Valentine’s Day: don’t just complain, subvert and reclaim!

14 Feb

Maybe you’re one of those people who, for whatever reason, finds Valentine’s Day annoying. In my adult life I’ve spend few Valentine’s Days single, so I never had any reason to feel left out of anything. My inclination was to have a lukewarm attitude towards the holiday.

The thing with Valentine’s Day though is that it’s pretty hard to maintain an un-polarized opinion. I came to resent having a certain style of “romance” pushed on my relationships by either popular culture or well meaning friends & coworkers. Grand roses-and-jewelry romantic overtures were never my style, so it got annoying when folks would say “don’t listen to her when she says she doesn’t want flowers. Women ALWAYS love flowers!”

Ugh. With that kind of social pressure, indifference or tolerance easily turns into outright loathing.

Last year, I spent Feb 14 with my partner in Havana. That in and of itself probably leans toward conventional romance, but on the contrary it was a real treat to experience a non-corporate, non-couple-focused Valentine’s day. People gave flowers or small tokens to everyone in their extended family, young people dressed in their finest and hit the bars and clubs together in groups, and folks would wish everyone they passed on the street a happy Día del Amor. The atmosphere was festive yet relaxed with lots of queer visibility especially amongst the younger set. It would warm the heart of just about any anti-Valentine curmudgeon.

So for this year, I’ll seize some of that spirit. There are plenty of reasons to be weary of Valentine’s day in North America with its sugary, consumerist, hetero-normative trappings, but it’s so much more fun to subvert and reclaim Valentine’s Day. So whatever your relationship status, here are some things you can do today that will just make life better overall today and every day:

1. Rethink gender and sexuality. Straight is not our default setting. Gender is not a binary.

2. If you have children, keep #1 in mind and speak openly and non-judgementally with them about healthy sexuality. Steer them towards good educational resources. 

3. Support comprehensive sex-positive education in our public schools. This might mean letters to the editor or speaking up at your next PTA meeting and calling out that moralistic loudmouth on their bullshit.

4. One size does not fit all, and monogamous marriage-track relationships are not for everyone, nor should they be considered the ideal and only way to have a healthy relationship. The sooner we all figure this out, the fewer hearts will be broken and the happier we’ll all be.

5. Practice enthusiastic consent with your sex partner. Open, respectful, ongoing communication is essential to healthy relationships and to challenging rape culture.

6. Examine your expectations. There’s a huge difference between putting effort in, and feeling pressure to have the perfect day. Relax already!

7. Just one more day and all that chocolate goes on sale.

8. Look to see if there are any drag shows happening in your community. Drag is THE BEST.

9.  Steer clear of people who whine that “nice guys like me never get women because chicks only like jerks”. Likewise, if you’re one of these “nice guys”, just stop. You sound like an idiot and this kind of guilt trip is indicative of jerk behaviour, the opposite of nice.

10. Act in solidarity with Colombian flower workers – mostly women who endure long hours, low wages, sexual harassment, and unsafe & unhealthy working conditions to make sure you have roses for Valentine’s Day. Oftentimes they get fired or endure death threats for trying to form a union in their workplace. Sign this letter to the Colombian minister of labour demanding justice for workers.

11. Support feminist, queer-positive, educational sex shops. I love Halifax’s Venus Envy, and visited the excellent Womyns’ Ware in Vancouver. Steer far far away from shops that stock things like racist porn and unsafe products.

12. If there is a production of the Vagina Monologues in your community and if you’ve never seen it before, check it out. Put it on your bucket list of things to do before you die. A lot of V-Day events happen on the 14th, but here in Sydney NS there will be a March 8 production for International Women’s Day with yours truly performing a monologue. (keep an eye out for forthcoming details).

Do you have anything to add to the list? How do you plan on celebrating or ignoring Valentine’s Day today?

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