Hooray!!! Valentine’s Day is yet again upon us, and what better time to think about the women in our lives than February 14? That’s right!! Once a year, we gotta remember women and show how much we appreciate them. Too bad Valentine’s Day only recognizes women for their role as lovers and spouses.
On February 14, more than on any other day of the year, men go above and beyond the call of duty to show their appreciation for women. And I’m not talking about wolf-whistling and leering. I’m talking about thoughtful, sensitive attention—like chocolates, roses, lingerie, and romantic dinners. From flowers to jewelry to Victoria’s Secret thongs, the list of Valentine’s Day gifts is seemingly endless. And patriarchal. Patriarchal because it all revolves around a cheesy, sappy notion of womanhood that is completely disempowered, completely consumerist, and completely paternalistic. In other words, it’s a conservative and traditional view of womanhood.
That’s right, I said it!!! Valentine’s Day reinforces a traditional patriarchal view of gender roles and relations. Valentine’s Day glamorizes the woman not as a human being but as a sexual partner and as a wife. The whole point of Valentine’s Day is to celebrate the woman who is in some sort of arrangement with a man. The hearts, roses, chocolate, etc. are not merely tokens of male affection and attention. They are also status symbols, a woman’s proof of being spoken for. And woe betide the poor, unhappy woman who happens to be single on Valentine’s Day. A sadder and more pitiful creature has never walked the surface of this planet. The lucky majority that’s in some sort of relationship with a man will, however, be out on display, reaping the rewards of the very, very hard work that goes into being female . . . scratch that . . . the significant accomplishment of being in a relationship. Because let’s not kid ourselves, at the end of the day, Valentine’s Day is a celebration of women in relationships.
Not that there’s anything wrong with appreciating women for being lovers and wives. But women should be valued for much more than their success at entering and staying in romantic relationships. As such, Valentine’s Day is a day not for all women, just women who are not single. Which makes me wonder, is there even an affirmative adjective for such women? Something antonymous with “single” perhaps? I’ve never heard one. Probably because in a traditional worldview, being single is an anomalous state for women, which is why the single ones need to be qualified with an adjective like “single.” On the other hand, a woman in a state of involvement with a man is the norm, which explains why we seldom hear qualifying adjectives used for such women. The assumption is that beyond a certain age, a woman isn’t—or shouldn’t be—single.
Today, as lucky un-single women dine with their significant others at tables for two with new jewelry adorning their fingers, wrists, necks, and earlobes, let’s take a moment to reflect on what this day really means. What does Valentine’s Day really value? Why does it focus on the relationship aspect of a woman’s life, not on the woman herself? What does it mean to be a woman on this day? More importantly, what does it mean to be a single woman on Valentine’s Day, or on any other day?
Ultimately, Valentine’s Day values women not for being women, but for being “good” women who have succeeded at finding a mate. Because I don’t think this should be the highest accomplishment in a woman’s life, I won’t say “Happy Valentine’s Day.” If we’re going to celebrate women, let’s celebrate all women, not just the ones who’ve proven that they can find—and potentially mate with—a man.
So here’s wishing you all a very, very early International Women’s Day.