When I was little this was my favorite holiday, a truth I avoided professing until I reached a point in my life when I didn’t give a toss. Aside from the gruesome origin of the holiday (that’s sure a downer) I was fond of notes, flowers, red and pink, the expression of affections, and decorative cards. I enjoyed walking down the streets and every 30 minutes seeing small stands filled with these, displayed by hopeful vendors. As much as I liked the 14th I don’t think I ever went absolutely batshit for it. (In fact I wonder if this wouldn’t ruin my fondness of it.) The holiday had always been quiet for me: I never really associated it with any kind of extravagance, and would have always preferred quiet meals at home to packed restaurants. There are a lot of feminist reasons to dislike the holiday–the overt exclusion of LGBT people in its representations is an important example, as well as the poverty-level wages earned by flower industry workers–but I’m going to write about something I’ve observed this past 24 hours.
Which was mainly men complaining–very loudly–about how stressful this holiday is.
I find this very interesting. Valentine’s Day, it seems, consumes less time and demands less preparation than most major holidays. Even if your SO prefers fancy hotels and restaurants–all you’d have to do is some booking in advance. You’re done in 10 minutes. I’ve never heard a woman complain about her partner’s utter lack of competence on this holiday before. (In fact, it’s considered distasteful; or, if you’re so misogynist that you don’t want to give women so much credit, it’s at least embarrassing when your girl friend is shoving dozens of roses and balloons in your face and you’re telling her how “unloved” you are.) It’s considerably harder to find gifts for men during this holiday. Without traditional conventions working to “guide” her, a woman gifting her male significant other would encounter more difficulties and reasonably become more frustrated–yet I’ve never heard a single woman who is gifting her partner complain.
I’ve heard men go on and on with their complaints–one of them even declaring that as soon as he’s on a first date, he lets it be known that he won’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. (That would never fly with me. Fortunately, he wasn’t asking me.)
With Christmas, which begins WEEKS in advance, and Halloween, which requires all the stress that accompanies piecing together a costume or throwing a party or gathering candy and decorations, and the imperialist holiday of Thanksgiving, which… I won’t even start on the labor for Thanksgiving… Valentine’s Day in comparison is absolutely nothing at all. Book a reservation at a restaurant, buy some roses, say something thoughtful–and you’re done.
The malicious hatred of it, is a result of the hatred of all the pink it involves, of flowers, of compassion, of anything and everything that is known to be a trait of femininity. The malicious hatred of it is a result of the hatred of women especially receiving anything at all. Unlike Christmas, Halloween, or Thanksgiving, the labor for Valentine’s Day is expected to be performed by men. And that’s why every man on earth is magically anti-capitalist a week before the 14th.
During Christmas, Halloween, and Thanksgiving, most of the labor that is involved is endured by women. I suppose men are stereotyped to put up the Christmas lights; after that, all that’s traditionally expected of him is to stuff his face and watch television until the party starts. The sense that women are traditionally the main receipt of Valentine’s Day, and all of the responsibility of representing femininity with pinkness and floweryness, amounting to general male disdain of it is telling of the most deeply embedded sexism that a man can overtly display.
Stuffed animals are a turn off for me, I’m not much of a fan of chocolate, and I’m rather choosy about jewelry, but I don’t mind (fair trade) flowers once in a while. Honestly, I love flowers. Potted plants are nice. And I can’t imagine ever being with a man–or why any woman would want to be with a man–who would throw such a fit about a simple gesture of love one day a year. I’d seriously question why it bothered him so much while he undoubtedly expects every woman around him to cook extravagant Eid dinners without a single complaint. The difference is that while most other holidays masquerade as “gender-neutral,” they aren’t; Valentine’s is one of the few explicitly designed for women, and not men, to relax–unless you’re a woman who, like me, lives in a patriarchy, where you can’t relax, because you have to hear men bitch about the three things they have to do. Constantly.