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Notes from the Labyrinth
Unobtainium and Dragons' Bones
Saint Valentine is not amused. 
14th-Feb-2007 02:10 pm
mfu: angelique
So the excellent Heather Corinna (she who makes me look beautiful in my author photo) runs a site called Scarleteen, a sex education site for teenagers and young adults, which aside from all its other strengths is GLBT inclusive. Scarleteen is having a fundraising drive, and I have to say I think this is the best possible gesture to mark St. Valentine's Day, which in modern American culture might as well be called Heterosexist Disinformation Day.

1. The commercial exploitation of Valentine's Day enshrines the heterosexual romantic relationship as the be-all and end-all of personal achievement. (Ditto its even more nauseating and artificial clone-daughter, "Sweetest Day.")

2. Likewise, it yokes together romantic love and conspicuous consumption in such a way as to make it seem as if love can only be expressed through material objects.

King Lear believed this. And we know how well that worked out.

3. It perpetuates the sexist double standard that MEN buy gifts--expensive, impractical gifts--for WOMEN, and WOMEN accept gifts from MEN as their due. Diamonds are a girl's best friend.

4. Strongly implied is this follow up: in return for these expensive, impractical gifts, the woman will reward the man with sex.

5. Leading us to a conclusion that we really need to think twice about: women only have sex because men bribe them.

6. This is reinscribing a whole host of horrid sexist ideas and practices, and is at least as unfair to men as it is to women.

7. Since also strongly implied is the obverse face, that if it wasn't for Valentine's Day and the advertising blitz, men would never buy presents for women at all. Or do anything nice for them.

8. Furthermore, it teaches women that a gift is not a gift, but an obligation. Because he wouldn't get you anything, you know, just because. He wants something. And if he wants something, it's your responsibility to give it to him. Because he gave you a gift.

9. Obligation is not love. Not the obligation to give a gift, not the obligation to reciprocate.

10. And then there's all the people this paradigm leaves out in the cold, starting with gays and lesbians, the intersexed, the transsexed, those who are asexual, those whose sexuality just doesn't fit into this One Man One Woman nonsense. Yes, those who are not heterosexual and monogamous can reinterpret Valentine's Day to suit their needs; my point is that THEY SHOULDN'T HAVE TO.

11. Last November, I voted against the sanctity of marriage.

12. And I'd do it again.

13. And still. I'm straight and monogamous and married and in love with my husband, and I hate Valentine's Day. I hate the way it simultaneously overemphasizes and cheapens love, the way it tells those people who are not in a relationship that they're somehow unworthy, not as good, doing something wrong. I hate the way it MANUFACTURES social pressure. And I hate the way--thank you, LiveJournal, for your hideous pink and red hearts--it tries to camouflage its social pressure in being "cute." I hate the way it lies.

14. Everyone deserves better than this crushing, trite reinforcement of a bogus paradigm.

To donate to Scarleteen, click here.
14th-Feb-2007 08:56 pm (UTC)
Ditto its even more nauseating and artificial clone-daughter, "Sweetest Day."

I've never even heard of this one, which I suspect is probably for the best.

We do however have Stockwell Day, who is quite off-putting enough to be going on with.
14th-Feb-2007 11:18 pm (UTC)
October 14th. As in, six months exactly from Valentine's Day.

You can fill in the rest.
15th-Feb-2007 12:55 am (UTC)
Surely nine months on would be more appropriate?
(Deleted comment)
15th-Feb-2007 03:02 am (UTC)
It's always the third Saturday in October, so it changes.
15th-Feb-2007 02:44 am (UTC)
It's a regional (Midwestern) USian thing. I grew up in Texas and never heard of it, went to college in New England and never was it mentioned.
14th-Feb-2007 09:00 pm (UTC)
This is a fabulous post, and Scarleteen is a great cause. Thanks for this.
14th-Feb-2007 09:15 pm (UTC)
Er... really? I mean, this Valentine's Day, my SO and I both bought stuff to do a craft project together, to make things we'd both enjoy and use - but mainly so that we could spend time together doing something new and fun.

I might just be too practical for the sugary sweetness, though. God knows, I think diamonds make for horribly boring jewelry, and flowers are cute, but books are better.
14th-Feb-2007 09:16 pm (UTC)
Well said!
14th-Feb-2007 09:23 pm (UTC)
You rule for saying this.

Anita Loos has Lorelei Lee say: "...because kissing your hand may make you feel very very good but a diamond and a sapphire bracelet lasts forever." But Lorelei is a kept woman, and makes no bones about it. Her perspective has nothing whatsoever to do with a non-mercenary relationship. She was attempting to secure her old age and retirement, and nothing more.

Today a co-worker is taking his wife to have another MRI, so she can have a brain tumor biopsied Friday. I've been jaundiced about the commercialization of the Feast of St. V. for a loooong time, and that really put it into perspective. We need to get over 'This-holiday-is-all-about-the-bling'.
14th-Feb-2007 09:47 pm (UTC)
I bought a Valentine's Day card. For my best friend. Clearly labeled in the row of "Valentine's Day cards for best friends". Also in the the stacks were cards for domestic partners of indeterminate gender (although some were more masculine in design and some more feminine), cards for every relative you could imagine, cards for coworkers, cards from (although I didn't see any FOR) the pets... I believe as far as merchandisers are concerned, they're more than happy to have it be an inclusive holiday, if that means they can sell more product.
14th-Feb-2007 10:53 pm (UTC)
*sigh* some days I miss working with Heather :)
14th-Feb-2007 11:02 pm (UTC)
I'm with Gryphart, actually. The Valentine's Day your points describe is certainly not in line with the holiday as I have ever experienced it. I don't know if it makes you feel better or not, but where I'm from, V-day is all about giving everyone who loves someone else an easy excuse to LET THEM KNOW IT. Hetero, homo, bi, peno, vagino - doesn't matter. Heck, in my experience, it's not even about 'romantic' love. It's just about appreciating the people you care about. No gifts required. :)

I thought you might find it uplifting to know that the lopsided, commercialized V-day you've experienced isn't universal. If not, then... well, have a nice Wednesday. ^_^

14th-Feb-2007 11:27 pm (UTC)
Me too. I guess my expectations of Valentine's Day were formed by elementary school, where we gave cards to everyone and goodness knows it was not about being someone's girlfriend/boyfriend...! To me Valentine's Day has always been about agape, not eros... and I give all my friends, family, hearth- and heart-kin a hug along with my husband. :)
14th-Feb-2007 11:51 pm (UTC)
I agree, but I also think that the Valentine's Day problem can't be isolated from the bigger problems of commercialism and consumerism and the way that we as a society unquestioningly gulp down whatever mainstream media has to offer. I've honestly come to feel this way about pretty much all holidays in their commercial incarnations--their characterization in media and advertising ultimately excludes and marginalizes more people than it includes--whether by gender, religion, economic class, ethnicity...whatever. Which is really not in the spirit of the thing (depending, I guess, on how far to the right you sit). As a parent of school-aged kids I'm constantly trying to find a way to sort of get back to the basics with the various holidays (since you can't ignore them if public school is part of your life), and it's really hard to find a way of acknowledging them (and having fun) that feels meaningful, not too hippy-dippy (we're granola, but not hippy-dippy, thank you), and not too materialistic.
15th-Feb-2007 12:54 am (UTC)
I gave my husband a cookbook I thought he'd like. And we both read diamond ads aloud to one another, adding the subtext. "If you buy this one, she'll totally never cheat on you!" "Your manhood is only as big as her diamond."

I realize it's not the paradigm, but I treat VD as a low-key reason to be nice to my sweetie. No dinners out, no jewelry, just small presents and affection.
15th-Feb-2007 03:57 pm (UTC)
Hee! Ever heard "Diamond Mind" by Rasputina? I think you'd be amused.
15th-Feb-2007 01:07 am (UTC)
Word. Just about every one.

I loath the obligations laid on by the way we celebrate this holiday -- which has more or less become a Hallmark day.

15th-Feb-2007 01:22 am (UTC)
Nitpick: IIRC, King Lear didn't just want things, he also wanted extreme flattery.
15th-Feb-2007 02:16 am (UTC)
I was thinking specifically of this bit:

LEAR: I can be patient, I can stay with Regan,
I and my hundred knights.

REGAN: Not altogether so.
I looked not for you yet, nor am provided
For your fit welcome. Give ear, sir, to my sister:
For those that mingle reason with your passion
Must be content to think you old, and so--
But she knows what she does.

LEAR: Is this well spoken?

REGAN: I dare avouch it, sir. What, fifty followers?
Is it not well? What should you need of more?
Yea, or so many, sith that both charge and danger
Speak 'gainst so great a number? How, in one house,
Should many people, under two commands,
Hold amity? 'Tis hard; almost impossible.

GONERIL: Why might not you, my lord, receive attendance
From those that she calls servants, or from mine?

REGAN: Why not, my lord? If then they chanced to slack you,
We could control them. If you will come to me--
For now I spy a danger--I entreat you
To bring but five-and-twenty. To no more.
Will I give place or notice.

LEAR: I gave you all--

REGAN: And in good time you gave it.

LEAR: Made you my guardians, my depositaries;
But kept a reservation to be followed
With such a number. What, must I come to you
With five-and-twenty, Regan? Said you so?

REGAN: And speak't again, my lord; no more with me.

LEAR: Those wicked creatures yet do look well-favored,
When others are more wicked; not being the worst
Stands in some rank of praise. (To GONERIL) I'll go with thee:
Thy fifty yet doth double five-and-twenty,
And thou art twice her love.

GONERIL. Hear me, my lord.
What need you five-and-twenty, ten, or five,
To follow in a house where twice so many
Have a command to tend you?

REGAN: What need one?

LEAR: O, reason not the need!

15th-Feb-2007 02:04 am (UTC)
I love your post. I was having a similar debate with someone about Valentine's Day. We live a very media saturated and commercial time. Everything is getting skewed.
(Deleted comment)
15th-Feb-2007 03:17 am (UTC)
If you'll notice, this is a post blogging in support of Scarleteen. Which will not go away tomorrow.

And for someone who doesn't want to start a row, you're giving a pretty good impression of someone who does.
15th-Feb-2007 03:26 am (UTC)
Um, I would never tell anyone what to post in their own journals, so there was absolutely no expectation on my part that it would "go away". That would be more than a little presumptuous of me. My feelings may have come across as strong on the matter, but so were yours.

And no, still no row. Honest. I just don't agree and I still think it's a silly thing for anyone to rail against. Then again, pretty soon another holiday will roll around that will have it's cheering section and peanut gallery, only for those I will get no discount chocolate. Boo.
15th-Feb-2007 04:45 am (UTC)
For someone claiming to not want a row, the tone and language of what you wrote sure as hell indicate otherwise.

Your post came across as a personal attack on truepenny, not a statement of your feelings. From where I'm sitting, this looks like trolling.
15th-Feb-2007 05:00 am (UTC)
Perhaps you should find a new seat. :) Disagreement is not trolling, sorry. I didn't attack her, only the idea that Valentine's Day is something that should be striven against like a deadly foe. She stated her feelings in a bold manner and as such I trusted she wouldn't take an equally bold rebuttal badly. Tricksy author! Beguiling me with her confident prose.

I do often forget that not everybody is thick-skinned and I do sometimes get lost in what I'm writing and dismiss the human equation, dangers of textual communication, etc., but nah. I usually like Truepenny's posts and I like her books.

Now if I keep coming back to the thread saying the same defenses over and over again and cluttering up her comments page, then yeah, that would be trolling. So I've pretty much said all I'm going to say on the subject. V-Day has only like... 4 minutes to go anyway. Oops, there it goes.

15th-Feb-2007 06:09 am (UTC)
Any thinking person who allows their lives and self-image to be shaped by an arbitrary date on their calendar - be it Feb. 14, Friday the 13th, or the full phase of the moon - is perhaps not wielding the brightest lightsaber in the armory anyway.

Does this mean that they are not worth defending?

There are plenty of people whose lives are substantially shaped by arbitrary dates like this one. While many of these people probably are rather dim, I think that as many are reasonably intelligent people who have never bothered to give their social conventions the thought that they deserve. But supposing that all of these people really are idiots who can't know any better, does that mean that their social/emotional maladjustment has no impact on the general state of the world? Would the world really not be any different if the idiots decided not to go about trading chocolate for blowjobs?

I think it would. At the very least, I'd feel better about my species.
15th-Feb-2007 09:45 am (UTC)
Any thinking person who allows their lives and self-image to be shaped by an arbitrary date on their calendar - be it Feb. 14, Friday the 13th, or the full phase of the moon - is perhaps not wielding the brightest lightsaber in the armory anyway.

This is really offensive and uncalled for. I am bothered by all the subtexts and assumptions that bother Truepenny about Valentine's Day. I don't think this means I am either stupid or have a skewed sense of priorities. Appeals to starving babies are routinely used to stop people from worrying about other things, but in fact, one can worry about starving babies AND be annoyed and hurt at V-Day.

I pick my battles as I damn well please, and being pissed off at the reinforcing of gender stereotypes, including that that an unmarried person is both an anomaly and unworthy, doesn't strike me as totally stupid thing.
15th-Feb-2007 04:29 am (UTC)
Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you
15th-Feb-2007 08:42 am (UTC)
You've said it yourself. Commercial exploitation - it's what our society revolves around. The materialism, the gender roles, the religious fools trying to tell people who they can and can't love - these things are the symptom, not the disease. The entire length of human interaction between males and females consits of prostitution - a man provides shelter, food, and seed; the female provides sex and raises the children. For thousands upon thousands of years this, or something based on it, was the model for gender roles. So then one must ask, what makes it revolting? Is this seemingly natural tendency unnatural? Or are the open-minded sensibilities going too far, and we tell ourselves it's unfair or unnatural to further justify our society and the quest for equality? Because hells know that if humanity as a whole wanted equality, we'd have it.

Mostly it's just that I look at this holiday, at the perpetuation of stereotypes and the... well, all the idiots doing idiotic things because they've been raised by television commercials... and I feel sickened. But not surprised. And I have no hope of it changing. There are certainly good people who work toward enlightenment all around the world, who never intentionally harm another and strive only for harmony. Even people who're just... you know, nice people. But these are the exception. Evil is mostly a matter of opportunity. The talent or the inclination for goodness is the aberration. And with this (very cynical) view of humanity I regard holidays like this - ones that have been turned into lavish spectacles by companies wishing to make fatter profits - and I'm glad that many of the holidays I celebrate are totally ignored by society at large.

For the most part I agree with you. The concept of the holiday is good enough. Although to set a day aside for special consideration of your lover says that you don't have the consideration for them you should, so perhaps it's skewed from the start. I don't think people being encouraged to show their love is a bad thing. But, like most good ideas, it works in theory, but when exposed to actual human morals it... disintegrates. Rapidly. (Look at communism. Great idea, if humans weren't inherently greedy and lazy... always exceptions to the rule, but they -are- exceptions and this -is- the rule.) So in come the companies trying to sell things, and people who have infatuation or lust or who knows what pretending and... it just all falls apart.

However, as a homosexual, I've never felt particularly excluded by this holiday. I've never felt particularly INcluded, but... If I ever felt excluded by Valentine's Day it was because I was fat, ugly, and a freak, and by the time we got down to my sexual orientation I was already alone in a corner talking to myself, so...

Material objects are not love. Sex is not love. Holidays are not love. But the thing is - love as most people think of it is extremely rare. Most people don't actually have that. So they turn to the societal expression, and in a materialistic, capitalistic culture....

I think I should stop now; my space key is dying altogether, I'm babbling, it's three A.M. and my hands are frozen to the point of making typing problematic. I apologize for the randomness. Thoughts run all over the place sometimes.

15th-Feb-2007 05:27 pm (UTC)
However, as a homosexual, I've never felt particularly excluded by this holiday.

I was seguing from Valentine's Day to the idiotic attempts to legislate the definition of marriage to be exclusively heterosexual and monogamous.
15th-Feb-2007 07:56 pm (UTC)
That's a slightly different symptom. I don't care what the Catholic church defines a marriage as, but I believe the state ought to allow any number of consenting adults to enter into a licensed state that awards them equal tax benefits, etc. But then, I get very cranky when people try to tell me what to do because their invisible man said so. Legislation and religious beliefs shouldn't meet.
15th-Feb-2007 10:13 pm (UTC)
#1 Word.

#10. Not to mention those heterosexual types who are NOT enjoying felicitous relationships, whether because they don't got one, just broke off one or because the one they got is going south. This can be the second most painful time of year after Christmas. (which is kinda what you said in #13 but left out the second and third categories)

And I hate the LJ cutesies too.
16th-Feb-2007 01:14 am (UTC)
Thanks for this. And bonus ♥ for using 14 points.
17th-Feb-2007 05:45 am (UTC)
Word on most of what you say, though I've met plenty of people who shed the paradigm, and some celebrate the holiday anyhow, in a more inclusive and less commercial way, because an exxcuse for fun is an excuse for fun.

Two years ago, I told my boyfriend (now my husband) I didn't want to do anything for Valentine's Day.

EVERYONE at his work, and a few people at mine, said, "Oh, no. You'd Better do SOMETHING or she'll be mad."

We did nothing, and bought nothing. I wasn't mad at him for taking me at my word. I was peeved at these people who, without knowing me, presumed they knew what I wanted better than I did, or than my husband did. (That, or assumed I would deliberately lie to the person I was dating, and really, how much more offensive is that?)

OTOH, this year I was perfectly happy for an excuse for a nice sushi dinner and the follow up. But money's been tight, so we haven't had a night out in a much longer time than usual. We could have used another excuse (There's no shortage of personal or more obscure reasons), but this did fine.
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