When we defend Valentine’s Day, what are we really defending? Love? I don’t think so. Capitalism? Maybe. The right to be obnoxious about your relationship decision? Absolutely.
Valentine’s Day can only exist through the lens of a love-obsessed society. We are not allowed to forget this ever, but especially not on such a God-forsaken time as early February.
We resurrected a holiday celebrating romantic love because we like its authoritarian effect. Romantic love is already a great Hobson’s choice; in other words, no choice at all. Valentine’s Day does its part to make sure things stay that way.
One of the main problems with the myth of Valentine’s Day is that it denies its poorly hidden capitalist motives. Valentine’s Day is excellent in terms of economic stimulus. The greeting card industry may not exist the way we know it without it. Expectations of chocolate giving and dinner dates reinforces the idea that spending money is necessary for romantic prowess. Gift giving on Valentine’s Day essentially exists to fuel major corporations and does very little else.
Although capitalism is a reoccurring theme in the V-day pedagogy, it is far from vital to Valentine’s Day. Essentially at the core of the holiday lies amatonormativity. Amatonormativity is a deeply embedded cultural hierarchy that privileges monogamous, alloromantic people in search of a romantic life partner. With it comes the assumption that any desire for anything else is a sign of defect.
Through the years, I have learned that Valentine’s Day puts certain needs and decisions above others exclusively. And I am not trying to complain about being single on Valentine’s Day—I am complaining that the entire concept of someone feeling bad based on their relationship status on a designated holiday is messed up.
The only reason we need a holiday to celebrate romantic love is to enforce its cultural importance. The subtle reminder that we are not happy if we are not dating relies on bureaucratic control tactics. Valentine’s Day exists not to tell you that you want one, but that you need one.
Valentine’s Day is really more of a control narrative than a love narrative. We think that dating will make us happy, regardless of what type of body or preferences we may have. Our goals revolve more around meeting amatonormatiy’s definition of success than personal happiness.
We like Valentine’s Day because it perpetuates the system. A fake celebration that both stimulates the economy and enforces systematic ranking of people based on their personal choices, as well as completely marginalizing aromantic identifying individuals. It may be beneficial to people on a personal level, and most people do not intend harm by celebrating the holiday, but this does not erase its true cultural meaning.
So what are we really defending when we vehemently defend the alleged integrity of the holiday? Does anyone who does not support the idea of a romantic elite genuinely think that a holiday devoted to romantic elitism is a good idea? I have met far too many people who take no issue with breaching my comfort zone for the sake of showing off their relationship to defend this position.
To be extra clear, I do not blame individuals for any of this. Most people are unaware of what Valentine’s Day really represents, and intend no harm by doing what they have learned. However, the damage done by Valentine’s Day is not something that can be opted out of on an individual level.
Valentine’s Day is not a casual date on which to celebrate a happy relationship, it is a very backhanded way of saying that only certain types of relationship choices deserve to be validated. People who still refuse to see this are simply silencing people who have had negative experiences, while simultaneously trying to make themselves seem more on top of things than they actually are.
All in all, there is really no such thing as defending a dating holiday in an amatonormative culture with pure motives. I accept that many people are unaware of how unpleasant of a holiday Valentine’s Day really is, but it is still worth considering the implications of their claims.