Can Valentine’s Day Be Brought into the Progressive Era?

Sarah Nunez ’22 and Alexandra Rivasplata ’22
Staff Writers

With the turn of the New Year, retail has been preparing for the next big event. Gone are the red and the green of Christ-mas and the glitter and glitz of New Years. The days of holiday cheer are replaced by the red decorations of Valentine’s Day. Red hearts and cupid paraphernalia deck the halls of the local supermarkets. Instagram feeds have been advertising couples’ fa-cials and edible underwear (now in cherry vanilla flavor).

As I shop online, I find myself being bom-barded with lingerie ads promising they know the way to “show him you really care.” The argument that Valentine’s Day is com-mercializing love to propagate a capitalist society is not a new one. The cynics and anti-romantics have been saying this for years, or at least ever since “Valentine’s Day” starring Ashton Kutcher and Taylor Swift came out.Whether or not this is true, the real con-cern of Valentine’s Day is that through advertising, the holiday is promoting and relying on traditional gender roles and het-eronormative culture. Advertisers create this narrative of the day, both by boosting its ‘significance’ and giving couples expectations of how the ro-mantic day is supposed to be.

Men are told that to romance their significant others, they must spend exorbitant amounts of money on jewelry, makeup, and perfume. The same advertisers have this narra-tive set up for every holiday from Christ-mas to Mother’s Day. But where these ad-vertisements change is when you look at those directed toward women. Women are shown websites and stores selling linge-rie, lipstick, hair products, lotions, perfume, heels, negligees, and flavored condoms. All of these things are geared towards the goal of sexual gratification for the man. It’s as though men are told to buy the Tiffany’s box, but women are told that they are the gift.

With this strategy being so embedded in advertising its hard to imagine a world in which this type of promotion is no lon-ger used as a means of attracting sales. However, these advertisements are doing more harm than they do good. Though one would think that jewelry, perfume, and in-timates are the most purchased items for Valentine’s Day due to the massive amount of advertising for them, they are not what people want and end up buying for their significant others.

Advertisers are wasting their time showing $100 bra and under-wear sets and $50 bottles of perfume be-cause these are far from the most popular purchases, it is sentimental acts of love paired with cards, chocolate, and flowers that are the most common gifts for the special day.Advertisers are perpetuating and creat-ing an oversexualized, heteronormative standard for Valentine’s Day that instead of focusing on love, focuses on commodities and what one partner can offer the other. If Valentine’s Day is going to be brought into the progressive era, it is integral to switch this dialogue, targeting the feelings we have for one another, rather than what we can buy and do for one another.