I’ve always felt fairly ambivalent toward Valentine’s Day. As a kid, I loved it because we had a party in class and I got candy. As I got older, I found no meaning in it, taking after my father and thinking of it as a capitalist ploy on the part of greeting card companies and jewelry stores to get money moving in the season after Christmas. Now, as a young feminist in a committed, heterosexual relationship, Valentine’s Day seems a little more attractive to me. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the love I share with my partner in a cheesy, public way without being made fun of for it. It’s an excuse to go out for dinner and buy each other presents. But, as I prepare to doll up and go out with my significant other, I worry that there might be a problem with Valentine’s Day.
As the kind of person who loves holidays and presents more than pretty much anything else, I want to love Valentine’s Day. It should be something I want to participate in, right? It’s a celebration of love and, if you’ve ever spent any time with me, you know that my whole feminist ideology centers on loving each other equally. So sure, I love the part of Valentine’s Day that encourages people to show the love they have for one another. I love the part of Valentine’s Day that mandates that we go out and buy cards and candy for our acquaintances because that kind of love and kindness is the stuff I go crazy for.
However, I don’t like the side of Valentine’s Day that tells people that the way they show their love for others has to fit a certain template. I don’t love that people think that, without Valentine’s Day, men wouldn’t know how to show affection. I don’t love that Valentine’s Day generally encourages men to give women gifts and women to show their gratitude through sexual favors and by wearing skimpy lingerie. I don’t love the part of Valentine’s Day that impresses a heteronormative sense of what love is on our young people. I don’t love the rigid gender roles that Valentine’s Day asks us to abide by. So, with all that being said, here are some tips on how to have a Feminist Valentine’s Day:
When picking out cards to hand out at school or to your friends, Google image search “feminist valentine’s cards.” You’ll find plenty of inclusive, funny and politically correct visual puns and cartoons to share with your friends and loved ones.
Take the opportunity to, instead of relishing only romantic love, celebrate the platonic love you share with the people in your life. Call your mom. Facebook message your high school prom date. Tweet at your favorite Twitter celebrity.
Be aware of what kind of love is being celebrated and how that can exclude some people. Keep in mind that Valentine’s Day often ignores the love of people who aren’t straight and cisgender*.
I still don’t know how I feel about Valentine’s Day. But I do know how I am going to celebrate it. I will go on a cheesy, stereotypical, romantic date with my boyfriend. We’ll go out to dinner and then go see “Perfect Arrangement” here at the Concordia Theatre. We’ll exchange presents and talk about how much we love each other. But I’ll also celebrate the love I have with others. I’ll be spending Valentine’s Day this year telling the people in my life how much I treasure them. Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love and, as flawed and exclusive as it can be, it also provides an opportunity to share appreciation and tenderness with the people who are most important to you. Happy Valentine’s Day, readers, thank you for being a part (albeit a small one) of my life.
*Cisgender: adj. identifying as the sexual gender assigned to you at birth; opposite of transgender.
Natalie Dulka is a sophomore English Writing and Theatre Art double major from Minneapolis, MN. She keeps herself occupied by holding the position of Chief Executive Officer of Feminism Club, being involved with the theater, and writing plays. Her passions include sarcasm, wool socks, and equality.