The Internalized Misogyny of Anti-Valentine’s Rants

I know, Valentine’s Day was yesterday. But every Valentine’s Day, I am internet-greeted by untold amounts of internalized misogyny under the guise of feminism or anti-capitalism or Radical Movement X, and yesterday was no exception. Every year, I roll my eyes and click past the judgmental essay or blurb or Facebook post and file it away in my mental complaint folder.

Sugary Jelly Hearts
Sugar-covered jelly hearts a.k.a the best thing about this holiday.

Typically, I see two sorts of anti-Valentine’s posts. The first decries the consumerist nature of the holiday, criticizes corporate capitalism, and derides anyone who buys a cheesy stuffed animal or a Whitman’s sampler. +1 if it mentions greeting card companies. I do not mind these posts (except the part about the Whitman’s sampler – leave the candy out of this). It’s true that the day is problematic: it’s typically heterocentrist, sends the message that presents=love, and tends to give partners who slack off the rest of the year the opportunity slack off again for the next 364 days. These posts are usually quite accurate, and I fully support the decision to recognize the holiday for what it is and the refusal to celebrate. Keep on keepin’ on, y’all.

The second type is a completely different animal. This post again decries the consumerist nature, but this time it comes with a heaping dose of internalized misogyny and hierarchy-building! It usually mentions something about “not being like those other girls” who want flowers and candy and a nice supper out, or something along the lines of, “I don’t need all that stuff to know that my significant other loves me,”or both, just in case you didn’t know that this person is not one of those silly girly-girls! This is problematic because it sets up a hierarchy and derides other women for doing exactly what we’ve always been told to do.

What’s worse is when avowed feminists speak such things. There’s a way to denounce Valentine’s Day without creating some sort of better-than-you nonsense that actually feeds right into the patriarchy. Internalized misogyny is often characterized by the sentiment that anything that women stereotypically like is bad. This, of course, is utter bullshit. The same feminists who criticize the idea that wearing dresses and makeup is anti-feminist are often the same ones criticizing women who enjoy getting flowers and going on a date on Valentine’s, and it seems a bit hypocritical. Feminists and non-feminists alike are targeted, and many such posts are front and center on feminist blogs or Facebook pages. It doesn’t matter if you’re a feminist or not, because if you celebrate Valentine’s, you’re just some materialistic maiden of patricarchal, capitalist America. Go ahead and slam the holiday, but leave women’s personal desires out of it. Yes, we know you and your boyfriend celebrate every day and that you don’t need that one day to show that you love each other. Good on you. I might say the same for my relationship, and so might tons of other people, but there’s no need to draw a line in the sand between you and those materialistic bitches who need expensive jewelry and a $300 dinner out (or even those who want a card and a huge bag of peanut butter cups).

Personally, I like the fun, celebratory nature of the holiday. I like the hype and the pink decorations and the excitement flowing through the general public. I don’t like the consumerist nature or the message that material goods=love. I tend to get in on the festivities by wearing pink, eating candy, going out to dinner, and exchanging small gifts with all of my loved ones rather than just my significant other. I don’t ascribe any more meaning to it than I do any other holiday, and since I’m not religious, you can guess how much meaning that is! But I do not judge those who do put meaning to it. I don’t put myself on a pedestal because I don’t think that the day is super-romantic, and I don’t denigrate those who do. There isn’t anything feminist about Valentine’s Day, but there sure isn’t anything feminist about putting down women who celebrate it.

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Elfity

Elfity, so named for her tendency to be a bit uppity and her elf-like appearance, is a graduate student and professional Scary Feminist of Rage. She has a propensity for social justice, cheese, and Doctor Who. Favorite activities include making strange noises, napping with puppies and/or kitties, and engaging in political and philosophical debates.

10 thoughts on “The Internalized Misogyny of Anti-Valentine’s Rants”

  1. I really, truly, honestly don’t care much about Valentine’s meh. I don’t hate it, but I don’t think it’s the best holiday to declare one’s love and devotion and bank account balance. Plus, roses and diamonds and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are cliched and boring. It’s like the expectation that “date night” is focused on a fancy dinner and seeing a Romantic Comedy. I’d rather loaf on the couch and watch “The Fifth Element” — but that doesn’t mean I’m “better” or “not like” other girls. It just means I’m a lazy nerd who doesn’t like wearing shoes.

  2. I mostly hate Valentine’s Day because everything is crowded and overpriced, and, while I love chocolate, I don’t really need a holiday in order to eat it. My husband knows better than to buy me roses, because that shit could pay our electric bill and roses make me sneeze, but if other people get enjoyment out of it, good for them. Different strokes and all that.

    1. I mean, as holiday-specific candy goes, I’m a much bigger fan of Cadbury’s cream eggs. Even if I can only eat one before my teeth try to escape. Also, peppermint/cherry Hershey Kisses at Christmas. Valentine’s meh candy doesn’t include anything that I can’t get any other time, it’s just in different packaging.

      But I get what you mean — the primary appeal of most holidays is grabbing a bag of holiday-themed chocolate goodness. Last year Fella and I watched “The Fifth Element” instead of anything remotely Valentiney (this year I was sick and he’d already promised to head to his mom’s and help her with a few household maintenance projects).

    1. Oh, Taylor Swift. She had SO MUCH POTENTIAL, and then she went and started the slut-shaming and “I’m better than other girls, date me instead”. And she has too many “your girlfriend sucks, date me instead” songs. That’s the kind of thing you write in your journal and then tear up, Taylor, not the kind of thing you write as a song that you then record and make money on.
      I wanted to like her. I wanted to be able to defend her choices (i.e., she’s allowed to date whoever she wants, stop slut-shaming her for having several famous boyfriends). But she’s kind of a jerk.

      1. Yeeep.

        “She wears short skirts,
        I wear T-shirts,
        She’s cheer captain and-
        HE SHOULD BE ABLE TO DATE WHOEVER HE WANTS WITHOUT ME CONSTANTLY SAYING SHE’S WRONG FOR HIM CAUSE SHE’S MORE ‘FEMININE OR ALL THAT SHIT'”

        That’s how that song goes, right?

        1. Seriously.

          And, honestly, if she had ONE “I was fifteen and jealous that the head cheerleader was with the guy I like, so I wrote a song about it” song, I’d probably just sigh “ah, youth” and move on. But every Taylor Swift song I hear is about how he done her wrong, or they were so perfect together until it all fell apart, or That Other Girl came in and stole him away. Taylor, honey, find a new theme. I WANT to tell the haters to step off for you, girl, but I can’t because you’re coming across as self-centered and mean-spirited.

  3. On the heteronormative complaints, my sister-in-law shared something interesting with me yesterday related to that. She wanted to get a card for her husband from their son. She ended up having to get a generic card, as there were no cards from Son to Dad. From Daughter to Dad, there were plenty, but none from Son. Which is a whole ‘nother kind of bullshit.

  4. I made much bigger deal of Valentine’s Day when I was single. I thought it was a sign about how much you were loved. Now I’ve managed to forget it a couple of times. Oops.

    I think for some people Valentine’s is just another opportunity to show how good they are. Valentine = loving and caring. Christmas = charitable and cooking. The feast of showing off.

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