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.
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.