Valentine’s Day: A Capitalist Construct?

Does spending money on valentines devalue the celebration of love?


Kaitlyn Butler

Paying the price for love.

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, bringing about either a warmhearted appreciation for loved ones or the bitter sentiments of singleness. Receiving chocolate or flowers from your significant other, your gals, or your pals is certainly uplifting, especially considering that the pressure to purchase a thoughtful gift builds up throughout the week beforehand. The alternative? Buy yourself a valentine and call it self love.

Is this what the day of love has amounted to? Merely a gift exchange in the name of love for the sake of perpetuating capitalism? Well, not entirely. But such a claim is not wholly invalid, thanks to the concept of consumerist desire.

Human beings innately long for a special connection with that special someone, both psychologically and biologically. And our idea of love is influenced by current social conventions and media, which portray relationships in a way to attract viewers and–you guessed it–rack up their income. Think of how often you envy couples on television shows for the way they lock eyes and embrace. And though they incite feelings of loneliness, you just can’t take your eyes off of the wholesomeness. The producers then benefit from our insatiable, inherent desire, no?

In the same way, painting February 14th in a pink-tinted light and emphasizing the heartfelt significance of gift-giving persuades us to incorporate the tradition into our relationship ideals. Teddy bear on the shelves? The key to your girlfriend’s happiness. And what kind of girlfriend are you if you refuse to write a note or purchase a card? At least go out for dinner. Basic relationship necessities.

While this position can be effectively argued, Valentine’s Day still remains a genuine celebration of love and relationships. Couples do actually appreciate each other for more than what lines the Target shelves in February, of course. The obligation to buy a gift does not differ much from Christmas or birthday traditions; while it may detract from the significance of the holiday, gift-giving is generally a sincere gesture of friendship, love, and kindness. Sure, businesses benefit from holidays like these. So what? If the heart is there, it’s worth it. Seeing the smile on the faces of your friends, family, or significant other is worth it. 

If you want to buy that special girl a box of chocolates, go buy her a box of chocolates. If you want to stay in and enjoy each other’s company, be my guest. If you want to completely ignore Valentine’s Day, by all means. February 14 is an opportunity to celebrate love; the vessel by which you express this love can be a gift, a hug, a night out, or a night in. Love is what matters.