Feminism and Valentine’s Day: A Holiday for Consciousness-Raising and Romantic Rebellion

13 Feb

The colliding of two worlds, you suggest? Mutually exclusive perspectives from different sides of society?

I disagree. But we’ll get to that.

The Commercials

There’s a flooding of sappy jewelry commercials every early February. No doubt – Valentine’s Day is the other Christmas for the shiny-metal and gems industry, and a multi-billion-dollar industry it is. Big business and big opportunity! A marketing field day. Fourteen of them in a row, to be sure.

Some of the commercials are downright disturbing – I won’t share publicity with them by naming names, but one phrase went, The “Let’s Skip Dessert Store” or something sexualized like that. Message: buy me something expensive that everyone thinks is pretty, that I can adorn myself with as women have throughout history to show their social status, and I will fuck you.

No thanks, sweetheart!

Messages like these are rife within the industry, and they only get worse around a day loaded with romantic, expensive expectations.

The Jewelry: Specifically, the ring.

Yes, I mean the engagement ring. The question we should be asking ourselves is: who gives a damn about a ring, if it has deep patriarchal roots in ancient history, relating it to men’s possession of women? And why do we accept this, along with the other artifacts of a historybest left in our feminist dust? (Ex. white wedding dresses = virginal purity, aka a women’s worth determined by her sexual accessibility, also the bridal party has its roots in attempts to confuse roving abductors/ rapists who may want to capture a virgin bride. Folks, I am NOT making this stuff up.)

These superficial symbols help take the heat off of a patriarchal world with deformed gender ideas. It’s like that song Razzle Dazzle from “Chicago,” where a defense lawyer sings about the manipulation of jury and justice with spectacle and glamour. As long as we women, the ultimate victims of a patriarchal society, continue to accept the status quo and all its beautiful baubles, with sparkling dollar signs in our eyes, how will we ever see past its fundamentally damning glare?

I speak of these objects as if they are indeed sinister – but the most disturbing thing is that we accept it all, unquestioning of our role in big business/ patriarchy’s co-manipulation of our individual identities. In fact, look in the mirror – how many of us have seen a movie where the ultimate goal was “bagging a man” by getting the ring, and often exchanging our bodies for it? How many of us have actually done that ourselves? How many of the men in our society soul-searched to find the ring that ultimately, some of us believe, will have to prove, justify, and define our love to their beloveds?

Everyone. Even I obsess over a certain few sparklers, beautiful as they are. Except I would insist on purchasing them from an ethical source, and not spending more than a day’s wages. Yes, I am loathe to ever spend more than $100 on a single piece of jewelry. Call me extreme, but I present Exhibit A and Exhibit B, with the Carmelita Pear Cut 8-carat being a personal favorite. It’s Elizabeth Taylor for a Target price.

Full disclosure and critique aside; I am also a lover of all things beautiful, including jewelry. The difference from the vast majority is that I find supreme beauty in calculating thrift and ethically-minded products. Hey, combine that with luster and clarity, and you have a winner!

That still doesn’t resolve the original critique, however – that we systemically allow these items to define ourselves, our romance, and our love lives. We should be spending more time considering these concepts and how we could live better lives if we reconsidered our values along these lines.

Note: should I ever choose to wear engagement/wedding rings, it will be in tandem with my spouse doing the same, and will reflect individuality, not Kay or Jared’s ideas of glamour, beauty, and VALUE. And you can BET that they will be ethically-sourced. Though I kind of prefer tattoos. Hey, divorce is real. But if you aren’t that committed, I think there may be a problem. What do you think?

Remember, Remember, the Fourteenth of February?

I am not advocating a complete dismissal of the holiday. Not at all! By all means, enjoy it! Life is short – la vida es corta – so why not have yet another excuse for celebration, especially of love, romance and peacefulness?

But I do see some of us putting far too much emphasis on it. One thing is for sure – it will never save your relationship or marriage if you are in dire straits upon its approach. But having unrealistic expectations will absolutely cause problems.

Ask yourself this holiday – how can we utilize this romantic environment to enjoy each others’ presence, and be thoughtful of one another? If it requires spending money, so be it. But please don’t make that the whole point.

Finally, about the holiday itself – it is muy, muy problematic to make it a gendered exchange. By that, I mean this: Boyfriend/ husband does something/plans something/ buys something for girlfriend/ wife. Obviously, the first problem of this holiday is it’s relentless heteronormativity, which has consistently both alienated the non-heterosexual/ LGBTQ market share of luxury product consumers, but it has served to propogate homophobia as it continues to reinforce the idea that couples are boy/girl, male/female. 

I would definitely consider it a brand new day in a brave new world if I ever saw a gay/lesbian couple on a Valentine’s Day jewelry commercial!

Essentially, the idea of gendering this kind of exchange harkens back to the not-so-old days when women were property, being commodified. The idea of gift-giving is a separate entity except as it relates to a male giving a female a traditionally expensive gift with romantic connotations.

Hey, ask yourself – how many women and girls do you know of who subscribe to the idea that sex and love are a bit of a transaction – “buy me a gift, and you’ll get lucky.”

If this message is so heavily associated with Valentine’s Day, and especially lavish romantic gifts, does that tarnish the value of such a gift in the context of our own precious lives? Not exactly; it doesn’t have to. It’s just something to keep in mind, though I do have an idea for decreasing the presence of these ancient patriarchal customs in our progressing society and lives.

Make it special. Incorporate whatever traditions and old-fashioned customs you want, but don’t let these define the actions of your holiday. Conspire with your beloved to do something uniquely feminist and progressive on your holiday. If you must buy jewelry, go for it! Just skip the diamonds (I will post again later on the ethical considerations of precious gems later) and get fabulous CZ, synthesized in an awesome, futuristic lab, instead of harvested on the backs of oppressed, abused labor slaves (including children). Leave the blood diamonds out of it, and spend some of the money you’ve saved on a charity you know your lover will be inspired by.

In the words of Charlize Theron in that Dior commercial, “Gold is cold. Diamonds are dead.” But what is sexier than compassion? That can only bring you closer together, and make a lasting impression. That is a Valentine’s Day that is sure to go down in romantic history as pretty damn epic.

Valentine’s Day: A Feminist Vehicle for Romantic, Revolutionary Love

In this way, you just turned the tables. Your love and your heart no longer belong to an icy stone or the gem industry. You made it your own holiday with a feminist flair, and you and your partner participated in a romantic, rebellious act of consciousness-raising. What is sexier than a feminist, anyway?

Well, not to sexualize feminism, but I’ll be straight-up honest. If a date calls him or herself a feminist, and exhibits passion about the cause, it’s a bigger turn-on than a Daniel Day-Lewis/ Angelina Jolie sex scene.

“I’m a feminist” is one heck of a “Let’s Skip Dessert” statement!


Photo by Evin Phoenix

After all, the greatest gift of all is love. Love for each other, love of all humanity, love of compassion, love of change. You can put that in a velvet box inside of the baby-blue Tiffany’s bag, please. Or can you?

Happy Valentine’s Day!


La Capitana

One Response to “Feminism and Valentine’s Day: A Holiday for Consciousness-Raising and Romantic Rebellion”

  1. SwanneSong at 3:27 pm #

    Thanks for ‘liking’ my new blog at SwanneSong. I’m right with you on this idea of romance and ‘the deal’ between men and women. I think that romance, as we have been conditioned to think of it, is very dysfunctional to our lives, and creates erroneous expectations about ‘love’. The same goes for some of our music, especially Country. You are ‘fierce’ and that is great for us, the truth tellers!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: