08 May 2011

On Valentine's Day

[This post was originally written on 14 February 2011 and posted as a Facebook Note. The text is reproduced in its entirety, only adjusting if formatting changes are needed.]

Today, 14 February, is celebrated in much of the world as Valentine's Day. Ostensibly, it is a day that is meant to show affection to those who are closest to us.

However, I must note that I myself do not see it that way. Even notwithstanding the fact that I do not believe in the notion of love, I still find the entire concept of the day as it is commonly practiced as being at best vapid and in many respects an outright profanity against all that is good and right.

First, let us consider the spate of ads that have plagued the varied medias urging people (usually men) to buy flowers, cards, and various baubles for other people (usually women). Indeed, one can surmise that from a general standpoint, it's not about showing affection, but rather about materialism and profit. When all is said and done, Valentine's Day in the United States alone is an estimated $14.7 billion enterprise [1].

Second, what has this first point done within a relationship? Is it not evident that within the average relationship there exists some expectation that cards and/or gifts will be exchanged? What effect has this on a bond between man and woman?

In answer to these three questions and ruminating on what I have observed thus far, I would argue these points:

a.) The effect is the virtual commodification of the relationship. No longer is it all about simply loving and caring for each other--rather there is the introduction of "what's in it for me?" not purely on the level of "this person overall adds to my life and happiness" but "what can this person get for me?" It is an unhealthy element of selfishness coupled with raw materialism.

b.) This expectation seems to grow, and is in effect encouraged in this society. Indeed, I find it is not a stretch to state that a man who doesn't pull out the stops with gifts and romanticism for his woman risks being chided for it by said woman and her friends. He may be labelled as being "not a real man," "selfish," "he clearly doesn't love or deserve her," etc. ad nauseam.

c.) Ultimately, the effect it has is that the man finds himself going along with what the medias blare in the hopes of obtaining love (and the possibility of sexual release) from his woman, or at least refrain from being cast in the metaphorical doghouse. Further, said man is often led to believe that if he doesn't, she'll at least withhold such affections for him--or worse, leave him for another man that she perceives will.

Third, this is quite the double standard. In our society, it's perfectly acceptable to air ads encouraging men to buy expensive baubles such as jewellery, vacations, expensive "dinner dates"/"romantic getaways" and the like--all ostensibly to demonstrate his "love" for her. Yet, what would be the likely reaction if there were ads that encouraged women to buy things men tend to enjoy (or things such as "sexy" outfits) for Valentine's day--ostensibly for her to demonstrate her "love" for him? Such ads would be decried as sexist and misogynistic, and I personally would imagine the company and ad agency that ran such ads would be facing boycotts and/or virtual lynch-mobs. Goodness forbid that true reciprocity (and with it, true equality) come into play.

Fourth, the concept of a day set aside to demonstrate "love" and affection towards those closest to us strikes me as being ludicrously pathetic. Surely if one's affections and one's relationship is that strong, one doesn't need just one day to show their affections, but all of them. Nor is there a need to bestow expensive material gifts to someone to "prove" that you love and care about them--what about the simple things like earnestly listening to one's partner or helping them out in ways that improve their daily lives?

So, can we just for once cut out all the obsessiveness and focus on what really matters--that being the fact that people are in a relationship with someone who ostensibly loves and cares for them?


1: http://www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?R=1006913

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