It is the month of February, and we all know what it means- advertisements of mouth-watering chocolates, platinum jewellery and many offers for couples would bombard our screens soon. An opinion piece in The New York Times captured the essence of Valentine's Day in a funny line - Breaking hearts, brains and bank accounts since at least the 14th century. Yet, the obsession over this day and the whole month of February goes on, garnering a lot of attention and a lot of money for many brands.
I personally do not have anything against Valentine's Day, considering it as just a special day where people celebrate their love. Now, this definition sounds warm and fuzzy. But the truth is, Valentine's Day has now become a time of wasteful consumerism, wherein brands have almost begun to target people and make them feel guilty or inadequate about themselves. The commercialisation of Valentine's Day has gone to such an extent that in 2020, Americans were expected to spend $ 27.4 billion on the day.
What is wrong with this?
The commercialisation of Valentine's Day has severe effects on mental health. This highly capitalised holiday has made couples feel pressured into buying expensive gifts that they cannot afford. The celebration has, in turn, driven people who do not have a partner feel increasingly lonely during these days. A mere search on the web shows many results on how to combat Valentine's Day Depression. The documentary film, 14th February And Beyond discusses this very issue. Psychologist Shilpa Agrawal who was featured in this film, explains, "The way Valentine's Day is marketed, every individual feels the need to have a partner for the day". She further talks about how young girl children are sexually assaulted in the name of this celebration, which can have serious implications in the future.
It is not just about mental health that people are concerned about. The traditional image of Valentine's Day primarily caters to heterosexuality, ignoring many sexual orientations in the spectrum. This has often been cited as problematic by many LGBTQIA+ activists.
So should we stop celebrating?
Not exactly. There is always another side to the story. Yale sociologist Jefferey Alexander points out that rituals have always been an essential part of human culture, and gift-giving has been a meaningful way to create peace and reciprocity. Thus, the celebration of Valentine's Day need not be entirely rejected. After all, Valentine's Day is all about the beautiful feeling of love and compassion, and it is quite romantic.
But the basic idea is to ensure that the celebrations come from an honest space. The gift-giving and shopping on this day should not come from a place of peer pressure or fear.
What can businesses do?
First of all, inclusiveness should be the norm. It is high time that businesses stop heteronormative practices in celebration of Valentine's Day. OkCupid, a dating application has always promoted equality and LGBTQIA+ communities. This Valentine's Day became a mere boost for their already existing marketing technique. But at the same time, such moves for inclusiveness should not be mere business gimmicks. They should be carefully taken up to ensure that it does not end up as mere tokenism.
BloomsyBox that sells flowers on all occasions has made sure to be sustainable in their approach. The flowers would be wrapped in paper rather than plastic, making it more eco-friendly.
Broadly, this day depends on how different people perceive the feeling of love and its celebration. It is extremely subjective. But at the same time, with a little more thought, businesses and consumers can make things a little easier for everyone, including the environment.