How PSL Bashing Reveals Another Double Standard for Women

PSL Photo via @StarbucksCanada
PSL Photo via @StarbucksCanada

If you don’t already know what PSL stands for, permit me to enlighten you. PSL refers to a signature fall drink, the Pumpkin Spice Latte, which Starbucks popularized.

Starbucks describes the PSL in the following way:

espresso and steamed milk are combined with a blend of pumpkin and traditional fall spice flavors” that can be “finished with whipped cream and Pumpkin Spice topping.”

Quite frankly, I think PSLs are amazing. And even now, I feel compelled to confess that I only get Starbucks a few times a year. This is mostly because I’m too busy to go out of my way for caffeine. I don’t post pictures of my drinks on Instagram, but I admire people who have the skill and time to take artsy food and drink photos.

But I digress; today, I am proud to say I openly love the warm and fall-evoking flavors of the PSL and am not embarrassed to order one in front of my more adventurous friends. Any disparaging of this marvelous drink, which may bring many drinkers joy in these unprecedented times, will surely fall on deaf ears.

Why do people call women who drink PSLs basic?

Moving on from my passionate defense of the pumpkin spice latte, when social media took off (in the early 2010s), this iconic fall drink, first introduced in 2003 by Starbucks, became synonymous with basic people, specifically women. I don’t even know if there’s an official definition for basic. However, I would hazard that people typically use it to label a woman who likes something popular as having no mind of her own and as tasteless. Sometimes people who consider themselves especially ~unique~ might even use the word ironically in apologizing for a lapse of a “basic purchase” or a love for a basic item.

However, labeling people and things as basic goes far beyond a devout love for PSLs. Indeed, Internet critics seem to love wielding this term against women who dare share a liking of something trendy that is popular through pictures on social media. Now, since when is liking something popular a cause for an all-encompassing and critical label? There’s a reason why certain products or activities are trendy: marketing and genuine enjoyability.

Double standards help men escape the “basic” label

When men have a shared enjoyment of something, perhaps sports or the latest popular video game, nobody rushes to label guys who play Fortnite (I’m sorry if that is no longer the most popular video game) as basic. As an aside, I’m not intending to stereotype men or women, especially as people are becoming more confident these days in embracing activities that defy gender typing — just trying to use an illustrative example.

In short, men aren’t dismissed as possessing average, predictable taste when they share common interests. Meanwhile, when women order PSLs, post beautiful sunsets on their Instagram and Snapchat stories, or wear trendy outfits, they risk being judged as gullible bandwagon trend jumpers who lack minds of their own and fell for mainstream marketing.

Maybe I’m overanalyzing a puzzling judgment of women who enjoy drinking PSLs. The fact remains that people sometimes judge women for embracing feminine trends, while men can freely enjoy stereotypically masculine activities. And this fact seems to be yet another example of how normalized double standards unfairly affect women, while society permits guys to be guys.

On the other hand, if a woman discards all things mainstream in favor of more alternative trends, society might label her as weird rather than basic. Too this or too that. It seems that society constantly attempts to shove women into an elusive and narrow box of what a woman should be. You have to wonder how this critical societal inclination has even trickled down to beverage choices.

Let people drink their PSLS in peace

All in all, I think one small step toward a better world would be for people to stop judging women for enjoying what they enjoy, and yes, that includes drinking PSLs. Life is too short to waste time denigrating PSL drinkers as basic.

P.S. I tried a DIY PSL recipe because I’m too lazy to drive to Starbucks and pay $6 for a grande cup. You can find this delicious, forgiving, and flexible copycat recipe here. Some adjustments I made:

  • reduced the white sugar and substituted in coconut sugar
  • used coconut vanilla milk instead of regular milk (I’m lactose-intolerant)
  • used decaf coffee instead of espresso (didn’t have espresso, and also, I can’t handle full caffeine

Thumbnail Photo via @StarbucksCanada

  • Is it time to stop labeling women for enjoying whatever it is they enjoy?

    • YES!
    • Also yes & this should’ve already happened


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