In Defense of Pumpkin Spice Lattes

Pumpkin Spice Lattes have a weird way of dividing people during the fall – like a 61-58, Baylor versus Texas Christian University type of division. Love the Pumpkin Spice Lattes or hate them, there doesn’t seem to be a comfortable place on the spectrum for anyone to be indifferent to them.

I’ve thought about the great pumpkin spice debate and I haven’t figured out why there are suddenly so many pumpkin spice-phobic people in the world. However with the help of my good friend the Internet, I finally understand the real issue: it’s not what’s in a person’s morning coffee, but who’s drinking it.

The voice of the critic is always louder than that of the fan and that’s created a very vocal community of people flat-out against Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Fans of the drink are left feeling the need to justify their own reasons for liking it or giving in to the stereotypes associated with it, and that only gives value to their critics’ claims.

A message of misogyny hides behind the culture of dislike for the pumpkin spice latte and sheds light on an important stigma towards a large portion of its enthusiasts – women.

The Pumpkin Spice Latte is considered a feminine drink. It doesn’t conform to traditionally masculine qualities of drink, and therefore, must be feminine. Pumpkin Spice Lattes are sweet, complex enough that the average person couldn’t make one in their home and are just rare enough for people to get excited about when they come around.

Fans of the drink are depicted as women wearing Uggs, leggings and large sweaters and having a passion for falling leaves, and Starbucks is well aware. This year’s advertisement campaign features just that. The trend has become self-aware in a way that may not be good for its fans.

The photo definitely speaks to Pumpkin Spice Latte fans, but also to critics, as the company has basically endorsed their own stereotype for advertising purposes.

But what’s really important here is reception. I mean, it’s weird when food develops a fandom, right? It happened with bacon a few years ago; a person could find just about anything in bacon flavor – ice cream, monthly subscription clubs, I’ve even encountered bacon scented T-Shirts. Most of the same exists for lovers of pumpkin spice (pumpkin spice Pringles, anyone?).

What sets the bacon trend apart from the pumpkin spice trend is the community involved. More men jumped on the bacon bandwagon than women, and while it was recognized in many circles as being a bizarre trend, it didn’t receive much actual backlash. A Google search of “Bacon Meme” and “Pumpkin Spice Meme” give alarmingly different results considering they’re both food, with the bacon memes being full of admiration and praise and the pumpkin spice memes being demeaning and slightly offensive to women.

So, while bashing the decidedly feminine Pumpkin Spice Latte may feed a fading masculinity complex, it ultimately just adds shame to another pop-culture commodity commonly enjoyed by women and discourages men from taking part.

The Pumpkin Spice Latte hate trend is a prime example of the casual put-downs or “microaggressions” that women face in everyday conversation. Microaggressions are small phrases or actions, usually said in passing with no intention of harm, but when built upon, paint a bigger picture of misogyny.

It’s like last weekend, when my dad told me I needed to take my boyfriend with me somewhere, because I was going to a “bad part of town.” I wasn’t going to a bad part of town, but telling me to “be careful” would have been enough to get the point across that he was concerned. Or when my grandmother asks how the boys at Baylor feel about my pink hair – to quote The Carrie Diaries, “no self-respecting woman dresses for a man.”

My dad and grandmother weren’t trying to insult or offend me, which makes it easy to understand why a lot of times the people saying microaggressions don’t realize they’re hurtful or offensive. But calling the Pumpkin Spice Latte a woman’s drink has snowballed into a trend of bashing an entire community of people every fall, and for some reason, people have just accepted that.

It’s because microaggressions go largely unnoticed in social circles. They’ve become commonplace. Pumpkin spice critics had a large platform to stand on from the start, labeling the women who drink them as “vapid white girls” and other insulting generalizations. Now in some respects, the stereotypes of people who drink them are actually more notable than the drink itself.

Freud would be quick to point out, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” but sometimes it’s a symbol for a much bigger problem. Your choice of morning brew can say a lot about your personality, but I definitely don’t think your Starbucks drink should represent your value as a human being.