Valentine’s Day: A Feminist Defense

13 Feb

It’s Valentine’s Day, and I’m writing to share the love.

That’s right, I’m a feminist and I love Valentine’s Day– and I want to tell you why.

I actually don’t have any really horrible Valentine’s Day stories. I generally have a pretty good V-Day, single or otherwise. On my first celebration, my freshman year of high school, I spent the evening in a sleepover movie night with girlfriends.

My second was an awkward first date (yes, on Valentine’s Day. And I STILL don’t hate the holiday!). I dropped the chocolates and left the flowers on a table at the school dance, but hey– it was fun. I’m going on Valentine’s Day number 10; my boyfriend is halfway across the country and I plan on celebrating by hanging with friends and going to Poetry Night.

Sounds pretty fun– what’s to hate?

Honestly, I don’t really know. But everyone has at least one friend who won’t stop spouting off about how awful Valentine’s Day is, and now that Twitter and Facebook are ubiquitous, it’s hard to avoid these angry V-Day bombers (too soon?)

This year the bile started early, with posts hating on Valentine’s Day appearing on my Facebook feed no earlier than February first! We still have two weeks people! There’s no need to build your anti-Valentine’s Day army quite so early.

The posts started popping up, mostly bemoaning the entire month of February solely because of the one holiday. And I get that. If you’re feeling anti-love-and-happiness, it can be hard to suffer through the pink coating covering media and advertisements.

I also get that there are actual, legitimate reasons for thinking the holiday is just a bad excuse for sucking money out of innocent couples. But seriously, aren’t all holidays in America bad excuses for sucking money out of people in the name of love? Why fight Valentine’s Day?

In some senses, it perpetuates nostalgia for romantic ideals of love and femininity through chocolates, flowers, pink, and passive ladies swooning through held-open doors. Mashable just published an Infographic showing that the myth of a Valentine’s Day sugar daddy still exists. Rather than spending equally on the holiday, men outspend women by almost 50%. This is a harmful stereotype because it argues that women need at least one day a year for men to pamper and protect them.

Not to mention the blatant sex-for-goods jokes that circulate this time of year. You know, the one where bros joke that getting a lady a good gift means scoring later that night. Teleflora was slammed for depicting this attitude in their Super Bowl ad, but in last Thursday’s less noticed episode of 30 Rock the jokes multiply as Lutz tries to clean up on “Scumbag Christmas.”

 

Apparently the 30 Rock writers buy into the notion that  for single women, Valentine’s Day is the worst time of the year, the day they are the most vulnerable. But I just don’t agree.

Maybe it’s because Liz Lemon lost all her lady friends that she suffers on Valentine’s Day, but for me, Valentine’s Day is the day of the year when I eat candy and celebrate myself and my loved ones. I buy myself flowers and chocolates (in addition to the ones my boyfriend and mother send me. Don’t judge.) and I watch sappy romance movies like Notting Hill or Twilight. And I love every single minute of it.

This is what my Valentine's Day this year consists of.

This isn’t the first time I’ve run into tension between commitment to feminism and my identity as a romantic, chocolate eating flower-phile. I love the chivalric tradition, I’m fascinated by it, and in part I think my identity as a person is based on an “outdated” notion of femininity. I like to cook, I enjoy taking care of children, and I do like dinner dates. But I also really hate romcoms* (I’m an action movie kind of gal) and don’t buy into reality TV or baking. I also split the check at dinner– gotta keep my agency!

I know that the third-wave feminist idea of choice is outdated, since choices are influenced by the way society constructs acceptable behavior for men and women, so I can’t really explain away my contradictions that way. As a response to this problem I’ve been toying with the idea of conflicting identities. Being aware of the ways in which our experiences and the world around us shape us in contradictory ways, and knowing that that’s okay. And I would argue that talking about these conflicts, kind of like what I’m doing now, is the first step towards understanding ourselves.

Maybe I’m betraying the feminist cause by loving Valentine’s Day so much. But I don’t think so.

Notes:

*Someone just brought to my attention the fact that Notting Hill is a romcom. Since I’m writing about identity contradictions, consider this point proven.

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4 Responses to “Valentine’s Day: A Feminist Defense”

  1. sneezinupstrawberries February 13, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    Well said. Personally, I have no “beef” with Valentine’s Day, other than it is a holiday for consumerism, but the rather beautiful story of St. Valentine is ignored. I will actually say that the worst Valentine’s Days that I experienced in the past were due to having a boyfriend. It caused added stress to my life that normally wouldn’t be there.

    I’m actually pretty excited for tomorrow, because I am going to send Valentines and just be goofy. There is no reason why it should be a stressful holiday by any means. Besides, romantic love shouldn’t run your life, single or not..

  2. Feliza February 18, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    To be fair, I’ve always been of the opinion that feminism is about everyone’s ability to make their own decisions. If you decide you enjoy a sappy holiday, you should be able to enjoy it without others hating on it — after all, this is your life and you make the decisions about everything, right?

    • Caitlin Garzi February 18, 2013 at 11:04 am #

      I think that would buy into the third wave feminist idea of choice. For example, if someone wants to be a stay at home mom, that’s their choice, and so no feminist should “judge” a woman for this choice.

      What the “choice” theory doesn’t take into account is that social expectations and gender conditioning influence “choices,” so much so, that one has to wonder if anyone is actually choosing anything, or if society is choosing *for* people. This becomes a question of free will, and how much our choices are influenced by policy, advertising, and ambiguous social constructs.

      So although I wouldn’t “judge” a woman for wanting to be a stay at home mom, I would recognize that her choice is influenced and guided by an expectation that women should be primary caregivers (rather than men); a disproportionate number of toys for girls emphasize baking, childcare, and homemaking; and the fact that workplaces are often more rewarding for men than women (on average, women earn 70 cents for every dollar men make and are in only 14% of executive officer roles).Here’s a good source about “choice” in the modern economy: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/17/opinion/sunday/why-gender-equality-stalled.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

      Sometimes, I like to think about how much of my personality, habits, values, ect are shaped by said outside forces, so I can examine these values and deconstruct the ways I embody and reproduce the values of the patriarchy.

      Sorry for the feminist theory heavy response, but I do think this blog grapples with “choice” and social constructs quite often (or maybe it only used to), so I see it as an underlying foundation from which I consider my experiences. And it’s just so interesting!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The End of My Affair with Valentine « Sustained Enthusiasm - February 17, 2013

    […] year ago, I wrote a feminist’s defense of Valentine’s day, basically arguing that Valentine’s Day is my time to celebrate myself and my loved ones […]

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