Pumpkin Everything & Its Feminist Implications

This year I have been very thrilled with “pumpkin season” for two reasons.

  1. I love pumpkin everything.

And 2, the stigma surrounding pumpkin spice grocery items has seriously decreased from last year.

There is this phenomenon of making fun of things that girls like in our American society. If it is something that teenage girls are interested in, it is seen as stupid, an easy target, and then has embarrassing connotations for anyone else participating in that thing. Twilight was a bad movie, but I believe it only got the hate it did because young women were the ones consuming it. Yes, Edward sparkled in the sun and Bella was a vessel devoid of personality, but isn’t every character in every Michael Bay blockbuster or generic horror movie devoid of personality? Is wearing a North Face fleece really more embarrassing than the things that young men wear? Note- I use North Face specifically because those fleecey warm jackets so popular with young women on college campuses in colder months get a LOT of hate online.

Pumpkin spice lattes are another great example of this. Teenage girls are not the only people to like this Starbucks drink (and actually, some form of the PSL has been served at coffee shops like Dunkin’ Donuts and elsewhere for over 10 years), but when you hear someone say Pumpkin Spice Latte, you hear it in a derisive faux-Valley girl voice, an instant making-fun of those who majorly consume it. At least, I’ve heard it that way, usually accompanied by that person rolling their eyes or saying they just don’t get it. I’ve been reading different posts on Reddit by girls who want to order a PSL but are afraid of being made fun of, or who feel embarrassed that they like the drink. This is just ridiculous. There is also the notion of being a white teenage girl and NOT ordering a PSL in October makes you somehow better than other girls, girls who WOULD order it. Even now, I feel strongly tempted to mention that I personally don’t like the drink! I am not superior for preferring the toasted graham latte (oh my god, by the way- SO good), just as people who turn their noses up at Starbucks for their ubiquity are not superior (although we can all agree that Starbucks coffee is overroasted and not the tastiest. They do that so every single Starbucks you could go to anywhere will have their same distinct coffee taste). There is nothing wrong with liking a drink that is sold at a popular establishment, and the accompanying ideas we have about the people who like that drink or like that place just seem ridiculous and deliberately negative towards young women.

Still, this year, I have not heard ONE use of the word “basic” when applied to a young white girl who likes pumpkin things. For some reason, last year, it was everywhere. And it was awful. It was like the greater negative society saw this thing that women liked and took an existing word and made it all feel awful. There are plenty of dumb, “basic” things that men like, and they don’t get made fun of ruthlessly for them. Last year, it felt like every night of fall, I heard cashiers and grocery baggers and baristas at different places all make jokes about women being basic and buying pumpkin chai mix, pumpkin baked goods, and pumpkin candles. Redditors would post endless memes and the top comments were always of the same variety: Where are your UGG boots and leggings to go with your BASIC pumpkin choices, basic white girls? Women everywhere could be heard apologizing for their choices, the subject of judgment, for their love of Bath and Body Works three wicks in Pumpkin Cupcake (“I know I’m basic… Sorry!” YouTubers would say, showing us their new candle haul). Liking something popular and seasonal suddenly meant a girl was making average choices, displaying a lack of personality, or so we were all made to believe.

Still, one fact remained: pumpkin flavored stuff is AWESOME and it is so cool that more places and products are catching on to that fact. I am so grateful that this year, the cashiers and baristas I encounter all ask me how the Chobani pumpkin is, since they haven’t tried it yet, or they’ll note they didn’t see the pumpkin Peeps themselves and would have to pick them up after work. Bearded hipsters bagging stuff at Trader Joe’s now rave about how exciting pumpkin season is, and judgmental seeming girls at coffee shops have surprised me with, “I am so sick of this pumpkin stuff. PEPPERMINT is where it’s at. Just one more month…”

It was a hard fight last year, to see the great name of pumpkin tarnished by that stupid basic label. It was even harder to watch women be unnecessarily torn down again, over something they liked en masse. The backlash of girl-on-girl competition and hate, with “I’m not like most girls. I don’t like PSLs,” is up there on my dislike list, too. Really, though, I am grateful that the tides are turning. People are coming around to this thing that used to be stigmatized and scoffed at, and as we’ve seen with hundreds of years of social justice in this country, that’s how some great things get changed.

Get out there and enjoy something fall-flavored!



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