By Josie Simon, October 24 2023—
As the autumn breeze creeps in and the leaves fall, coffee enthusiasts eagerly anticipate one seasonal drink: the pumpkin spice latte. Yet, for those who express their adoration for this beverage, it often comes with a tinge of shame or embarrassment. Cultural stigmas have attached negative connotations to the drink, labeling it as “basic” and reserved for the masses. However, the truth is that those who appreciate the pumpkin spice latte are not conformists but rather cultural rebels, defying societal norms and expectations.
Here is why. Pumpkin spice lattes have become identified as the go-to drink for millennial women. The ad campaigns capitalize on this with marketing filled with warm orange and brown hues, fantastical outdoor scenes and images of young, primarily white women. The targeted audience becomes an easy target for ridicule, especially on social media.
Much of this public shaming stems from patriarchy and androcentrism, which dictate acceptable behaviour for men and women. Patriarchy is a system of society where men hold most of the power and are seen as the dominant group, while women are considered inferior and subservient. Androcentrism is the cultural viewpoint that puts men and masculinity at the center of society, while women and femininity are marginalized and devalued.
Ordering a pumpkin spice latte, seen as a “girlish” drink, does not meet the arbitrary standards of what is acceptable for men. This attitude also extends to women, creating a culture where women are silenced and subdued regarding their interests that do not align with a male-centered society.
The idea of the “basic” consumer also perpetuates classism. People who enjoy mainstream or popular culture are often labeled “basic” and mocked for their “lack of sophistication.” This reinforces the idea that certain tastes and interests are only acceptable for those in a particular socio-economic class and that those who do not fit into that group are subject to ridicule and shame. This cultural elitism creates an artificial hierarchy of cultural tastes and perpetuates the myth that enjoyment of certain things indicates a lack of intellectual depth or creativity.
Further, the stigma around pumpkin spice lattes is rooted in the devaluation of femininity by hegemonic masculinity. This cultural dominance reinforces rigid gender roles, restricting women’s behaviour and maintaining men’s power and status over women.
To align themselves with this dominant masculinity, women sometimes distance themselves from femininity and claim to be “not like other girls.” The ridicule and shame attached to anything considered feminine, such as pumpkin spice lattes, is a way for women to signal their uniqueness and reject the perceived weakness of traditionally feminine traits. This perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes that limit women’s behaviour and enforce conformity to strict gender roles.
But the truth is, being a pumpkin spice latte fan can prove the opposite. It is a way of embracing your tastes, regardless of what others think, and not conforming to societal standards. It celebrates individuality and rejects the idea that your interests and hobbies must align with traditional gender norms.
It also subverts the cultural lens that interprets “basic” as a derogatory term. By refusing to be ashamed of your love for pumpkin spice lattes, you declare your individuality and rebel against the societal pressures that force them to conform just because they are women and belong to a specific age group. So sip that latte proudly and let your taste buds lead the way.
This article is a part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.