Opinion byMegan McGinnis
Valentine’s Day is considered a romantic holiday, one celebrated with large heartshaped boxes of chocolate, bouquets of roses, and candle-lit dinners. Or, if you’re single, waiting patiently for February 15th, the day all of the candy goes on sale. For feminists, though, the holiday can be a conundrum. Though it’s meant to be about love, the day has turned into a huge capitalist endeavor and reinforces gender stereotypes. The latter is perhaps the most relevant to the current social climate, which has begun questioning the need for gendered products such as sunscreen, pens, razors, and even yogurt.
In the Valentine’s section at Target, there are about five shelves full of guy themed treats, including: a “tackle box” full of candy, cigar-shaped chocolate bars, a giant gummy shaped like a Playstation controller, six packs of beer with scantily clad women on the sides, and (a personal favorite) a heart-shaped, fur covered box of beef jerky. Why do these products even exist? Is it because the shelves upon shelves of red boxes of chocolate have such a negative impact on masculinity? Is a box of cheap chocolate cigars meant to be soothing? What does this say about our society and its dependence on traditional gender roles?
A major implication of these gendered spaces is the male disgust of what is traditionally feminine. Valentine’s Day could be considered a feminine holiday. After all, the traditional colors are red and pink, and the main two symbols are hearts and a feminized male baby. Romance and love are considered feminine. This entire holiday might as well be a giant uterus. The guy themed gag gifts all have to do with traditionally male pastimes: smoking cigars, fishing, and eating beef jerky. Gender roles are so deeply entrenched in us that it’s apparently unimaginable that any self-respecting man can enjoy what is supposed to be a romantic holiday and must instead eat chalky candy from a fake tackle box.
Though Valentine’s Day can be troubling, there is increasing awareness about gender politics in the United States. Just last year, Target removed gender labels from its toy aisles, and Toys ‘R Us has not labelled toys by gender for some time. A photo showing two gendered onesies (one with a cape stating, “I’m super,” the other purple with the text “I hate my thighs”) went viral and incited outrage over the obvious implications regarding gender. Very public transitions such as Caitlyn Jenner’s have caused our society to question what gender truly means. Each of these examples is a stumble in the right direction.
Of course, recognizing something as problematic or troubling doesn’t mean it can no longer be enjoyable. Many feminists still indulge in heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and gladly receive roses from their significant others. As long as they recognize the negative aspects of the holiday and choose not to indulge our society’s archaic notions on gender and heteronormativity, Valentine’s Day becomes what it was originally: a day to celebrate love.