Valentines Day is just a Hallmark ploy
The 14th of February is a date which annually brings around equal measure of love and cynicism, with some couples seeing it as a welcome time to joyfully celebrate their union, and others as a coercive social convention which could be done without. Is St.Valentines Day a cunning capitalist scheme or something with a lot more heart behind it?
Please cast your vote after you've read the arguments.
You can also add to the debate by leaving a comment at the end of the page.
Dependable payday for businesses
Due to the idea of Valentines Day being ingrained in our consciences as a day where we must celebrate our
partners, it represents a reliable income stream for card companies and other businesses. For example, in 2006, $13.9 billion worth of chocolate and cocoa products were shipped into the USA (1). Thus it could be argued that the occasion represents a chance for capitalism to prosper, using the pretence as love as a vehicle to make money
Whilst Valentines Day does provide a big payday for many companies, this is not necessarily a totally negative thing. For one, it helps to ensure consumer spending which aids the general health of national economies – never more of a concern than now. It also helps to bring money into developing countries, who have become dependant on the 14th of February to keep their economies stable - ‘South American countries…export huge quantities of flowers on the occasion of Valentine's Day’ (1)
Widening of Valentines Day market in recent years
In recent times, the idea of single people being able to enjoy Valentines Day has been more prominent. Many clubs and bars now offer singles nights on Valentines Day to help people meet partners, through schemes like speed dating. It may be cynical but some may claim this is an attempt by businesses to widen their Valentines Day market, cashing in on the misery of singletons by pressuring them not to be alone.
The obvious counter to this is that such occasions may actually present a good opportunity for singles looking for a partner to meet someone like-minded. Money making scheme or not, someone who finds their ‘soul mate’ on a Valentines night out isn’t going to complain.
Valentines Day may offend Hindu and Muslim values just to make money
In 2003, there were mass protests in India and Pakistan about the exporting of Valentines Day to their countries. The right-wing Shiv Sena group argued that the occasion encouraged lustful behaviour by the youth, undercutting traditional values for the benefit for Western businesses (1). Surely attempting to market Valentines Day to cultures which may take great offence from its messages illustrates the ugly greed of the modern concept.
Causing offense does not in itself make something illegitimate, or indeed, a bad influence. Some Muslims are appalled by the freedom with which the Western world commits blasphemy, yet would anyone truly suggest limiting our freedom of speech? Nevertheless, just as our supposed blasphemy is not intended to offend Muslims or indeed, evangelical Christians, Valentines Day is not intended to offend those whose abhor 'lustful behaviour'.
If they don't like it, ignore it.
The title of the day is based on a common error
Whilst the idea of St. Valentines Day as a day of love is long established, it is actually based on a basic misconception. It is in fact St. Raphael who is the ‘patron saint for happy encounters’ (1) and not St. Valentine. This is a fact commonly accepted within the Church, but something which most people are ignorant to. Seeing then as the day is based on a falsity, surely its credibility as a genuine celebration of loving union is damaged. Perhaps a 19th century marketing department decided ‘Valentine’ had a nicer ring to it than ‘Raphael’…
The tradition is longstanding - predating modern capitalism
Since the Middle Ages, the 14th of February has been celebrated as a day of romantic love - with Geoffrey Chaucer a notable advocate. Thus the tradition predates even the printing press, and is not merely a feature of modern capitalism, even if that is how it is now viewed.
The spirit of the celebration is not based on spending
The idea of a special day on which couples can unite and spend time together is healthy in our busy, modern lives. In a survey of 1017 people, 90% said that they would prefer a day’s worth of undivided attention from their partner to a token gift (1). This surely illustrates that the majority of people see the day as an opportunity to spend quality time with their significant other, rather than being an opportunity to be showered in lavish gifts.
Much of the snobbery about Valentines Day comes from those who have no-one to spend it with
Valentines Day is a topic that always excites debate because it can be an emotional time for those who are single and unhappy in that situation. Whilst criticism certainly isn’t exclusive to those who are single, one can see why cynical sentiments would be likely to arise from those who can’t really enjoy the occasion. By painting the day as a capitalist sham, frustrated singletons may gain some satisfaction by cheapening the experience for others.
What do you think?