What does your coffee flavor say about you?
To truly understand this privilege, critics argue, one has to understand the difference between pumpkins the fruit and pumpkins as they are presented in popular culture, or in PSLs.
Powell writes, “But why did PSLs become the symbol of basic white girlness? Why did they stick even more than UGGs, yoga pants, or scented candles? The context and composition of the PSL might be revealing. Prior to fall 2015, PSLs did not actually contain pumpkin. Luxury items, they cost far more than plain cups of coffee, yet do not provide tangible extra nutrition other than that in milk. Actual pumpkins, in contrast, contribute vitamin A, beta-carotenoids, fiber, and potassium. Similar to how UGGs have been removed from their original function as practical Australian and New Zealand footwear, PSLs take an evocative word, pumpkin, and attach it to something with none of the practicalities of the original. Ott […] calls this the symbolic pumpkin; detached from history, it triggers nostalgia for home, harvest, and rural idyllic life. PSLs are one step further from actual pumpkins. Their fluffiness, lack of substance, and triviality, regardless of attempts to dismiss them as ‘basic,’ make them ultimate luxuries and hence markers of distinction and white privilege.
“PSLs are quintessential ‘postneed’ uses of pumpkin. We no longer need to consume pumpkins for caloric subsistence. Instead, we demonstrate consumer savvy and gleeful excess by choosing the particular comforts of status-demonstrating Starbucks PSLs. In fact, had they significant actual pumpkin, had they strong associations with healthy vegetables or vitamins, PSLs would fail these consumers.”
Are we just fooling ourselves?
Beyond the PSL
Did you know people were so upset about the pumpkin spice phenomenon? As the culture became heavily criticized and trivialized, lovers of PSL and people who were proud of their “basic” label fought back, arguing that their love of pumpkin flavors and fall festivities has only come under attack by a patriarchal society trying to put them down for their stereotypically feminine, and thus insignificant, interests.
The report concludes, “Even when we move away from ephemeral flavors of pumpkin and pumpkin spice, whiteness and cultural symbols cluster around visual images of pumpkins. Aspirational lifestyle magazines, social media pumpkins, and reality television competitions come together in a veritable pumpkin entertainment complex, whose multiple manifestations continue the entanglements of pumpkins, social capital, race, and place.”
What say you on the topic? If you’re interested, read the full report, and then SHARE this article with a friend who loves PSL.
And next time you take a sip, ask yourself: Do you love the drink, or the lifestyle?