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Rewriting the rules of Valentine's Day

Rewriting the rules of Valentine's Day

There’s an interview with me about Valentine’s Day over on The Sorority.

loveactually

What do you think about Valentines Day?

I think that the idea of having a day to celebrate love is a great one. What concerns me is the narrow range of love that is celebrated which both excludes those who don’t fit within it, and puts pressure on those who do. Single people can find Valentine’s Day very hard because it suggests that romantic love is so vitally important and reinforces the common view that those who don’t have it are lacking, or a failure. If you look at Valentine’s cards, gifts and movies you’ll also see an assumption that romantic love is heterosexual and married (with the bulk of cards ‘to my husband/wife’). Again this excludes those with same-sex relationships and those who are not married. Valentine’s restaurants are set up for couples, which means that people in openly non-monogamous relationships may struggle to feel accepted. Read more…


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  1. Lisa

    8 February

    I think feminists should also take the chance on Valentine’s Day to talk about the function of romance in a patriarchy. Women obviously aren’t valued in this society, so we should turn our feminist suspicion on anything which is popularly endorsed which claims to value us. Chances are it has some other function, especially with events like Valentine’s Day which celebrate as historically recent an idea as “romance”. Shulamith Firestone certainly thought so, arguing that so-called “romantic” love is, among other things, a ritual form which allows a man to tolerate an individual woman’s devalued status without lowering his own:

    Because sexual inequality has remained a constant – however its degree may have varied – the corruption ‘romantic’ love became characteristic of love between the sexes…

    A man must idealize one woman over the rest in order to justify his descent to a lower [class]… This idealization process acts to equalize artificially the two parties, a minimum precondition for the development of an uncorrupted love… Thus ‘falling in love’ is no more than the process of alteration of male vision – through idealization, mystification, glorification – that renders void the woman’s class inferiority.

    – Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex: The Case For Feminist Revolution (The Women’s Press, 1979), pp. 124-6

    I think the patriarchal functions of ideas like romance and events like Valentine’s Day can be interwoven with positive meanings, because we make our positivity where we can. So I’m not suggesting completely denouncing it, or whatever. But just because it has, effectively, a “human shield” in the form of those additional positive meanings shouldn’t prevent feminists from pointing clearly to why patriarchy endorses it and what patriarchy is getting out of it…

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