offends you because you feel it's politically incorrect and could lead to hurt feelings. Just say you'd rather use another more neutral word instead. I respect that. I can get behind that one hundred percent. But don't start lecturing me on the language's link to European colonizers. You have a smartphone in your pocket as I'm typing this, and you're going to lecture me on how Europe "othered" their way into Asian cultures? Do you have any idea how awful smartphone companies are to Asian countries? Yet none of the well-covered evils of these technological giants, evils that are happening today, concern you enough to swear off owning and using smartphones.
Selective outrage is de rigueur among those who magically profit from the very things they're offended by. For all of their Asian pride, I can't find any info on Madelyn Chung's website about which part of Asia she's proud of, nor will anyone say "Yosh Han" and "Thai American" in the same sentence. These women claim to be concerned about perception of and respect for East Asian peoples and cultures, yet keep their own ethnic lineages out of the dialogue. This is passive aggressive. It's like Chung wants me to dig into her biography, so if I have occasion to ask her about wherever her family is from, she can ask me why I thought it was important enough to research it. I've dubbed this behavior "Proactive Indignation." Instead of doing the decent thing and exonerating everyone for their confusion, people like Chung would rather foster the conditions for committing future faux pas to perpetuate their emotionally cathartic cycle of outrage.
That's the problem with the pseudo-intellectual conversations being had on the topic. Oriental perfumes, or those categorized as "orientals" in perfumery, are named so to clarify that these perfumes are of Eastern origin. Middle Eastern, Far Eastern, or just generically Eastern, the "oriental" moniker covers everything. And there are issues with nationalizing these fragrance classes. If we rely on saying things like Chinese perfumes, Thai perfumes, Japanese perfumes, we're still not saying anything specific. Every scent category exists in these countries. So which category are we referring to? Saying "Ambery" is a little better, although it gets us into a different kind of trouble.
Old Spice has historically been recognized as an oriental because it relies on orange citrus, powdery spices, musk, and vanilla - things found by merchants in what were considered, at one time, lands of the Orient. Yet it isn't really an amber. Can we call it an amber anyway? What if we call it a "Spicy Vanilla" instead? Isn't that an oxymoron? I guess the soapy powder effect is still an amber of sorts. I suppose we can settle for a less concise labelling of Old Spice. But we've only labeled one frag. By nixing a term, we've removed a simple and effective way of knowing which family it belongs to. Still, I can settle for vaguer language, if it's just a word game we're after. My motto: The fewer feelings needlessly hurt, the better. We should all live in a world where all people and cultures are loved and celebrated. The oriental perfume category isn't that important.
But what I won't settle for is being perpetually called a racist. I don't own a smartphone. I get made fun of all the time for that, but I don't want one. Unlike the majority of the people who tell me how awful it is to ignorantly ride the racist coattails of my colonizing predecessors, I'm cognizant of how easy it is to limit my complicity in today's most racist industry. There's nothing easier than not owning a smart phone. Virtually all of them are made in exploitative sweat factory slave-labor conditions, and it's tough to own one for less than $500 (the most competent phones on the market today are upwards of $1000). I'm not going out of my way to pony up for a product that drove somebody in another country, someone considerably less advantaged than I am, to consider suicide.
These Foxconn nightmares should be today's outrage machine, and instead we're whining about Enlightenment values and getting twisted in knots over what we call our perfumes. Enough already. If you care that much about being "sensitive" to the plight of foreigners, ditch your smart phone, delete your Twitter account, and live a relatively frugal lifestyle. Let's see how long you last. I've been gifted two iPhones that I never activated. Those are my values. What are yours, and how are you living them? Do you still want to re-label Enlightenment values as "white supremacist" values? Cuz I see 500 GB of white supremacy sticking out of your butt pocket.