How to Have a Feminist Valentine’s Day

The incessant marketing would lead you to believe that Valentine’s Day is about romance and love. But it creates more anxiety for couples and singles alike than any other holiday. So, here’s a refresher on how to survive V-Day, feminism (and self-esteem) in tact:

Don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, celebrate the love in your life. This could mean the person you’re with, of course, but it could also mean your best friend, your mom, or your dog. Those who give you support, kindness, an always-there shoulder to cry on, and even tail-wagging every time you enter the room deserve to know how much you care for them more often than one day a year. And that goes double for the person with whom you’re partnered.

Reject all forms of consumerism tied into this holiday. Not only does no one even need chocolate, roses or jewelry, but supporting these industries this time of year further propogates the idea that coupled love is the only kind of love that matters—and that women should be the ones receiving these trinkets for their service as lovers to men.

Stop watching The Bachelor. Reality television that casts women as desperate for love and willing to do anything to “win” a man—as if it were the ultimate accomplishment a woman could ever make in her lifetime—are bad for feminism and also just bad.

Support the real V-day. It began as a play about vaginas and has turned into one of the biggest social movements to end violence against women through education and political activism. More than a billion women experience violence every day around the world. Doing something about that—even something as simple as signing the petition here, or joining the Twitter conversation, here—is an act of love even Cupid couldn’t conjure.

Give Love A Chance: Break Up with ‘The Bachelor’ For Good

In this guest post by Katie M. Lucas, we reveal why the number-one rated show among women is killing romance one rose ceremony at a time.

The Bachelor is terrible television. It’s anti-feminist, emotionally damaging, insulting and wildly unrealistic. We all know that – even me, who up until last Monday had never watched a single episode in the 11 years the program has been running.

I finally tuned in because I was curious. Not about the actual show – I knew enough about the premise (a group of tanned, size-zero women compete for a man’s heart AND a lifelong commitment on national television) to be offended. But I wondered how and why the show had garnered a loyal following of women. Now in Season 16, The Bachelor consistently wins ratings with all key women demos; the episode I watched was the #1 program for ladies the ages 18-34.

There are plenty of reasons to watch trashy reality TV – escapism, voyeurism, even for a confidence boost. A recent survey on deduced that many loyal viewers actually turn to reality programming to “make them feel better about their own lives”. The same is likely true for The Bachelor, where single women can take solace in the fact that their beautiful peers are no less unlucky in love, while attached femmes can feel extra grateful for their committed man. [Read more...]

Links for Sexy Feminists: Valentine’s Day, One Billion Rising, Mansplaining, and more

Conversation Hearts: As Valentine’s Day approaches, let’s all take a moment to consider the plight of women in abusive relationships. And hope that the Violence Against Women Act makes it through the House. If you’d like a side of activism with your V-Day, seek out a One Billion Rising event near you.

Women are Citizens: The problem with Obama’s rhetoric in the State of the Union, explained at Feministing.

Opposite Day: Hilarious tweets which point out the clear silliness of Men’s Rights Activists.

Mansplained! A space for accomplished women to vent when men don’t take them seriously. And check out this list of ways society lies to women.

People Aren’t Props: Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition has a problematic approach to “other” cultures in this year’s issue.

Stay Cool: Fun valentines from Ryan Gosling, Forever Alone Guy, and Vladimir Putin (?).

Valentine’s Day Gifts for Men

Hey, you know what’s gross? Those ads all over TV right now where a guy buys a girl some overpriced rocks on a string or a ring, and she lives happily ever after and cries and stuff because oh my god this is all she ever wanted in life. (And don’t even get us started on the Victoria’s Secret ads implying women are all dying to receive the gift of ludicrous underwear.) Valentine’s Day, at its core, isn’t evil: Great love is hard to find, so we see nothing wrong with celebrating it. We’d rather celebrate it every day without crass commercialism lurking, but whatever … Love is about compromise, so we’re willing to give Valentine’s Day a chance, but only by celebrating love with our partners as equals. Corporations want men to believe women are demanding bitches, and they want women to believe they deserve to be demanding bitches. We say fight the patriarchy by focusing on couplehood — and by giving the good men we love thoughtful tokens of our affection.

A few ideas, which apply equally to heterosexual women wrestling with sexist holiday traditions and queer women who need some inspiration, too:

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Happy Valentine's Day, Men Who Don't Suck!

There is no better evidence that men don’t suck — that is, that all men don’t suck — than all the female bloggers’ online valentines to the amazing men in their lives. As Rita Arens’ sweet BlogHer post about many such public declarations of love attests, not only are there plenty of wonderful examples of the male species out there, but love is actually much simpler — if, perhaps, more challenging — than all the hearts and flowers and endless gag-inducing diamond commercials would have you think. Love, to the modern woman, means loving us just as we are. Remember when Bridget Jones was so flummoxed by Mark Darcy’s “just as you are” admission of like? There’s a reason: Apparently none of us, in all of our overanalyzed, overachieved neurosis, can believe anyone could keep liking us, even during the moments we stop being our self-helped, women’s-magazine-perfect images and start being our actual selves. As Arens says, “Sometimes I think anyone who could spend ten years with me should get some sort of major award, but especially this man, who seems to have a level of patience at times inhuman. I am raw and difficult and flawed.”

I’ve felt — I feel — exactly the same way. I’ve had the surprising fortune to fall for such a man over the past year. Things were so perfect between us for the first ten months or so that we often tried to start fake fights just to ground things a little. (I know, sorry, we’re gross.) But reality eventually hits every couple, even the most grossly well-matched, and our reality came in the form of a late-night visit to the emergency room in October. I was having massive stomach pains and other symptoms best left out of this description; it was 2 a.m. on a Saturday. Jesse offered to come with me; I almost said no, but I knew I wanted him there. We were stuck in that ER for nearly six hours, much of which I spent in random crying bouts. It wasn’t so much the pain as the fact that I felt like I’d dragged my boyfriend through a sleepless night for just my silly little health problem. When I was diagnosed with a likely ulcer — not silly, but not serious enough to assuage my guilt over letting him come with me — and sent on my way, we stopped at a diner for a tired, and, honestly, awkward breakfast. I could tell he was unhappy; I was sure he’d be figuring out some reason to break up with me in a few weeks.  This was it, the end I’d always been anticipating.

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SF Talking Points: Building and Burning Bridges in the Workplace

Four Women Finally Land Right to Paint New York City’s Bridges: It took four years, but they finally won when Judge William Pauley III of Federal District Court in Manhattan “ruled that the city ran bridge painting as a ‘de facto boys’ club’ that turned away ambitious women in ‘unvarnished sex discrimination.’ He ordered that painters be chosen based on a civil service exam.” Any warrior women out there who would like to sign up? It’s a $44/hr job, and all ya gotta do is “climb 50-foot-plus towers, calmly amble across scaffolded aeries, lug paint pails of up to 65 pounds, rig lines and tackles for gravity-defying boatswain chairs and clamber atop swooping bridge cables. And mix and apply the right colors of zinc paint.” [NYTimes]

Scientists Discover That Lymph Node Surgery May Not Be Advantageous For Breast Cancer: The common practice for 100 years has been to remove lymph nodes from the armpits of breast cancer patients, as it was believed to help combat the disease. But a study now shows that this may have no effect on about 20% of patients who meet certain criteria. Unfortunately, while patients are likely to follow the guidelines of new studies, they often get scared when they suggest less treatment.

Don’t Buy Flowers From 1-800 Flowers On Valentine’s Day! And tell your boo not to for you, too! The flower plantations where 1-800 Flowers’ flowers come from often exploit their workers, as none of their stems are Fair Trade. Writes Amanda Kloer for

“On Kenyan flower plantations, workers reported being forced to work 8-12 hour days for less than a dollar a day, handling dangerous chemicals without protective gear, and living in cramped, unsafe conditions. In Colombia and Ecuador, which are the main countries that supply the U.S. flower market, over half of female workers have been sexually harrased or assaulted on the job, and mandatory 70 to 80 hour work weeks without overtime pay are common.”

Either sign this petition to get 1-800 Flowers on the Fair Trade circuit, or just don’t buy from them at all.

Chief Executive of Deutsche Bank Wants Women To Make His Boardroom More Colorful And Beautiful: Because that’s what we do best! Wait… we can do other things well too…

Josef Ackermann is proving that he is a real progressive in Germany, where none of the 80 largest companies have a female chief executive, and “only 2% of executive board members are women in the 30 firms which make up the Dax index of blue-chip firms.” Except then he let slip why he’s creating these initiatives for women. Whoops.

A Love Letter to Good Men

A week before Valentine’s Day, my husband is driving to see my father just north of Los Angeles. Three thousand miles from home, blown tire on a rainy freeway (“Southern California owes me one”), romance is the last thing on his mind. After an afternoon with my father, he will drive to San Diego, drop the car and head to the kick-off of a convention of sullen mortgage bankers and lawyers (those still employed, for now). I talk with him as he drives, reading directions from an online map as he makes his way back to the airport to exchange the rental car. His afternoon in L.A. is an add on to a work trip—and it’s the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for me.

My Dad is in his 80s and I am in my 30s (for a little while longer)—he was in his mid-40s when I was born, not an uncommon age for new fathers in our downtown NYC neighborhood. Pushing strollers, graying hair matching silver Blackberries, seemingly worldly and, from a distance, less nervous than a new parent should be. Stepping out from a Paul Smith ad, they appear well-off, accomplished—as if a baby were phase seven of a long ago written, precisely edited business plan.

What those babies will realize later is that their parents will become old before time has stretched far enough through their own lives to cause them to think seriously (barring tragedy) about aging and mortality. They may be starting families of their own, their careers gaining momentum. Winding down is the last thing on their minds.

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