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Just Let Me Have My Pumpkin Spice

halloween, movies, tv, october, fall

It’s fall. I have declared it so. Yes, I know the autumnal equinox isn’t for a week, but my entire state is on fire and the air outside is an oppressive, a toxic cloud of gray that hasn’t lifted for days. The only way I’m coping is by pretending that it’s autumn fog, not unbreathable smoke. I’ve busted out the skeleton decorations, the fall leaf wreath, and of course: the pumpkins. And with pumpkins comes pumpkin spice.

And with pumpkin spice comes the inevitable, often sexist insults based on it.

The weaponization of Pumpkin Spice Hate (PSH) is not new. For years, people have insulted pumpkin spice as “basic” or “vapid.” Mocking women, especially young women, who like it has become a meme and a transparent stand-in for just hating women in general. Like hating Uggs, or leggings, or mocking fanfiction, hating pumpkin spice and the women who enjoy it is just a new way to say you hate it when people enjoy themselves in a way that has nothing to do with pleasing men.

But this year, please, let’s not do this. I beg of you. I simply do not have the energy to endure a new wave of pumpkin spice discourse on top of everything else 2020 has piled on us.

We’ve said it over and over again: let people like things. Let women enjoy things. I know the women can do things for ourselves because we just like it is alien to so many men (and even a lot of women!), but it’s a real thing. I love fall and I don’t care if you think me diving into the aesthetic of it all is cliche and silly.

Fall is all about comfort, warmth, and coziness. We’ve had, to put it mildly, an absolutely crap summer. So many of the summer things we loved weren’t available this year. From barbeques with friends, to pride parades, state fairs, and trips to the beach, none of it was safe. But you know what is safe? Snuggling up in a sweater with a book and looking at the changing leaves.

That first sip of Pumpkin Spice latte is, as silly as some may think it, a ritual and a celebration for many of us. The dog days of summer are over and the cozy, spooky, cool days of fall can begin. And right now, pumpkin spice and all the other fall trappings are one thing that the coronavirus can’t touch.

And pumpkin spice is actually incredibly accessible too! Really. It’s simple to whip up at home and add to anything you like. I know because I just made some pumpkin spice overnight oats and they were great. Here’s the simple recipe:

Equal parts: Cinnamon, All Spice, Nutmeg with a half part clove, and a dash of ginger (if you’re feeling extra spicy). You might want to add extra cloves if you want a stronger taste, but that’s the general ratio. Throw in some pumpkin puree (or don’t, it can just be “fall spice”) and voila, all your #cottagecore dreams are at your fingertips.

A bigger issue here though is the unfortunate tendency of us humans to devalue and attack people when they like things that we don’t or just think are overrated. The endless wars about pineapple on pizza. People going nuclear if you say you like Pepsi over Coke. Last week there was a minor Twitter kerfuffle when writer and podcaster Jessica Ellis, in a since-deleted tweet, repeated the tired burn that India Pale Ale is the pumpkin spice for white dudes. Which made me sigh, because hating women for liking PSLs should not be countered by hating men for liking IPAs. Both are delicious (and some women like pale ales, and some men like pumpkin spice). Insulting people for liking something is lazy humor and completely pointless. When another person likes something you hate, it doesn’t mean you have to like it. (But there is a point here, again, that men rarely get this kind of insults).

This year, before you jump online to rag on us for being basic in our comfy pants not made for the male gaze and our delicious fall beverages, or even before you sneer at a dude enjoying an artisanal beer, just … stop. Consider why you think it’s important. Does it make you feel powerful or smart or special for a millisecond? Is that meme worth the misogyny it perpetuates? It is worth the exhaustion it adds too for people who are just trying to find some comfort in a world that’s literally on fire?

So, sip that soothing taste of fall, my pumpkin spice-loving buds. And if you’re not in that category, I don’t need to hear it.

(image: Pexels)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.