Chocolate, hearts, teddy bears. All three of these items have something familiar in common, and any average American can guess what this is: Valentine’s Day. It is advertised all too well by Hallmark and every other store out there, supplying everything from candy to cards to expensive stuff to buy for the one we love. But the real question we should ask is: Is it really all it is hyped up to be? Or is it a holiday full of stereotypes that media uses to earn their share of cash? The personal account of Wilmington College student Ashley Fox states, “Growing up, it all became about who has a valentine at school, who was sending out candy grams, who got a surprise dozen roses in her locker? Valentine’s Day should not be held by social standards and expectations.” And she is not the only one who believes so.
We are often geared towards originality in our lives, with the basis of our country being our own personal decisions and freedom. We are told to stay away from stereotypes, but we buy into them much more than we think. The stereotypes surrounding Valentine’s Day are not only a way to reach men’s and women’s desires to spend money, but they also allow us to ignore the complexity that is love and relationships. We are shown through commercials and ads that happiness is derived from the things we get for others, and often expensive items. It does not focus on the value of the less exciting acts of love that bring real meaning to relationships. Of course all of the commercials show couples smiling and delighted with one another, but only to be followed by an article of jewelry or a box of candies that is the source of happiness. Is love not based on merely the time we spend with others and what we do for them rather than what we can get them?
On top of all of this, the Valentine’s Day tradition is ridden with gender stereotypes. One of these is that girls are crazy for romance, and that is all. This theme is not only seen at Valentine’s Day, but is poured into our society throughout the year with movies, books, and TV shows. There is probably a movie coming to your head right now as a result of this being such a common theme. It implies that girls are only interested in love stories and boys are not at all. It may be that way for many people, but we must not rule out completely all the people in the world who have deeper and less simple tastes.
Another example of gender stereotype is that men are expected to pay for everything. For many women, this may be flattering and may even appear chivalrous, but it subliminally implies in us that love is shown through the money that is spent by men. Not to ignore that it also implies that women cannot be financially independent. Of course it is nice for a man to spend his money on a woman, as it is for anyone to give their money towards someone else, but it is the thought behind it that should count rather than the item that is being bought.
To conclude this critique, something is being forgotten and buried in the mainstream concept of love that is portrayed on this holiday. It does not include that love is an extremely broad human emotion that goes beyond heterosexual romantic love. According to the blog Because I Am A Girl written by Kate Jongbloed, she shares “What about all the other kinds of love out there, including same sex, family, and friend relationships? Leaving different types of love and relationships out of Valentine’s Day can make people who don’t subscribe to heterosexual love feel excluded, invisible and unwelcome.”
Although there are negatives to this Valentine’s Day holiday, this should not leave us angered and disgruntled at media or stereotypes. In order to make the best of this information, spend Valentine’s Day just as any other day by showing those around you that you love and care for them. Do not forget that there is more to any holiday than only the things we can buy on one specific occasion, but that love is shown on a daily basis to all the people for whom we care. I do not discourage you from buying any items that are being sold in stores that are themed for this plushy and mushy holiday, but I do encourage that if you do so, do it because you care and not because you feel obligated. Also, I have learned to appreciate the sales that occur only a day after Valentine’s Day ends. So do not waste any opportunities given in this life, and continue to show love this Valentine’s Day in all of its complexity and all of its beauty.