valentine’s

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.

7 thoughts on “valentine’s

  1. So much this. Valentine’s has never been my favorite holiday, but the absolute bile that people spew about it has always irritated me, and I’ve never managed to put my finger on why.

    I think also there’s a factor of work associated with the holiday versus enjoyment of the work that bothers me, as well. For myself, my family and I go all out for Christmas, and it’s often a lot of work, but it’s an important holiday to us (for purely secular reasons – when I was a child, it was the only major holiday we got to spend with just my immediate family, free of all of the drama of the extended families), so I genuinely enjoy all of the work. But people seem to complain endlessly about the effort put into Valentine’s without any sense of ‘but why are you doing it? don’t you get anything out of it?’

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    1. Exactly. They probably feel that they don’t get anything out of the effort, because their SO’s enjoyment is simply not tolerable.

      There are some really weird things that are also said, like, “Why do you need Valentine’s to show someone how much you love them?” which is like… why do you need Thanksgiving just to give thanks?

      People whose husbands are just passive aggressive assholes like that should just be all like, “Give thanks any day, sucker! You can watch the game WITHOUT the turkey or beer!”

      A lot of Muslims have the why-just-one-day attitude for pretty much all holidays, but for those who say it for one and not the other? Highly questionable.

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  2. Pingback: Valentine’s Day | Tariq Al-Hubb

  3. Valentine’s day can be ugly when it is simply a routine. Being bought flowers and chocolate because that is what is just what is meant to happen on V day isn’t particularly romantic or loving. Buying your SO’s favourite type of flowers and those chocolates they mentioned they wanted to try months ago is. As with many things, the underlying intention is the important thing.

    Anyone who doesn’t get sheer joy out of giving to the person they love SERIOUSLY needs to examine what “love” means to them.

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  4. Pingback: Linkage: Valentine’s Day Hangovers | Heal Britannia

  5. Wow–I don’t like the holiday, but this is leaving me questioning why, and not only because your points here make logical sense, but because I have to question my own motives for not liking it. This was my first Valentine’s Day with someone new for several years, and I took great pride in being the chick who was all, “Oh, I hate Valentine’s Day,” like that somehow made me cool. When in truth, many years ago I was with a many who did like it, and all we did was just make a nice meal together and slowly sip a bottle of wine while doing so. We didn’t do anything consumery or showy or all the Big Reasons you’re not supposed to like the holiday–and it was nice. It’s like I’ve adopted this mind-set to be the cool chick, à la “female chauvinist pigs.” Hmmm.

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  6. Pingback: The Unprincessed | the fatal feminist

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