If you're someone who feels strongly about women's rights and Valentine's Day makes you a little uncomfortable, you're definitely not alone. It seems to celebrate this old-fashioned, saccharine version of romance that makes a lot of people wonder, is Valentine's Day feminist? And should you be celebrating it?
Firstly, I would caution about overusing the world 'feminist'. I caution it, because I love the word, am a proud feminist, and think the word should be used in the correct context. People have a tendency to use it as just 'good for women in some way', but in reality that word means believing in an equality of rights for women — social, political, and economic. So unless your Valentine's Day somehow takes away your rights, the chances are it's not really going to to be anti-feminist. How could it be? I mean, I've been on some bad dates, but not like, infringing on my right-to-vote bad.
But in the more general sense, is it good or bad for women? Well, I think that certainly depends on your Valentine's Day. As someone in a lesbian relationship, it's difficult to see how my girlfriend and I could celebrate Valentine's Day in a way that was anti-feminist or bad for woman— in fact, I would argue that assuming that Valentine's Day is essentially bad for women means adopting a pretty strong heteronormative view. There are a lot of gay and lesbian couples celebrating without the gender dynamic you're talking about. That doesn't mean, however, that it can't be done in a way that is pretty gross towards women. So, what's the bottom line? Is Valentine's Day good for women? As a industry, probably not — it idealizes relationships and punishes those not in them. But as a day?
It Depends On How You Celebrate It
I hate telling women how to live their lives. This idea that some of us win feminism while others are somehow "bad women" or "bad feminists" makes me feel gross. I think that we all know, intrinsically, what sorts of behaviors are and aren't OK — they hit you in the gut or they don't.
Yes, Valentine's Day glorifies an old-fashioned view of love, but you don't have to adhere to that in how you celebrate. As long as you're celebrating it as equals, as long as there's nothing happening that makes you feel like you're 'bought' by a male partner or that you're not on the same footing in your relationship, you should do what makes you happy — whether that means ignoring it or celebrating it.
If dressing up in your boobiest dress and going to a traditional romantic meal makes you feel good, great. If going bungee jumping with your partner makes you feel good, that works too. And if you want to have a hookup with someone from that weird dating app you downloaded in January for no reason, carpe the effing diem.
Here are some twists to let you have a super feminist Valentine's Day:
1. Plan The Date Night
If you're in a hetero relationship, don't let your guy take charge on Valentine's Day. Pick what you do, make the reservations, and, if you can swing it financially, even have it be your treat. Like I said, just because it's a female being powerful doesn't make it "feminist", but hey — it doesn't hurt to change up the tradition.
2. Spend Some Hard Earned Cash... On Yourself
Single? No worries. Take some of that money that you earn and spend it on your damn self. Celebrate being a powerful, financial independent woman and everything that that means.
3. Give Feminist Gifts
Stick to gifts that celebrate women or feminism. If you can't find a good book written by a woman or a good gift that celebrates women (which I'm really, really sure you can), at the very least you could make a donation to a women's rights organization in your partner's name. It's more important now than ever.
If it's making you feel happy, if it's something that doesn't hurt women, you should do what you want with the holiday. Valentine's Day may have its roots in some dated views of love, but you can make it your own. And you should.