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Redefining Valentine’s Day

December 2, 2009

For the content single lady, Valentine’s Day is not a day for languishing and regretting one’s romantic life, or lack thereof. But for the dissatisfied singleton, Valentine’s Day is just that. It gives insecure individuals another reason to give in to individualistic philosophy, which encourages them to compete for romantic partners rather than focus on their careers, education, building platonic relationships, or even cultivating their own interests. As R. Fakour-Zaker asserts on the U.K. based financial literacy web site, “Know Your Money:”

“…the worst thing about [Valentine’s Day] is the very visible social schism it generates between two groups: those in a relationship, and the other ones. But while many singletons moan about the emotionally harrowing the experience of [Valentine’s Day] when you haven’t got anyone to give (or, more importantly, give you) some overpriced, clichéd gesture of affection or a gift card with some hollow, saccharine rhyming couplets, they’re clearly better off…”1

Furthermore, this preoccupation with finding Mr. Right (or Ms. Right for LBGT ladies) also propels some women to participate in self-optimization in which they obsess about beauty-related concerns such as hair, weight, etc. because they believe their supposed “lack” of beauty is preventing them from experiencing romance.
Aside from the social schism Valentine’s Day promotes the idea that love is a commodity, something that can be bought or sold. For jewelers, it’s not just the time for partners to “provide” by not only offering small gifts such as flowers and candy, but it’s the time for pricey goods to be obtained such as expensive diamond rings. The slogan of the popular Kay Jewelers asserts, “Every Kiss Begins with Kay Jewelers.” The catchy statement suggests that love, symbolized by a kiss, begins with the purchase of expensive jewelry.

Simply put, Valentine’s Day exists as an opportunity for some corporations to make money and exercise their competence in the free market—not to encourage love or romance. Certainly the holiday would not thrive as it does today without the prevalent ideals of capitalism and neoliberal ideas permeating in our culture. In a chapter about Neoliberalism in the book, Caught in the Crossfire: Kids, Politics and America’s Future, Lawrence Grossberg argues:
“The new economy puts a new focus on consumption, increasing the quality and quantity of monitoring and control to which is subjected…In the new economy, consumption itself produces value. After all, consumption takes a lot of time, especially in the United States, where people spend three to four times as many hours shopping as do Europeans.” 2
Grossberg’s statements about American consumption could not be better exemplified by shopping habits during holidays such as Valentine’s Day.

In a study conducted by Angeline G. Close, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas marketing professor and George M. Zinkhan, a marketing professor at The University of Georgia, attitudes about ways to celebrate holidays such as Valentine’s Day are transforming. The study specifically looked at “business concepts of anti-consumption and alternative consumptive” in relation to the romantic celebration. However, the study also confirmed the fact that people often view the holiday as a one where money must be spent. 15

In a 2003 National Retail Federation survey titled, “Valentine’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey,” the organization found that the average man planned on spending $125.96 on Valentine’s Day while women planned to spend about $40. It also revealed that Americans spent $937.50 million on Valentine’s Day cards in 2002, making it the second popular card sale purchase after Christmas.

Especially as single women, ladies must look at the messages that are being promoted by companies selling Valentine’s Day products and consider whether these ideas of love and consumption are in line with your beliefs.


Sources:
1. Fakour-Zaker, R. in “Valentine’s Day—The Worst Consumer Holiday Ever,” http://www.knowyourmoney.co.uk
2. Grossberg, Lawrence. In “Chapter 4: Neoliberalism.” Caught in the Crossfire: Kids, Politics and America’s Future. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2005.
3. “Consumer Behavior Trends Surrounding Valentine’s Day Examined in New Study by College of Business Professor,” http://business.unlv.edu/deans/news_display.asp?news=100.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Brittney permalink
    December 3, 2009 11:01 pm

    Valentine’s day is always a subject of controversy for me because I do not necessarily disagree with the concept of the commercialized day that it has become. I believe that if everyother day of the year is a celebration of your love and relationship, then why not give commercialized gifts one day a year. With that being said, I do not agree with the pressure that it places on single women. As explained above, Valentine’s for a single woman has very little to do with love. I do not think it is a coincidence that women feel the pressure to have a Valentine and men do not. Our “docile bodies” are always the targets of criticism and expectations that surpass those on men. This article seems to have taken Bordo’s concept of docile bodies a step further to show that not only our physical bodies are under pressure, but also our mental aspirations; ie. we should want to be in love.

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