Battling Toxic Norms on Valentine’s Day

February, 2023
Katie Qin

What’s more classic than red hearts, chocolates, and big teddy bears on Valentine’s Day? The answer is the traditional norms that people often feel the need to conform to during this holiday. As Valentine’s Day just passed, it’s a good time to discuss how these norms can be harmful to many people who want to celebrate the holiday, but may not fit into the mold of the traditions held by society. Additionally, the desire to be in a romantic relationship often seems to overshadow the appreciation people have for themselves and their friends. Our community at PHS is very diverse, and we should find ways to create inclusivity in the way we celebrate and discuss Valentine’s Day. It is imperative that we start prioritizing creating new holiday traditions over the old-fashioned norms that are often more harmful than helpful.

The traditional themes of Valentine’s Day do not apply to the diverse spectrum of relationships that exist in contemporary America, and the outdated traditions of Valentine’s Day should be replaced with more inclusive ones to celebrate our love for each other. LGBTQ+ people are often underrepresented during this holiday, and it’s important that companies keep these types of relationships in mind when creating Valentine’s Day products. Instead of exclusively “His” and “Hers” themed products, there should be gender-neutral pronouns available as an option. Although several companies are already starting to do this, if the production of LGBTQ-oriented holiday items was more widespread, more couples and gender-nonconforming individuals would feel much more included in the holiday celebrations. Not only do the traditional norms of Valentine’s Day exclude people who may not fit the stereotypical image of a Valentine’s Day couple, but they make many people feel the need to have a partner, even if they may not actually want to. “Cuffing season” can pressure people to be in public relationships because they think that it can get them more attention on social media. However, those quickly planned Valentine’s relationships are not what the holiday is about. Valentine’s Day is intended to be a way to celebrate all love, including those who don’t have a romantic partner in their lives. Small gestures like sending notes to your friends on Valentine’s Day can reaffirm the already strong relationships that you have in your life, without adding the pressure to conform to the relationship standard surrounding Valentine’s Day. Society has told us that Valentine’s Day is all about these types of relationships, but if we start to break those traditions and celebrate the holiday of love in whatever way fits us, we can prevent the uncomfortable feelings that people may have around this time of year.

The love we have towards other people is very important, but it can also be beneficial to look within and understand the importance of self-love on a day that celebrates relationships. Your relationship with yourself is so important, and Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to cultivate it. This can be through treating yourself to your favorite meal, buying something that you’ve been eyeing for a long time, or even simply setting time aside to relax and let your mind be at ease. Prioritizing self-love can be a great way for people to appreciate Valentine’s Day, and it should be normalized by society.

The day of love recently concluded, and we should take the opportunity to reevaluate the way we discuss love and relationships at PHS. Even if we can’t convince major companies to change their gendered products that are clearly marketed towards straight, cisgender people, we can change the way we speak about Valentine’s Day and the types of relationships that exist in and out of our school. We should work to eliminate the pressure to conform to the standard Valentine’s Day traditions, and should instead use Valentine’s Day as a time to express love to our friends, family, and ourselves. At the end of the day, Valentine’s Day is supposed to celebrate love, but that can’t be fully realized until we reinvent the holiday to celebrate all of its expressions.