Forty five days into the year, Valentine's Day is celebrated annually across the world as an expression of love and affection. Feb. 14 means different things to different people, but society has accepted rules on what should occur between couples during this day of romance.
According to Business Insider, Valentine’s Day found its roots approximately around 269 C.E., the time of St. Valentine of Terni. This Roman priest/physician was brutally killed (beaten, stoned and then beheaded) for his crimes of marrying Christian couples. Due to the nature of his crimes, Valentine was named the patron saint of “love, young people and marriages.”
By 496 C.E. Pope Gelasius I declared Valentine’s Day an official holiday.
Fast forward a few centuries, Valentine's Day now serves as a Hallmark holiday. Over the course of history, love, marriage and romance became the forefront of this celebration, and the history of St. Valentine became almost forgotten. Florists see more business than any other time of year, lines at CVS to buy boxes of chocolate stretch into the aisles and Valentine cards are wiped off the shelves.
Valentine's Day traditions have become so ingrained in our yearly routines that we seldom stop to think about why we are even participating.
First, lets look at who's love is celebrated commercially on Valentine's Day: straight, cisgendered couples.
I do not know about you, but I cannot say I have seen any jewelry commercials featuring two lesbian women buying necklaces for each other and chocolate arrangement advertisements featuring gay men are nonexistent.
Valentine’s Day cards geared towards LGBTQ couples do exist, but they are minimal. After rows and rows of card slots that say “For her, from him” or vice versa, usually placed at the bottom corner of the display are maybe two or three slots that say “For him, from him.”
Celebrating love is not bad. Celebrating one type of love, however, is problematic in today’s society.
But that is not to say we must ignore straight couples when analyzing this February holiday. The societal expectations of couples on Valentine’s Day are sexist, outdated and contribute even further to the problems of this holiday.
How many times do you hear people ask women what their boyfriends did for them on Valentine’s Day? Do these same people ask the woman what they are doing for the man in their life?
Most presents, advertisements, and Valentine’s traditions are geared towards men spoiling their significant others, not typically the other way around. Our world has progressed, and the societal expectations of gender have changed with it. There is no reason why men should be pressured to create extravagant plans for this holiday when women in relationships are not held to the same standard.
What must be kept in mind is that Valentine’s Day has become extremely commercialized. Companies take advantage of the societal pressures on couples by marketing their products as signs of love and affection. Media and advertisements target those who are socially considered members of “typical” relationships: straight couples.
Still, these realizations must not mean that this holiday should not be celebrated, or that every company that utilizes this holiday for business and every Valentine’s tradition is flawed.
Those in relationships should take this holiday to say what they should be saying year-round: that they love the person they are with.