Saturday, February 12, 2011

I Hate Valentine's Day - Do Something Different This Year

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Maybe "hate" is too strong a word - but let's say I'd rather go without sex for a year than participate in the shallow commercialism of this made-for-Hallmark pseudo holiday. For those who are required or otherwise feel compelled to take part in this sham (I'm lucky, my girlfriend agrees with me that it sucks), it's Monday, just so you know.

Bill Patrick, at the cool XY blog, offers this description of the holiday:

Valentine’s Day is upon us again. It’s the time of year where here in North America we are supposed to scrounge around for some cream-filled chocolates, perhaps a bottle of bad champagne, some scratchy lingerie, a dozen high-carbon-footprint roses, and an over-priced greeting card that communicates thoughts of love in bad rhyme.

And a lover! I almost forgot! You’ve got to have one of those! After all, according to the official policies of Valentine’s Day, expressions of love must be expressed and experienced on a one-to-one basis. Those who do not have a specific romantic partner are officially disqualified from participating. It’s just like the “couples’ skate” at the skating rink! Grab a partner or get the hell off the ice!

Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

James Napoli, a satirist who contributes to Huffington Post, offered some alternate things to celebrate on February 14th in a post appropriately titled, Up Yours, Valentine's Day! 10 Other Things to Celebrate Instead:
You know how it goes. If you're in a relationship on Valentine's Day, you feel that enormous pressure to commemorate your year-round love for your partner on one single, officially sanctioned day in some officially sanctioned way. And if you're not in a relationship, you sit alone in your apartment wearing nothing but a bathrobe and a pair of underwear that dates back to when people used pagers, eating the spaghetti you heated up on the radiator straight out of the can and waiting for the observation of this hellish love-themed holiday to end.

Well, now you don't have to live in between these two unsavory extremes. Lots of other things in history happened on February 14th, and it's just as valid to pay homage to them as it is to Cupid. So find the Valentine's alternative that's right for you and reclaim the day!

Among the other options, Frederick Douglas's birthday, Oregon became the 33rd state in the Union, Alexander Graham Bell applied for a patent on the telephone, and my personal favorite:

Lawrencium (Lr) was discovered at UC Berkeley on February 14th, 1961. It was assigned the atomic number 103 and is notable for being the last of the actinoids. I have no idea what that means, but it seems pretty badass, at least for scientists
OK, that was fun, but returning to Bill Patrick at XY, he actually has some serious things to say in his post - and I agree with him. He acknowledges, as do I, that it IS a good thing to show your partner tremendous love and appreciation - not just on February 14th, but often, very often. It's just that he would like to see the day opened up some, so that rather than focusing on romantic love alone, we can celebrate all forms love.

As much as I like this list, I wish it were not confined to only women - doing so perpetuates the gendered binary of the holiday (which is great for conventional perspectives, but we have that already - so let's take it up a notch).

But can’t we also find a way to open up this day as a way to celebrate love in more ways than just an enshrinement of romantic coupledom? A way that includes people regardless of their relationship status? A way that communicates love to others on the planet?

I think we can. So here goes…

A passion born of love. People sometimes wonder why I pursue pro-feminist activism. The simplest answer is that I do it out of sense of love. A love for justice. A love for humanity. A love for women. So, in the interests of widening our sense of this holiday, and working toward gender justice, here are my Valentine’s wishes to the women of the world:

• I wish you a life free from violence. Because I love you.
• I wish for a world without the fear of rape. Because I love you.
• I wish for workplaces free of sexual harassment. Because I love you.
• I wish for economic fairness. Because I love you.
• I wish for gender equality in shouldering the responsibilities of raising a family and keeping a home. Because I love you.
• I wish for a world free from female genital mutilation. Because I love you.
• I wish for clean drinking water for you. Because I love you.
• I wish that any babies you have will be healthy and survive childhood. Because I love you.
• I wish that your gender be seen as a source of strength. Because I love you.
• I wish for an end to all attempts by others to control your body. Because I love you.
• I wish for your perspective on pornography to be honoured. Because I love you.
• I wish that everyone you encounter takes you seriously. Because I love you.
• And because I love you, I wish that any man who also says that he loves you has the same wishes for you.

I want to offer an alternate list - one that is about men and women only, but about human beings in general.
  • I wish that all beings be free from violence. Because I love you.
  • I wish that all beings have sufficient water and food. Because I love you.
  • I wish that all beings have shelter and safety. Because I love you.
  • I wish that all beings have someone who loves them. Because I love you.
  • I wish that all beings be part of a community. Because I love you.
  • I wish that all beings have meaningful work. Because I love you.
  • I wish that all beings be free to worship as they please. Because I love you.
  • I wish that all beings be free to love and marry as desired. Because I love you.
  • I wish that all beings be free from suffering. Because I love you.
Let's make these ideas (or make your own list) the focus of our Valentine's Day celebrations and maybe we can be the change that will redefine this holiday for future generations. And if not, then at least we have paid honor and offered compassion to our fellow beings.

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