Well, at least Valentine’s Day has not yet become a “Drink For Sport” holiday in the same manner that Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day, Labor Day, American Oktoberfest, New Years, etc. have.
But, that’s not saying much.
It’s an overly commercialized holiday of gregarious consumption resulting in a whopping 19.6$ billion in expenditures per year according to the National Retail Federation. That includes the mass destruction on forestation from 144 million greeting cards and nearly 100 million wrapped gifts being exchanged according to Hallmark estimates; the unnecessary harvesting of over over 500 million flowers according to American Floral for ; the exploitation of child labor and indigenous peoples (among other harms) in the harvesting of the cacao bean to make the billions of tonnes that result in sales of 1.7B$ of mediocre chocolates that are given; as well as the mistreatment of domestic labor in the restaurant and related service industries that produce 4.5B$ in revenue on the back of stolen wages, unsafe working environments and other infractions; not to mention the insidious diamond industry’s capitalistic harm.
What’s more, is the desperation to participate in such a holiday and to “be in love” produced a nearly 4B$ dollar a year industry for on-line and mobile matchmaking according to Nasdaq, where over one third of its revenues are generated around Valentines Day promotions. Of course, this also results in about 400M$ per year lost by victims of online dating scammers and “catfishers” according to the Better Business Bureau. And, worse it is the third highest date rape “holiday” (after “spring fling” and “prom/formal” season) and one of the top domestic violence days of the year according to sources like the CDC.
And, what makes things worse is despite the facade of love, the Valentines season is the second most stressful holiday (behind the December holidays). It impacts everyone on the gender spectrum although there’s some anecdotal evidence to say that the stress on heterosexual males might be higher based on cursory looks at aggregate information from the Insurance industry about hospital visits for stress related symptoms, prescription initiation for stress related medications as well as ED and Low-T drugs, and OTC sales of .
So, why do we put ourselves through the ringer emotionally and financially for manufactured love?
Because we are conditioned to.
Valentines Day as we know it is purely a modern construct. So, while there are examples of it’s celebration as a Catholic Christian Saint’s Day and some references to an exchange of affections during the Romanic era of the 1800s it really is not surprising its exploitative nature coincides with the advent of corpertism in the United States moving into the last century.
The capitalistic underpinnings of the Industrial Revolution provided a gateway for events like Valentines Day to move from the occasional participation of quaint gestures to the socio-enconomic engine it has become through a combination of marketing driven profiteering and the growth of the middle class with a means of disposable income.
Valentines Day like weddings quickly were twisted into consumerism to a result not unlike what happened to other traditions like Christmas, Halloween, etc. Mass production allowed the creation of goods and services that otherwise would never have been consumed but could be now by an ever growing middle class. That middle class could be manipulated into consumption through marketing to move from need based to want based purchasing. Thus, creating a cycle of ever greater supply of goods consumers would eventually be taught to demand – such as the creation of the romantic Valentines Day love myth that dominates the current incarnation of the holiday.
Not that I’m against marketing. Both my undergraduate and graduate degrees are founded on marketing, as has been the majority of my career to date. It is that I fully understand the construct of how marketing functions to craft consumption and prop-up consumerism that I’m critical of aspects of its impact on Valentine’s Day.
I’ve written several times in the past about my disdain for the fakeness of the so-called holiday itself and how I personally do not celebrate it in the American socio-cultural idiom. There’s no reason to celebrate the lies it is built upon or contribute to the overwhelming damage it produces. There are a myriad of other ways to demonstrate both platonic and romantic love without the cliched entrapments within the perversion of capitalism. I don’t need Hallmark, or DeBeers, or Russel Stover, or Applebees to tell me how and when to express my love for another. I am perfectly capable of doing so in a more personal and ultimately gratifying way that doesn’t come with the unnecessary and oft-times excessive expectations of living up to commercialized hype.
It’s of course a coincidence that Valentines Day and venerial disease are both abbreviated VD. But it’s also an ironic reality that they both go hand and hand together in their irresponsible nature of binding people.