Pumpkin Spice vs. Bacon
The two items in this article’s title may seem disparate; why are these two very different species of food in opposition? Can they not both be enjoyed? Do people who like one revile the other? While I am sure that the answers to these questions are in most cases not actual issues, I would like to posit that perhaps American society as a whole at least has differing opinions about the typified person who enjoys each item.
The similarities between pumpkin spice and bacon may be more distinct than immediately realized. Each of these flavors permeate the market in sometimes strange ways. Each also has a vocal following by those who indulge. Bacon, typically marketed to men, takes the form of not only a flavor or scent, but also a cultural icon. For example, consider the existence of bacon pillow cases, cologne, and toothpaste. While bacon-flavored or bacon-scented products may sometimes be used as joke gifts, there are certainly some unabashed fans who want their bacon all the time.
On the other hand, pumpkin spice products are usually simply meant for actual pleasure, a factor which is exacerbated by their seasonal nature. Every autumn, or perhaps in the weeks leading up to it, companies begin releasing a slew of pumpkin spice-flavored products (for a review of some of these, see this week’s Whisk Review in Arts & Entertainment). The yearly release sparks an annual, irrational level of rage with people who think the pumpkin spice craze is going “too far” this year.
Pumpkin Spice Lattes (PSLs), the pinnacle of pumpkin spice-flavored products, are generally equated with the “basic” stereotype, which, due to meme culture, usually evokes the image of a white girl who would claim autumn as her “aesthetic.” People who fall into this stereotype are usually imagined to be “airheaded” based on their interest in material objects such as Ugg boots, North Face jackets, leggings and, of course, PSLs. Additionally, these women who are considered “basic” are most typically unabashedly feminine and revel in their femininity. Obviously, it is not only women who enjoy PSLs or consumerism, but because of this “basic” stereotype, that is the cultural touchstone.
The amount of think pieces and annoyed tweeting reveals American society’s implicit prejudice against this culture. While think pieces about bacon-fixation may make fun of the people who enjoy bacon products, they usually do so good-naturedly, as in the Entrepreneur article, “15 Absurdly Wonderful Bacon-Flavored Products.” This is distinctly not the case with PSL and basic culture. In a post on Thought Catalog entitled “50 Tweets About White Girls & Pumpkin Spice Lattes,” most of the tweets listed deride pumpkin spice lattes and the “basic white girls” that enjoy them. Most simply work to trivialize the enjoyment of PSLs, for example, “So I couldn't even and *poof* I turned into a white girl with a pumpkin spice Latte and now I'm crying because I don't have enough shoes.” “Moths: Light Bulbs / White Girls: Pumpkin Spice Lattes,” another reads, equating women’s attraction to pumpkin spice lattes with an insect’s instinctual compulsion to lights. In the endless “think pieces” bemoaning (or maybe just noticing) the things that “basic girls” are interested in, what is really happening is the dismissal of women’s interests. Why, when the inundation of the market with bacon products is in at least equal measure (although it is yearlong), is the anger directed at pumpkin spice?
While bacon may not be as explicitly masculine as basicness is unabashedly feminine, the fact that it does tend to be understood in this way seems to indicate that the bacon vs. pumpkin spice conflict is gendered. As has been a trend for the past few thousand years, whenever there is a gendered distinction like this, the product understood to be valued by men is celebrated (or at least tolerated) while the one valued by women is scorned. Many of the sources of the annoyance about basicness and pumpkin spice tend to at least direct their annoyance at the highly feminine women who resemble the basic stereotype, holding up this understanding. “Basic bashing” has become kind of a socially accepted form of Internet misogyny. One may feel as if his or her sexism, since it is directed at a product or a stereotype and not women specifically, isn’t actually a problem. This, however, is nonsense, because sexism, implicit or not, is most definitely a real problem. While this yearly ridicule may seem trivial, it serves to remind us of the truth that sexism is still alive in public consciousness, even if some of us try to pretend it is gone.