Popaganda: The Pumpkin Spice Must Flow

This episode was originally published on October 4, 2018.

At the end of summer, when the super hot days get rarer, the signs of fall appear: reddish leaves, leather jackets, people talking about football, and pumpkin spice lattes. Like death and taxes, the pumpkin spice latte seems inevitable, and it takes up an incredible amount of space in the public consciousness. So yes, we’re succumbing to the siren song and devoting a whole episode to the PSL.

So why are we so obsessed with pumpkin spice? And why is it so easy to hate on the drink and the people who consume it? How did this assortment of spices from the Indian subcontinent become the hallmark of basicness, and what can its autumnal popularity tell us about capitalism, misogyny, and the need to belong?

On this episode, we have a special guest! Backtalk’s Amy Lam reads an excerpt of a spicy ode to squash. In our first segment, you’ll hear from Tiffany Midge, a poet and humorist who wrote “An Open Letter to White Girls Regarding Pumpkin Spice and Cultural Appropriation.” After that, you’ll get the specialty coffee barista’s perspective from Adam JacksonBey. Then you’ll hear from Rebecca Jennings, a consumer reporter for Vox who wrote about the backlash to pumpkin spice and what it all means. Finally, Sasanka Jinadasa chimes in to remind us of what we lose when we’re so hyper focused on the meaning behind a latte.

SHOUT-OUTS

Image by Brigitte Tohm via Unsplash

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TRANSCRIPT

DAHLIA BALCAZAR: Hey Popaganda listeners, it’s me, Dahlia from Backtalk. There’s a podcast I wanna tell you about. It’s called The Shadows, from CBC Podcasts and award-winning audio artist, Kaitlin Prest of The Heart. 

The Shadows is a fiction series about the anatomy of a love relationship. It’s expertly sound designed, form breaking, and captures the joys and brutally messy, painful parts of love. And like most of Kaitlin’s work, it includes very real love scenes…because some of them are actually real. 

Subscribe to The Shadows wherever you get your podcasts. 

SOLEIL HO: Hi there! You’re listening to Popaganda, a podcast by Bitch Media. This is Soleil Ho. 

[rain pitter patters] 

At the end of summer, when the super-hot days get rarer, the signs of fall appear: reddish leaves, leather jackets, people talking about football, and pumpkin spice lattes. Like death and taxes, the pumpkin spice latte seems inevitable, and it takes up an incredible amount of space in the public consciousness. So yes, we’re succumbing to the siren song and devoting a whole episode to the PSL. 

And by the way, if you have any ideas at all for future topics for Popaganda, we’ve got a great new way for you to get in touch. Text “idea” to 734-577-7711. If you’re up at night thinking about Sasquatches or witches or I don’t know, Orange Juliuses, feel free to text any of those ideas to me. Again, text “idea” to 734-577-7711 and save my number as Popaganda so we can keep in touch. 

[theme music] 

So, why are we so obsessed with pumpkin spice? And why is it so easy to hate on the drink and the people who consume it? How did this assortment of spices from the Indian subcontinent become the hallmark of basicness, and what can its autumnal popularity tell us about capitalism, misogyny, and the need to belong? 

To herald in this most sacred of seasons, I asked Amy Lam to provide a squash-themed appetizer for you. You might know her from Bitch Media’s other podcast, Backtalk! While you listen, I want you to imagine a crackling fireplace [fire crackles gently]; the feeling of a soft wool sweater; the crunch of dead leaves; and the taste of cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon. Stay tuned for a dramatic reading of It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers, by Colin Nissan, originally published in McSweeney’s. 

AMY LAM: It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers, by Colin Nissan. 

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get my hands on some fucking gourds and arrange them in a horn-shaped basket on my dining room table. That shit is gonna look so seasonal. I’m about to head up to the attic right now to find that wicker fucker, dust it off, and jam it with an insanely ornate assortment of shellacked vegetables. When my guests come over it’s gonna be like, BLAMMO! Check out my shellacked decorative vegetables, assholes. Guess what season it is — fucking fall. There’s a nip in the air and my house is full of mutant fucking squash. 

I may even throw some multi-colored leaves into the mix, all haphazard like a crisp October breeze just blew through and fucked that shit up. Then I’m going to get to work on making a beautiful fucking gourd necklace for myself. People are gonna be like, “Are those gourds straining your neck?” And I’m just going to thread another gourd onto my necklace without breaking their gaze and quietly reply, “It’s fall, fuckfaces. You’re either ready to reap this freaky-assed harvest or you’re not.” 

Carving orange pumpkins sound like a pretty fitting way to ring in the season. Why? Because it’s not summer, it’s not winter, it’s not spring. Grab a calendar and pull your fucking heads out of your asses; it’s fall, fuckers. [mellow bluegrass] 

Have you ever been in an Italian deli with salamis hanging from their ceiling? Well then you’re going to fucking love my house. Just look where you’re walking, or you’ll get KO’d by one of the gauntlet of misshapen, zucchini-descendant bastards swinging from above. And when you do, you’re going to hear a very loud, very stereotypical Italian laugh coming from me. Consider yourself warned. 

For now, all I plan to do is to throw on a flannel shirt, some tattered overalls, and a floppy fucking hat and stand in the middle of a cornfield for a few days. The first crow that tries to land on me is going to get his avian ass bitch-slapped all the way back to summer. 

Welcome to Autumn, fuckheads! 

SOLEIL: Thanks, Amy.  

In our first segment, you’ll hear from Tiffany Midge, a poet and humorist who wrote An Open Letter to White Girls Regarding Pumpkin Spice and Cultural Appropriation. After that, you’ll get the specialty coffee barista’s perspective from Adam JacksonBey. Then you’ll hear from Rebecca Jennings, a consumer reporter for Vox who wrote about the backlash to pumpkin spice and what it all means. Finally, Sasanka Jinadasa chimes in to remind us of what we lose when we’re so hyper-focused on the meaning behind a latte. I hope you enjoy the show! 

[punk music interlude: Pumpkin Spice by Kill You Twice] 

♪ let’s get something straight  

next time fall comes around, you better appreciate  

you’ll be begging for  

fall’s crisp cock  

when the foliage starts to drop  

 

leaves on the ground  

leaves in her hair  

they’re falling everywhere  

I guess that’s why  

we call it fall ♪ 

SOLEIL: Tiffany Midge’s open letter begins like this: 

[chipper music] 

Dear Kennedy, Madison, Scout, Britney, Cassidy, Cheyenne et al., 
 
Not to sound like I’m singling anyone out here, but as an Indigenous woman, I feel just a skoosh bit territorial, to put it mildly, about the commercial appropriation of pumpkin spice, and how each year seems worse than the last. I don’t mean to exaggerate, but each year the pumpkin spice season virtually impales me with dread as I wait for the pumpkin spice hysteria to lay siege upon my otherwise placid, pumpkin spice-free life. I don’t intend to pumpkin spice shame anyone, but I’m talking to you, Piper, Lisbeth, and Clementine. 

TIFFANY MIDGE: I’m always trying to poke fun or indict whiteness or this concept of whiteness. And it’s not so much the whiteness itself. It’s just the cluelessness: whether that’s willful ignorance, or if that’s just a characteristic of just kind of being able to live above what’s really happening to other people around the world and oppression and things like that. I don’t know, but it’s definitely, for me, it’s just punching up. And that’s the delight of satire. 

SOLEIL: In her letter, which was originally published in McSweeney’s, pumpkin spice everything is a symbol of the ubiquity of Christian whiteness, a fact made ironic because of the pumpkin’s indigenous origins. 

TIFFANY: Pumpkin spice is, again, a representative or a symbol of that kind of proselytizing, that kind of message, those kinds of words. So, to my mind, as an Indigenous person, that makes perfect sense to me. [laughs] It’s very symbolic. 

I think that a lot of times, it’s just the idea of oh, hey! I never thought about that before. Because there’s so many things that are just so explicit and obvious to certain groups that aren’t at all, like not that it ever occurred to anyone. And so, mostly it’s just education, you know, but doing it in a really fun way. For me, personally, I mean it’s fun. Some people get pretty upset. They feel personally indicted, and I suppose that kinda relates back to the idea of me punching up. I’m venting, right? I’m putting off steam by expressing these ideas, but expressing them in a humorous way so people can have that takeaway of a laugh or a humor rather than just feeling personally shamed. Which isn’t entirely my intention to just shame people. It’s mostly just to sort of jolt people into an understanding of what some of these things represent. 

We see it everywhere whenever we go to the market, and we’re utterly saturated by it. And when it comes to the actual pumpkin spice lattes, and we always place the blame on white girls going to Starbucks and getting pumpkin spice. And that, of course, sort of epitomizes the whole colonialism and appropriation and all of those sorts of studies. It just seems like a pretty easy thing to poke fun at. It’s not necessarily offensive to anyone. Well, it’s just a coffee, you know? I’ve seen articles where pumpkin spice apparently isn’t even, pumpkin isn’t even in and of itself the spice; it’s this other stuff that they put in it. You’re not actually eating pumpkin when you order those things. It’s not pumpkin. It’s just the spice that they use to flavor it, flavor pumpkin. Which is sorta funny in a way, too, right? That no one’s actually eating or drinking pumpkins. 

SOLEIL: An investigation by Heirloom Gardener magazine in 2012 revealed that, yes, the pumpkin that comes in those bright orange cans is, in fact, a squash. The pumpkin, in more cases than one, is purely symbolic. 

[polka interlude: Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie by Brave Combo] 

♪ Apples, peaches, pumpkin pie 

Who’s not ready? holler “i” 

Let’s all play hide and seek…. ♪ 

SOLEIL: Adam JacksonBey is a Washington, DC-based barista and member of the Barista Guild of America’s Executive Council. He’s a respected leader in the coffee industry, so I wanted to get his thoughts on how the PSL phenomenon has impacted coffee shops that aren’t Starbucks. The contrast is especially clear because Adam is part of the specialty coffee world, which focuses on single origin coffees roasted and brewed in highly specific ways that get the best flavor out of the beans. So, a pumpkin spice latte, which emphasizes the syrup over the coffee, ain’t that. 

ADAM JACKSONBEY: You do get the question about pumpkin spice a lot, and there’s a lot of different ways a lot of different shops have combated that. But I think for specialty coffee baristas specifically, a lot of us, it’s kind of grating because— I won’t say a lot of look down on Starbucks because I’ve actually found the opposite. I’m the only barista I know that’s never been to Starbucks. So, most specialty coffee baristas love Starbucks, love going to Starbucks. So, it’s just that it’s a question that everybody expects to be the same because they’ve had this experience at Starbucks. So, we’ve gotten this question, and it’s a very interesting one to say the least. 

SOLEIL: So much of the job of being a specialty coffee barista lies in education: teaching patrons what constitutes a proper macchiato, or explaining what aromas might come from certain varieties of beans. For a lot of my barista friends, pulling people out of their comfort zone—say, out of the cloyingly sweet pumpkin spice doldrums—can be a challenge. 
 
ADAM: So, it’s like somebody who says they don’t like beer, but they’ve only had Budweiser and Miller Lite. Not that Miller Lite and Budweiser aren’t great beers. I love both of those beers, but they aren’t the best example of what beer could be. So, pumpkin spice customers or pumpkin spice people are people that drink coffee because they feel like they should be drinking coffee, not because they actually love coffee. And that’s fine. There’s a place for those customers too, and again, it’s about educating. And for a lot of specialty shops, I can’t think of a shop in DC that has pumpkin spice on the menu, a specialty shop, off the top of my head. But in order to figure out what those people want, we need to come up with different ways to kind of bring those customers in. And everybody does it a little differently, so. 

SOLEIL: Yeah. So, what is sort of the—I don’t know how to say it—but like, the sort of methadone equivalent to pumpkin spice? What might feasibly be useful to ween people off? 

ADAM: [laughs] So, all right. I’m a competition barista. I’ve competed in the past two competition cycles. The competition we’re putting on now is a preliminary version of the qualifying event that I’ve competed in. And part of that is a signature beverage. 

SOLEIL: Mm. 

ADAM: And the sig bev is kind of what coffee’s answer to kinda like that methadone version of pumpkin spice. And the past two years I competed, I competed with a coffee from Papua New Guinea, two different coffees, both from Papua New Guinea. And the tasting notes in the coffee are typically gonna be savory, so like sweet potato, pumpkin, things of that nature, your winters gourds. And the first year, I made an allspice, cinnamon espresso soda. So, it was allspice, cinnamon over seltzer water. And then last year, I basically made Coca Cola as an espresso-based drink, or Cherry Coke, as an espresso-based drink. And they’re both, that’s kind of what our answer is. You’ll see more sweet potato, especially among people that have a Black barista specifically in charge of developing drinks because we tend more towards sweet potato than pumpkin. You’ll see more chai, apple cider type drinks. You’ll see different variations on hot chocolate. Like at Potters, we did a chocolate chai for a while. You’ll see different spiced drinks in that way, but you won’t see like a necessarily a pumpkin spice. 

It’s just getting those same elements of fall and getting those same, like your apples, your warm, hearty spices. Those are the things that people are looking for, and those are the things that baristas tend to move more towards when you’re talking about making something for the fall. Nobody is really gonna try to put pumpkin spice on the menu or pumpkin pie on the menu necessarily because it’s been done before. And because again, we’re such a young culture, we’re trying to be as innovative as possible and just try to do things that nobody else has done before and try to give people a warm, comforting, reliable experience but also something that’s different than what they’re used to. 

SOLEIL: It seems like, from what you’re saying too and just observations, that pumpkin spice lattes and that whole apparatus is very much a cultural marker for some people. 

ADAM: Yes, yes. 

SOLEIL: It is just like, “I am just a Starbucks person. I am a pumpkin spice latte person.” 

ADAM: Yeah! 

SOLEIL: And so, you’re not competing for those people. 

ADAM: Not necessarily. If they come in, and we can make them something really great. But that’s not really, like you have to realize that everybody isn’t necessarily your customer. When I was selling high-end furniture, somebody who also was deciding between, like nobody’s gonna be deciding between us and Target. They’re different customers for every need. So, pumpkin spice has become a cultural signifier in that the people that get pumpkin spice lattes, that’s kind of their thing, and that’s what they’re known for. And that’s fine, you know? 

SOLEIL: [laughs] 

ADAM: It sounds way worse than it is, but everybody has their thing. 

SOLEIL: Right. 

ADAM: My thing is sandwiches. Everybody has a thing that people know them for. 

[bouncy music] 

SOLEIL: The whole thing with pumpkin spice lattes is their uniformity: the one you’re getting this year is the exact same as the one you got last year, and that’s on purpose. As a species, we tend to mark the movement of time with rituals steeped in that sense of long-running sameness, like coming-of-age ceremonies, anniversaries, and that awful Christmas song by Paul McCartney. When we dip into those familiar movements, emotions, and sensations, we take comfort in knowing that this is something everyone else is doing. We could make sense of the overwhelming chaos of the universe. By remaining consistent, Starbuck’s has brilliantly positioned the PSL as just another definitive autumnal experience, essentially guaranteeing themselves a nice little income spike every fall. While that might seem intimidating for smaller coffee shop owners, Adam seemed pretty unbothered. 

ADAM: Pumpkin spice at the end of the day is safe. You know exactly what you’re gonna get, and it’s gonna be great. It’s gonna be good every time, but it won’t be great. Like you say, “Oh, that was a really great latte,” but it’s literally the exact same latte you got yesterday. Because that’s what Starbucks does: consistency. But specialty coffee, it has a chance to really change your mind about what you thought coffee was, and that’s why I’m still in it. 

SOLEIL: No, it reminds me of eating a fresh tomato for the first time. 

ADAM: Yeah. 

SOLEIL: Just like, oh! I get it. 

ADAM: Yeah! That’s exactly what it’s like: eating fruit in season from a farmers market. That’s exactly what it’s like. 

SOLEIL: I was really delighted to read Rebecca Jennings’ piece on the pumpkin spice backlash on Vox because it articulated a lot of my hesitation with the PSL hate, something that’s become as much of a yearly tradition as the beverage itself. We’ve had the pumpkin spice latte for 15 years now, and it doesn’t seem to be going away. The more interesting question about it, which she and other guests on the episode pose, is what are we actually talking about when we talk about pumpkin spice? 

REBECCA JENNINGS: I was mostly interested in sort of digesting why we’ve had so many rounds of this discussion, why it never goes away, why every September it’s like, oh, shit. Pumpkin spice! Gotta talk about it. [chuckles] So, what I basically was interested in why it gets people so upset and why we keep talking about it. 

So, what I started to notice was that people started to make fun of the pumpkin spice latte drinker around the time that Instagram was happening. So, like the early 2010s. And what I think is when you see a trend happening on Instagram, when you see a barrage of Instagrams that are like wearing Uggs and you know, in front of a pile of fall leaves and then there’s a pumpkin spice latte in there, and it’s like it’s super easy to make fun of, you know? If enough people are doing it, it’s like, oh god. That becomes its own sort of stereotype, and there we got this idea of who the pumpkin spice latte drinker is: it’s someone who unabashedly adores fall, who gets real joy in nostalgia of these very dorky activities, someone who wears these clothing items that we think of as basic, etc. It just sort of got wrapped up in this persona of who we think of as a pumpkin spice latte drinker. 

But on another note, I think pumpkin spice lattes often come out in a time of year that is not particularly autumnal. This year, they came out at the end of August. It was 90 degrees the first day they came out this year. And it’s like, you know, it just shoves the seasonal creep in your face, and I think seasonal creep is something that people have capitalistic anxieties about anyway. And when it’s so in your face as pumpkin has been, then it sort of forces us to reckon with that. 

A lot of people are sort of like they cry agricultural revisionism because pumpkin spice is released in the summer, and pumpkins are more associated with the holidays and later in the fall. And I think what that is, is sort of us warning each other about falling for marketing, you know? Seasonal creep is not limited to pumpkin spice. That’s sort of just the way capitalism— That’s what capitalism rewards: it rewards being the first to things. So, we get uncomfortable when we see that play out in such a drastic way as we do with pumpkin spice. 

SOLEIL: What does seasonal creep, like why is it such a source of anxiety for us? Most of us aren’t farmers. Why do we care about when autumnal squash actually exists in the world? Because most of us are really alienated from the harvest calendar. 

REBECCA: Yeah, exactly. Most of us are totally— And that’s why it feels kind of disingenuous when people are like, “Well, actually, pumpkins aren’t in season.” 

SOLEIL: [laughs] 

REBECCA: The marketing feels so, not in your face, but it’s so exposed in a way that marketing in general tends to be more delicate, and it tries to pretend that it’s not marketing. But when we see Christmas stuff in the pharmacy in October and September, it’s like, oh my god. We’re living in a simulation or something. 

SOLEIL: [laughs] It seems a little bit more insidious because so much of the pumpkin spice latte marketing is aimed towards women too, you know. And I feel like some of the backlash is like oh, these stupid women. They don’t even know when a pumpkin exists. 

REBECCA: [laughs] 

SOLEIL: Why are they buying pumpkin spice lattes? 

REBECCA: Absolutely. Because pumpkin spice is such a feminine-coded spice, I guess, or food, we definitely see a lot of anti-pumpkin spice from men who think that they’re sort of above this sort of marketing. Like they’re above the idea that they could be marketed to by Starbucks. We don’t tend to look down on men as much for falling for, say, bar-b-que or IPAs, stuff like that. 

SOLEIL: [laughs] Yeah. It seems like the lie is that women are more susceptible to capitalism. But the truth is that we all are. 

REBECCA: Oh yeah! 

SOLEIL: We’re all within this machine, right? 

REBECCA: Yeah, yeah. None of us have any control ever. 

SOLEIL: [laughs] 

REBECCA: Just kidding. 

SOLEIL: Yeah, why is it so much easier for pumpkin spice to be that cypher for us, for talking about, talking around capitalism and marketing and all of these things? Why can’t we just say like, “Capitalism’s bad,” and maybe this is a symptom. But let’s actually go for the actual disease. 

REBECCA: I mean we could solve so many arguments if we just all just were like, “Capitalism is bad,” if that’s always the answer. 

SOLEIL: [laughs] 

REBECCA: We joke about this at work all the time. I write about consumer culture, and it’s like, the answer is always the same. [laughing] It’s like, capitalism is bad. But that can’t be the last sentence of every article, unfortunately, so. 

SOLEIL: I wonder if, I don’t know, it’s just been really interesting watching, as you note in your piece, just the automated backlash and just all the takes. There’s just so many different takes on why it’s bad, you know. 

REBECCA: [laughs] Oh yeah. 

SOLEIL: And it’s a very diverse pool of opinions on why it’s bad. 

REBECCA: Yeah. I mean you’re allowed to think that pumpkin spice is bad. I just think there’s probably a deeper meaning than what a lot of people say that they think is bad about it. You know what I mean? 

SOLEIL: Yeah, yeah. And so, what is actionable here in your mind? I would find, personally as a writer, I would have a really hard time ending a piece like that ‘cause it just is endless, you know? 

REBECCA: I know. 

SOLEIL: So, what is the conclusion that you really wanted to land here? 

REBECCA: So, something that I found with what’s happening now is that a) people don’t really care anymore. There are so many other fall flavors, and there are also so many other things going on in the world. But that’s also kind of like an easy answer. You could say that really about anything. But I also think that pumpkin spice isn’t as prevalent as it used to be. And another thing I sort of have thought about in the past couple of weeks is that this idea of sort of building your personality off of something that you don’t really like or that you’re sort of building your personality of like, “I don’t like basic girls who like pumpkin spice lattes,” that’s kind of not very cool anymore, and it’s not very original. I just feel like you don’t see a lot of people sort of centering their identities around being this hipster meanie. And yeah, I think the mood right now is sort of like let me like what I like. If I get some joy out of this, whatever. Let me live. And I think pumpkin spice in general now is really interesting, but I also think that it’s not as much of a heated, heated super fraught topic as maybe it was four years ago or something. 

SOLEIL: I think a lot of things have changed since four years ago, yeah. 

REBECCA: Oh yeah! 

BOTH: [laugh] 

REBECCA: Sure have! 

SOLEIL: I think we’re just constantly a lot more tired these days, so why fight about pumpkin spice? [chuckles] 

REBECCA: Exactly. And there are really good reasons to, but I think in general, the general conversation about all right, we went through that. Let’s move on. 

SOLEIL: Right. Just give me my fucking coffee. 

REBECCA: Yeah. 

[mellow music interlude] 

SOLEIL: So, what should we be focusing on instead? I asked Sasanka Jinadasa, a partner and consultant of the collective Reframe Health and Justice, for their opinion. They wrote an article for Black Girl Dangerous on all of the reasons why, as a radical queer person of color, they should be free to feel a little joy sometimes, even with something as, “white” as pumpkin spice lattes. 

SASANKA JINADASA: I wrote that piece ‘cause I was thinking about the ways that people are always telling femmes, and particularly femmes of color, how to dress, how to act, what to eat, what not to eat. And I was thinking about the way we do it in the social justice world, so to speak. And I couldn’t get out of my mind that what we do, often, is take things that generally people love, like people generally love cinnamon [laughing] or generally love things that taste good, and then we tell people that they’re white or not white. And nothing, basically, belongs solely to white people because so much of what is produced through the lens of whiteness has been colonized or taken or appropriated from people of color. So to me, the idea that anything that isn’t about capitalistic violence is a white thing— 

BOTH: [laugh] 

SASANKA: —is so silly to me. And the funny thing is—and my girlfriend thinks this is hilarious—is I don’t even really like pumpkin spice lattes. 

BOTH: [chuckle] 

SASANKA: I like pumpkin spice things like pumpkin bread and pumpkin cake and all of those wonderful things. I don’t really like pumpkin spice lattes. But I do really love all the things that make up this flavor that’s called pumpkin spice, and I grew up indulging in those flavors through a very different form than people think about what pumpkin spice means. 

SOLEIL: Why do you think it’s so easy for us to invest so much intellectual, psychic, emotional energy into the things we buy? And it is just one person and one thing that they’re buying or consuming, but we feel this burden of doing right in that act even though the actual impact of doing so is really negligible. So, can we talk about the things that you concluded the piece with? Because I thought that was really cool, is you actually lay out ideas for people to, rather than withholding themselves from the pumpkin spice apparatus, you give people options like how to exit from this loop of moralizing and angst and grief. And how do you actually build community in the way that you were talking about? 

SASANKA: Allowing yourself to heal from toxicity, you know, not about I now have to negotiate every little interaction I have to make sure it is the most best possible. And when it comes to something that ultimately doesn’t really matter at all, be happy. Have your latte. But also, I made chai last week in my house, and it was delicious. And it was better than Starbucks chai and most people’s chai that gets sold in stores. But if I reject the concept of pumpkin spice, right, or chai because people sell it who probably shouldn’t sell it or probably shouldn’t be making so much money off of it, I haven’t gained anything by rejecting it entirely. I only gain if I allow myself to feel pleasure. 

One of the original harm reduction activists, many of them call themselves pleasure activists. And I would love for us in the social justice world to be pleasure activists, to be folks who move toward a happy society, not just one where everyone has redistributed wealth. But if we’re not happy in that, if we aren’t able to find creativity and joy, literally what’s the point, right? I think that Emma Goldman has that saying about you know, “If I can’t dance after a revolution, I don’t want any part in it.” A lot of people in current trends are talking about luxury automated, it was like gay space communism. And why not? Why not have this luxurious society where everyone has access to chaise longues and beautiful things and great-tasting food that is incredible and lush and desirous. And everyone should be able to access it, right? Let’s not move towards austerity as our mode. 

[cheery music] 

SOLEIL: Thanks to Tiffany Midge, Adam JacksonBey, Rebecca Jennings, and Sasanka Jinadasa for speaking with me for this episode of Popaganda. And thanks to you for listening. 

This episode was produced by Alex Ward. Our jingle is by Mucks & Owen Wuerker. Thanks to Kill You Twice for their track, Pumpkin Spice. Additional music was provided by Blue Dot Sessions. If you have thoughts or feelings or feedback on the show, please feel encouraged to send me an email to soleil@b-word.org. Or as always, you can review us on iTunes. 

Popaganda is produced by nonprofit, independent Bitch Media. Our feminist response to pop culture is entirely funded by our community. Love our work and wanna pitch in? Become a member! Join hundreds of fellow listeners as a member of The Rage. And when you do, you’ll receive a special mug, a subscription to Bitch magazine in print and digital, and other snazzy benefits! Become a member today at bitchmedia.org/rage. 

by Soleil Ho
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Soleil cooks for a living and writes sometimes. When she was in kindergarten, she reviewed a book for Reading Rainbow that she didn’t actually read. She cohosts Racist Sandwich, a podcast on food, race, class, and gender.

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