Does Valentine's Turn a Woman into a Despotic Venus in Furs?

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A couple of days ago, I received an e-mail about a new holiday that wants in on our calendars called Manentine's Day, an effort to flip the attention given to women on Valentine's Day onto the men in their lives. Per the press release I received:

Manentine's Day is on March 14th and is like Valentine's Day, but celebrates the man in the relationship. The holiday encourages couples to dine at manly restaurants, buy manly gifts, and do manly activities. Even single men can enjoy Manentine’s Day by celebrating their friendship with their bros.

The holiday provides a platform for significant others to show appreciation for their men and brings an element of equality to the relationship. If a woman enjoys a great Valentine’s Day, she now has the opportunity to reciprocate one month later, by treating her man to his own special day on March 14th.

Manentine's Day is not only a fun holiday to celebrate, but also a great stimulator for the economy. The holiday will drive new business and increase consumer spending during the month of March, which in the past did not benefit from a holiday that encouraged activities, dinners, and gifts.

The e-mail bothered me beyond the suggested gender stereotyping of "manly" things versus the existing pink and glittery atrocities currently overflowing from every department and drugstore in the country (obviously the "girly" things), but I couldn't pinpoint why. I've argued in favor of celebrating Valentine's Day, noting that it isn't a bad thing to have a reminder in our calendars that force us to put everything on hold and give some time to our relationships.

We don't always need a reminder to be mindful of those we love, but life happens. Work happens. Kids happen. It's easy to delegate partners to the backburner. They're supposed to understand and be supportive, after all -- so why not have a holiday that reminds us (in an obnoxious explosion of hearts and glitter) that we need to take a time out and maybe reprioritize?

As a result of reassessing my thoughts about Valentine's Day, I decided that I wanted to celebrate it. When Rodrigo and I started dating and the holiday began approaching, I asked him how he felt about it. His position was simple: Valentine's Day was a mockery of his love, he said, and he flatly refused to participate in it. He much prefers to send me flowers and make elaborate dinners whenever he feels like it, which is fairly often. It works for us: my cues to spoil him -- just in case I ever need them -- are in my day planner. His cues are somewhere else. We both feel cherished.

But it's not really because of the flowers he sends, the meals he makes or the little gifts I get him. It's about the time we spend arranging those flowers in a vase, sharing those meals, playing with those little gifts. Valentine's Day isn't about stuff and it shouldn't be. It should be about reminding ourselves that our relationships matter.


"Venus Disarming Cupid" by Alessandro Allori, via Beesnest McClain.

That's why I never thought about it as a holiday where a man prostrates himself at the feet of the woman in his life, who for 24 hours is endowed by Hallmark with the powers of some despotic Venus in Furs.

When I defend Valentine’s Day, this is not what I am defending. Such a resentment-filled, one-sided affair strikes me as the enemy of love, not a celebration of it. This is why the idea of Manentine's -- a March holiday where we flip the script and fall at the feet of men – is so repulsive. Instead of guiding Valentine's away from this miserable template, it reinforces it and doubles it. In February, men shall one-sidedly and resentfully "stimulate the economy," as the press release says, to honor the women in their lives. In March, women shall one-sidedly and resentfully "stimulate the economy" to honor the men in theirs.

How about sitting down and analyzing what we feel about Valentine's Day and then talking with our partners about it? How about making plans together? That's what relationships are all about, you know: two people, caring about each other.

AV Flox is the section editor of Love & Sex and Health on BlogHer. You can connect with her on Twitter @avflox, Google Plus +AV Flox, or e-mail her directly at av.flox AT BlogHer.com

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