Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Happy belated St. Skeletor's day

A moderately postponed rant about Valentine's day, brought on by all the blogs whose last 4 days of posts I've just caught up on.

Around about the 1st of February, I opened the daily paper to find a four-page spread on Valentine's day. The first two pages were how to get a relationship before Valentine's day if you're a straight woman. The next two pages were how to get a relationship before Valentine's day if you're a gay man. (Yes, we've come a long way, but a lot of it was still written by straight men with gay friends, and all of it contained really simplistic stereotypes). It's something I've seen several times since, now I'm aware of it.

My response to this, fed by my growing hatred of 'buy this and you'll be happy', was the same as my response to a lot of the heteronormative dating crap we're meant to eat up and be thankful for, and can be summarised thusly;

Do none of these people even realise how horrifically wrong their outlook is?

Specifically, what proportion of the population seriously enter February single and think "I absolutely have to get myself into a relationship before the commercial crapfest begins, and my consumerist overlords dictate that I must become an object of affection (and by affection, I, of course, mean money), because if I don't manage to get myself a relationship by this particular annual event, I will have failed in the main goal of relationships, which is to use them as a crutch to shield myself from my lack of happiness (driven, of course, by my lack of possessions) and because everyone in the world is continually reinforcing the message that not to be in a relationship is to be a looser and a failure, and I've got to spend all my time doing that too, because otherwise they'll suspect I'm secretly a looser underneath, and that no-one will ever validate my existance by buying useless things for me!"

And how have they been so adequately controlled to think that, and to stifle all thought of what a relationship really is, you know, two people, together because they want to be (Because THEY want to be. Because they WANT to be), and how that's mutually incompatible with making sure you're in a relationship on a particular calendar date? It really is a work of genius. If we (the general wouldn't-it-be-nice-if, respect-your-fellow-people sort) had those marketing people working for our side, just think of the power.


Anyway, two smaller pieces of Valentine's Day news.
I saw a red plastic bell which said "Ring for sex" in a card shop. I've decided, if I get a partner, rather than ignoring Valentine's day, we're going to get the most messed-up and heteronormative cards or trinkets for each other that we can find. And if I give them that one, it'll probably still come with a link to Ily's post.

Also, can't figure out how to get the image over here, but a quick click over to this Valentine's day page on Feministing is yet another example of that pesky space which so plagues asexuality.

6 comments:

  1. "... Yes, we've come a long way, but a lot of it was still written by straight men with gay friends, and all of it contained really simplistic stereotypes... It's something I've seen several times since, now I'm aware of it"

    Interesting. I'm inclined to think that while superficially gay men and straight women may appear to have a lot in common in this respect there's a whole lot that a straight man wouldn't necessarily know, even if informed by gay friends (there's a ton of things I wouldn't feel comfortable discussing with a straight mate).

    I also think that nobody goes into it (February) thinking through Valentines day as outlined above though they certainly act in accordance with those beliefs. Yes, it's entirely driven by commercial interests who wish to make individuals feel validated only through the consumption of worthless crap, but the ideology is powerful, and while some individuals may be aware of a feeling of uneasiness at the commercialism, most cannot articulate why that may be so... people just avoid thinking it through to its ugly conclusions because they do not wish to be disabused of their romantic notions.

    It's my opinion that as Western societies have become increasingly secular, they have come to imbue romantic intimate relationships with more and more significance, they are now a primary source of one's self worth (especially for women) and sense of security, a marker of success, a primary goal or project to first attain, retain and maintain, and even a reason for living or meaning of life.

    This stands in stark contrast to how romantic love has traditionally been viewed in the West, when it was the subject of much suspicion, considered a madness or a curse that destroys one's rationality and competency, an affliction most definitely NOT suitable for the foundation of a marriage. Few in modern societies realise that romantic love as we know it comes to us from the traditions of courtly love, where a knight or nobleman would pursue an adulterous and ultimately futile liaison with another nobleman's wife in order to learn how to overcome temptation and 'better' himself as a result.

    Great blog dude... always something interesting (I'm also curious to know why you call it Skeletor's day too... because he's an evil overlord like the corporations? Because you have to be somehow 'less' than human to not buy into it? Or because criticising it is just 'wrecking it for everyone else' out of madness or spite? Anyway, that's what I'm calling it from now on, too!)

    Keep it up! :)

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  2. Thanks for the comment. To adress a couple of your issues/questions;

    Yes, I know no-one actually conciously thinks anything I said they did. But, unfortunately, it seems to be the unspoken logical chain behind their actual thoughts and actions, and it deserves to be pointed out.

    I have no idea whether the importance of romantic relationships is linked to the rise of secularism, however, I think it is tied to closely into secular capitalism- maybe life has always been a balance between work/mundanity and spiritual/self-realisation, but people's attention has been diverted from the self and the spiritual aspect, onto relationships, which can be easily subverted into just another 'thing' to buy?

    I'm glad you like it when I criticise the ways romance has been corrupted, because I think I'm going to start doing it quite a bit on this blog.

    I found out about St Skeletor's day last year. The site's here: http://matt.lee.name/skeletor/2010/ , although there worryingly doesn't seem to be any activity from this year.

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  3. If we (the general wouldn't-it-be-nice-if, respect-your-fellow-people sort) had those marketing people working for our side, just think of the power.

    We're too nice for advertising.

    Regarding the daily newspaper articles - there wasn't one for straight men or gay women trying to finagle themselves a relationship before Valentine's day, so while the inclusion of the concern for gay men does represent some progress, they still seem to be defining relationships according to the presence, and desire for the same, of a man.

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  4. I wasn't going to raise that point, because I'd have expressed it less snappily than you, and it was nothing to do with the points I wanted to make, but, yes, Gay men are the new girls? People who like women aren't looking for love? Butch people are a harder sell? What's the reasoning behind that choice of articles?

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  5. "...attention has been diverted from the self and the spiritual aspect, onto relationships, which can be easily subverted into just another 'thing' to buy..."

    It certainly seems to me that a lot of people expect that the attainment of a relationship will solve all their problems in much the same way that they expect to be happy 'when I have *that* job/car/house' etc... happiness is seen as the result of having 'things' and that would certainly seem to be what commercial interests are aiming for.

    I find it particularly revealing that people speak about their partner as their 'other half', that people buy into the sentiments in film, television and song lyrics ('You complete me' etc) that they are not whole by themselves, that their lives are without meaning until they have found 'the one' and so on. The love industry is not restricted to Valentines Day, it saturates Western culture, its message fills the airwaves and is plastered across billboards everywhere.

    Happiness, for most Westerners, is invested in the having, more than the being.

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  6. I've decided, if I get a partner, rather than ignoring Valentine's day, we're going to get the most messed-up and heteronormative cards or trinkets for each other that we can find.

    Ha, that sounds awesome! :-D (And I can just imagine your theoretical partner going, "This blog post about gift sex again?! What the heck is Cougartown?")

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