Valentine’s Day makes me really uncomfortable. I don’t like stuffed animals. I cringe at the thought of receiving sub-par chocolate. Red roses are boring. And I don’t enjoy dining in overpriced restaurants in which the tables are pushed so close together that I’m forced to dine with four strangers.
However, I do feel totally comfortable talking about — and listening to others talk about — stopping violence against women and girls. I also think it’s appropriate to discuss the social norms that are creating barriers to the rights of women and girls.
Ironically, the marketing of Valentine’s Day contributes to the social norms that keep women disempowered. Commercials, magazines and online retailers create the image of a woman desperately waiting to receive, and a man scouring for the appropriate item to make her his. For example, ProFlowers.com uses this tagline for the Feb. 14 holiday: “Steal her heart this Valentine’s Day. Give Valentine’s Day flowers from ProFlowers and express your love in a lasting, one-of-a-kind way.”
First of all, those roses are going to die, so that’s a lie. But, steal her heart away? With some plants? How about some respect? Empathetic listening? Compassion? And maybe a different verb than steal. Try — share, support, embrace. I get that these words would sound really weird to a marketing whiz, but come on, this quasi-holiday perpetuates gender-based violence: Subservient female accepts gift from decision-making male. Not to mention that Valentine’s Day marketing has been less than inclusive to those who don’t identify as heterosexual.
Valentine’s Day has got to go. Proclaim this day V-Day:
…a global activist movement to stop violence against women and girls. V-Day is a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM) and sex slavery.
I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with the giving and receiving of gifts. I am saying that the way this holiday has been presented — historically and presently — maintains stereotypes, norms and ideas that suggest women are objects to be desired (or not). If Feb. 14 is about love — then empower the women you love!