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I love chocolate. But if you're thinking of giving it to me for Valentine's Day, you'd do well to think again.
Same goes for flowers, jewellery, lingerie and all the other clichéd gack of Valentine's — the least sexy and most sexist holiday we celebrate.
Valentine's sets up a trope: hetero partnerships are the norm, and in them, the female half of the duo desires a shower of luxuries that represent her value in the relationship.
Valentine's Day's blood-coloured gift giving reinforces stereotypes of women as receivers. A woman can make more money than her partner (though not likely — the gender wage gap in Canada as of 2018 sees women on average earning $0.87 for every dollar earned by men). But even for women making bank, society reinforces the notion that on Valentine's, women want men to provide. Women are the Valentine's passive to men's Valentine's active.
This is a subtle poison, and we're all unwittingly drinking it.
Any trip to the mall in February screams the idea that every woman's ultimate mid-winter desire is feathered mules and bonbons and other fake-sexy bric-a-brac. The message infiltrates our homes with every mailbox flyer. If you spent any time with a TV since Christmas, you know it to be true.
Any trip to the mall in February screams the idea that every woman's ultimate mid-winter desire is feathered mules and bonbons and other fake-sexy bric-a-brac.
I will concede: on Valentine's Day, partnered men also receive gifts. But they pale.
Men in hetero relationships are not opening small boxes today holding the Angelady Eternity of Love Purple Heart Pendant Necklace. (That's amazon.com's Valentine's best seller, FYI.)
Men are busy making dinner reservations, sending long-stemmed roses, feeling pressured into shelling out for wildly impractical bras. (Hint: if it has straps where no straps are required, or lacks fabric where fabric would indeed be a boon, it is probably best avoided.)
What would it look like to celebrate romantic love as equal partnership?
In a facile sense, it might mean making the gift-giving equal — he books the dinner, she plans the two-person massage; both get flowers and a heart-shaped box filled with candy.
Another idea: a joint donation to youth advocacy and support organization LOVE Nova Scotia, which asked Nova Scotians to consider them instead of trinkets this year.
Beyond these stand-ins, a good gift on my list would be ongoing contribution to the emotional labour of running a family.
Not very sexy sounding, is it? Well, I don't care.
My husband knows that I would rush him to emergency if he came home today and presented me with a box containing a Victoria's Secret Strappy Chantilly Lace Teddy. I would assume he was having a stroke.
There will be no see-through bras, Chez Lowe. No scented candles. No carnations.
Instead, all I want is to not be the one booking the appliance repair person next time the dishwasher cacks out. To not have be the sole parent who calls the school to report the absence when there's an unwell child at home. To know that if I forget coffee cream, my husband will have remembered and already picked it up.
And, yeah, I'll take chocolate, of course. But only if it arrives as a surprise, on a less obvious day.
Because I know I will be receiving it then not because marketers told my husband I wanted it and he was the one who had to buy it for me, because that's the role of the man. And not because I need to be doted on to know I am loved and respected, because that's the expectation for women.
But because he will actually know that I needed it, just then.