megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (sex goddess)
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[ profile] yuki_onna wrote this rather eloquent piece as a defense of Valentine's Day, reposted from a previous essay.

In response to that [ profile] ithiliana responded with this rebuttal in defense of those who are not so fond of the holiday.

Having read both, I find myself in agreement with [ profile] ithiliana in so many ways. And the more I think of it, the more upset I am by this so called defense.

I think what really puts the "yeah, what she said" factor into it for me with [ profile] ithiliana's post is this bit:

Major Pick: The idea that those of us who resist giving into a lot of the very capitalist and heterosexist "ritual" of Valentine's Day somehow have "shrunken, sour heart" because we dare to stand up and express some of our displeasure with how the "ritual and love" that is shoved down our throats is nicely overgeneralized.

To say that there is a ritual to Valentine's Day is somewhat absurd, because it is the least ritualized holiday we have. Christmas has the rituals of the tree, the presents. Easter, the basket of candy, the special church service (if you are Christian), the ham dinner (or lunch after church), the easter egg hunt. Heck, even Superbowl Sunday is more ritualized than Valentine's.

Valentine's Day is really rather free form. If there are rituals, they are self-created and self-maintained. They are meaningful only to the individual.

I usually find [ profile] yuki_onna to be a very hoopy frood (non-Hitchhiker's translation: a really well put together person), but in this instance I can only express my feelings as, "You make me sad, sir knight". I feel sad because she seems to assume that everyone is even allowed to celebrate Valentine's Day the way they'd like.

Well, when my friend has to write a blog about his experiences of just going outside and being openly gay and expressing affection with his boyfriend because it is something that gets such strong negative response, I think it is time to consider that many of us who live in a culture that celebrates the holiday have very legitimate gripes with it, with the way it is celebrated around us.

And so I was heartily disappointed when I saw this:

In the midst of winter, we are encouraged to come together and have sex (let's not be coy.) To escape the snow and ice in each others' bodies. The colors are red and rose and white--the colors of fire in the winter, of blood, of flesh, survival even in the barren times. We exchange hearts, the very vital core of our bodies. It is the last holiday before spring, to remind us that the fertile world will come again, with flowers and sweetness and love. Even surrounded by death, by blood on the snow, be it St. Valentine's blood or your own, life will win out. The traditional food is chocolate--which can be preserved through the winter and does not rot, full of sugar and fat which keep our bodies going through lean times. This holiday is as old as time: o world, even in the freezing storm, come together, make love, make children, feast, smile, and know the sun is coming soon.

First, I am not at all fond of her assumption that Valentine's Day occurs in winter for all celebrants. Because Australia is calling and they'd like you to remember their existence, thanks.

Second, as [ profile] ithiliana so wonderfully pointed out, chocolate has a problematic history in the Western World, it's trade and consumption are tied up in the exploitation of other people for those who consume most of it. Never mind the ablism in assuming that everyone can even eat chocolate or eat very much of it. For those who are allergic to chocolate or one of it's ingredients (milk, for instance, which is one of the eight most common food allergies in the world) or who are diabetic, eating chocolate - that sugar and fat - is actually a good way to keep our bodies from functioning.

Third, equating sexual contact with love and relationships has no, on the whole, resulted in a freeing up of love or sexuality in most cultures. And I'm curious as to what she thinks we are encouraging in those eight-year-old kids who distribute cut out Valentine's Cards and candies to classmates (everyone getting one, because of course we must pretend to be fair about an utterly unfair holiday). Sex does not equal love. You can have one without the other, many times quite happily, sometimes not. Mating and having children with someone does not equal love either. Just ask my parents and grandparents, none of whom will now talk to each other or be in the same room.

Fourth, the fertility rhetoric bothers me as a woman and a childfree person. Women's worth and their very right to existence has been tied to their fertility, whether they can bear children and whether those children are the right gender. Female infanticide and neglect of female children is still a large problem throughout the world. So do not start talking as if making children is a perfectly sunny, uncomplicated, always wonderful affair. Do not act as though women are not made to sacrifice themselves in the name of fertility, and have not been made to do so since time began. Do not act as though placing the burden of fertility on the shoulders of women and female-form goddesses has not been it's own method of oppression.

Fertility is often tied to death as well, because for many women? Fertility is death. For so many (too many!) women down through the ages and even in this modern world with all it's medical marvels, reproduction ends in her death trying to birth a child who is either dead or soon will be. In Chaucer's day, 1 out of 4 women died in childbirth, and the life expectancy for women was almost less than half that of men. Almost all parents buried at least one child, most often infants. Most children lost both parents before age 18.

So painting some rosy picture as though making love and making children is some romp through a field of flowers or a roll in the hay in spring time is ludicrous as is celebrating fertility whether agricultural or reproductive as if it does not come with it's own problems and dire complications.

Yes, when able, ready, willing parents have children they desire to have, it is a joyous occasion and cause for individual celebration. But children are not always wanted or cared for or born into families that can even handle their existence at all. Overpopulation is a big damn problem, and I'm not talking about over in some third world country full of those poor brown people that we here in the EuroAmerican-centric Western World like to imagine it. Oh no, I'm talking about right here. I'm talking about families who produce children who use up more resources per child than just about anywhere in the world and do not realize that their children's prosperity comes at the expense of other children around the world, who do not realize that their ability to care for their children in such luxury is a privilege, not an entitled right.

Growing crops and raising cattle are not always a good thing, either. I'm talking about industries that eat and eat at the ecosystems of continents trying to favor the growth of a few plants (some of them near parasitical in relation to the soil and other life forms around them) and animals while nearly extincting the rest. And as for those pretty flowers? Many of them are transplants that have been hybridized, to the detriment of local flora in various regions. Never mind the flower farm businesses that are detrimental to the surrounding areas and even in some cases poison water supplies with their pesticides in order to meet the demand for Valentine's Day flowers.

Never mind the rage I feel on behalf of those who struggle with infertility and might like it if you stopped going on and on as if fertility is even easy, as if it comes so simply as downing some chocolates and hopping into bed, as if it is not a struggle, as if they do not feel judged and guilty because they cannot just become pregnant (or make someone become pregnant) when they choose.

Yet most disturbingly and most disappointingly was this parting shot:

Seriously, you have to stop trying to take that away. If you remove ritual from the world, you leave it greyer, and sadder, and all you have in its place is the triumph of having ruined something another person loved, which is a shallow and bitter triumph indeed. Get down off the soapbox, have a little chocolate, look out at the melting snow, and say something kind to someone you love.

Get down off the soapbox? *arches eyebrow*

Ah, I see. So if I protest my own goddamn oppression it's just a soapbox, then? I'm merely trying to take away a wonderful ritual if I protest that this holiday excludes so many of us in favor of impressing upon women, queer people, singletons, and all others that our lives cannot be complete unless we are in reproductive heterosexual committed relationships?

I am tempted to ask her if she has ever been told that she is going to hell based on the gender of her partner in relation to her own or has ever been threatened with violence for kissing her partner in public. I want to ask her how she would feel about this holiday if she were not allowed to marry the partner of her choice, if she lived somewhere that she could not feel secure in even taking her romantic partner openly to a restaurant.

I am a cisgendered, bisexual woman married to a cisgendered, straight man. I understand very well that I am soaked in straight, cis privilege because my husband and I conform to standards. But I also understand, as I am picking out the bridesmaids dress I will wear so that my best friend can marry the love of her life in a ceremony the state will not recognize that it is not so easy for others. I understand, as I speak to friends who state that they still field questions about what is wrong with them because they are asexual that it is not that easy for everyone.

Asexual people exist. They are real. Asexuality is a natural, normal part of the sexuality spectrum and if they feel the need to speak out when a holiday steeped in sexualized heteronormativity adds to their oppression, to the ways in which they are erased, ignored, denied and marginalized I hardly think they ought to be told to shut up and eat some chocolate so that others who have privilege can have yet another day of rolling around like a pig in poop in that privilege without having to examine it.

Straight-cis romantic love does not goddamn well need ANY OTHER holidays, okay? Across the world, the act of cisgendered men and cisgendered women having romantic relationship is obsessively celebrated 365 days a year. Every rom-com and TV drama centering around two unrealistically thin and attractive people (usually white) and their epic relationship is celebration of that version of love. Every commercial encouraging men and women to buy products so they can please each other is a celebration and affirmation of that version of love. Every song on the radio from the lewdest to the sugariest pop song is a celebration of that version of love.

Saying that society's ideal version of love needs a day of celebration is like saying Bill Gates needs more money.

The people who benefit most from and are most celebrated and most allowed to celebrate on Valentine's Day are the ones who are most privileged to begin with. The ones who's version of love and affection society likes. Usually, the thin, white, affluent, cisgendered, heterosexual, committed couple who is either about to get married, married, or married with children.

I think it is one thing to list why you like Valentine's Day, even perhaps to list what you think detractors are missing about it. I think it is entirely another to suggest that those detractors are merely trying to spoil it for others and should "Get down off the soapbox, have a little chocolate, look out at the melting snow, and say something kind to someone you love"

Telling people to shut up voicing their distress over a holiday that excludes them, hurts them, and reinforces notions about how wrong and unattractive and invisible their love, their rituals are is just wrong. It is a stunning dozen roses bouquet of wrong, in fact.

Voicing opinions about this holiday is NOT taking away from those who like it and get to celebrate it the way they want. What it is taking away from is your ability to celebrate cluelessly, unawares that your wonderful flower-and-chocolate holiday has harmful ramifications for others.

We celebrate Valentine's Day here at Casa Del Meg. Not very ritually, and not as any grasp at fertility or driving away the winter cold. Usually as an excuse to eat something we wouldn't any other time of the day. Yes, we use it as an excuse to exchange romantic pleasantries.

And yes, on that day, my f-list and facebook pages are also filled with those who are disgusted, wearied, and fed up with the holiday. I listen to them as well, and I do not ask that they disguise their feelings or change their minds for my comfort. It does not discomfort me to see their unhappiness with the holiday.

Because it isn't about me and my husband doing our own individual thing. It is about me and my husband not being more allowed to express ourselves than anyone else. It is about me and my husband not being more honored or privileged or congratulated just for doing what we want than everyone else.

Nobody can take Valentine's from those who celebrate it, and nobody is trying, not really. If some protest and speak up and bemoan it's downsides, they are not making the world a worse place. In many ways, by increasing awareness that a society cannot continue to privilege one form of love over all others, they are making it better.

Yes, I'm going to celebrate Valentine's Day. And I'm going to express my love and support for those friends who cannot even securely go into a restaurant and hold hands because society does not approve. I'm going to express my love and support for those friends of mine who do not want to hold hands and have been made to feel as freaks because of it. I'm going to express my love and support for those who are tired of being bombarded with messages that only deny their humanity and devalue their existence.

I don't think Valentine's Day needs to be torn down, I think it needs to be taken back. Taken back from the various companies, taken back from the privileged and given to those who most need a day for their love - in all it's forms - to be celebrated.

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