Why Valentine's Day is Overrated

It’s mid-February again, and the V-Day hype train has definitely left the station. Although Valentine’s celebrations don’t precede the holiday nearly as much as the annual Christmas anticipation, you’ve definitely noticed it. The signs are impossible to miss—heart-shaped chocolate ads on your Facebook, event invites for Galentine’s Days or anti-Valentine’s dinners, maybe even decorations or promos for events on your campus.

Most people love Valentine’s Day, if not for its celebration of love then at least for the chocolates and roses you’ll find at any general store preceding the big day. And why wouldn’t you love it? It’s not hurting anyone, is it? Besides, it’s “well known” that any girl who says she doesn’t like Valentine’s Day is really just trying to appear modest. In reality, these girls just want their partners to spend money on them, and anyone who still refutes V-Day is just lonely and cynical! Despite these pervasive ideologies, and knowing I’m in the minority, today I’d like to make my case for the negatives that pervade the “Day of Love” and render Valentine’s Day, for me, at the very least, overrated.

To begin, let’s look at the reasons Valentine’s Day exists. Yes, the holiday is based off of religious tradition, (shoutout to the multiple St. Valentines and their martyrdoms) but Valentine’s Day became widely popularized and profited from by Hallmark and other greeting card companies. V-Day was one of the first holidays for which Hallmark produced cards, and since then they have capitalized from it annually with an ever-expanding catalogue of Valentine’s-related products. The inherent commercialism attributed to V-Day has nicknamed it a “Hallmark Holiday”—highlighting the loss of meaning and revealing the holiday’s shift towards solely capitalistic intents. Companies shower you with advertisements professing the importance of showing those you love how much they mean to you, but are actually just in it for the chocolate, flower, and card sales. Many people buy into this advertising tactic and believe that the product sales surrounding this holiday are truly about making our loved ones feel appreciated, which I’m sure is true in part! But as a result, the consumerist nature of this campaign is completely overlooked.

The capitalist nature of Valentine’s Day goes further than just selling overpriced chocolates—it has transformed the meaning of the holiday from honestly celebrating love to commodifying it. Many people use the day as an excuse to show off, and turn a presumably authentic day of romance into a contest between couples to prove who loves their partner the most. If you don’t believe me, just watch your Instagram feed on the big day: it’ll be full of love, no doubt, but if you look closer you may notice that some of the posts have a slight braggy feel, disguised by seemingly genuine captions. You might think I’m only saying this because I’m being pessimistic, but I have been one of those couples on Valentine’s Day and I can attest to its competitive nature which, personally, made me want to shrink out of the spotlight and just enjoy my relationship rather than show it off. There’s nothing wrong with being public about your love, but does it really have to be a competition?

Furthermore, V-Day strengthens gender stereotypes within the expectation that men must shower women with attention and gifts, while women can just bake a batch of cookies and be done with it. Men in heterosexual couples are required to prove their love for their partners, the active role placed on them as the “dominant,” breadwinning gender, while women await validation through the gifts and experiences they’ll receive. This puts unfair emotional and financial pressure on men, while simultaneously taking agency away from women and placing them in a subordinate position to their partners in heterosexual relationships. These expectations can also hurt couples who do not conform to these tropes.

Speaking of expectations, what about the high standards and obligation created by the Day of Love? For couples, the bar has never been higher to prove how much they care—and anything that doesn’t meet expectations, or for that matter exceeds them, can cause conflict in the relationship. The stress of Valentine’s Day on some couples is unneeded, and is amplified by the competitive and consumerist cultural practices of the holiday. Furthermore, the obligations of V-Day guilts couples who may not have time or money for a fancy dinner or gifts, as well as new couples who may suddenly feel pressure to amplify their feelings to meet the expectations of the day. Expectations are there for single people too, who can feel uninvolved and even unloved, depending on how happy they are to be single. For people just coming out of relationships, and those who are struggling with their singleness, the day can be an unhappy reminder of their exclusion from the world of relationships. The expectations placed on couples can affect these people as well, flooding their social network feeds and daily errand-running with PDA and overstated, declarative messages stating “Look how much we love each other!!” This mindset can result in jaded singles who walk around shaming couples for showing their love, which is also unfair! Although this results from the feeling of exclusion, it is not right to make anyone feel bad about themselves. For this reason alone the damage of high V-Day expectations can be proven, because there is no reason a holiday should make anyone feel worse about themselves or their romantic lives—single or in a relationship.

The nature of Valentine’s Day fosters the idea that there is one day on which you should show particular care to your partner. But shouldn’t that be every single day you’re with them? It is extremely important to celebrate the ones you love, and I have nothing against appreciating the people who are important in your life and showering them with the attention they deserve. However, this should be regular practice rather than emphasized just one day a year. To me V-Day has always symbolized a “one and done” ideology, in which you can feel like you’ve ticked a box and can put less effort into your relationship because you’ve just “pulled out all the stops” for Valentine’s. I love love, and I absolutely believe it should be celebrated and cherished, but it shouldn’t be built up to a single day which culminates in convenience-store chocolate, a braggy Instagram post, and obligatory sex. If you love someone enough to want to express how much you love them, you should do it on a daily basis. You should always be treating your partner with just as much love and devotion as on February 14th, and the existence of a single, over-hyped day is subversive to the practice of expressing this love consistently, every day.

It is incredibly important to convey your endearment to those you love, whether single or in a relationship. However, this sentiment does not flourish on Valentine’s Day; on the contrary, it is overshadowed by consumerist ideals, braggy adoration-offs, emphasized gender roles, expectational pressure, single-shaming, couple-shaming, and a one-day-only ideology that negates constant, effortful love. Ditch the Hallmark Holiday this year, and celebrate those you love every day. And don’t forget to pick up some half-off chocolate on Feb 15th!