People hate feminists. Even those who agree with its principles seem to be turned off by the larger idea of feminism.
To many, feminists are bra-burning, man-hating, uppity shrews who look down on kids, family and apple pie. My mother, traditional but no shrinking violet, once said she’d never buy a house from the realty company ERA because it reminded her too much of those “women’s libbers.”
Like anything else, feminism can be taken to an extreme, exploited in ways far beyond its original intent. But in its purest form, feminism is simply about equality, and that’s good for society. It’s good for women, kids, and yes, even men.
Case in point: Valentine’s Day. Oh, the hemming and hawing about Valentine’s Day:
“It’s a made-up holiday to sell cards and flowers and candy.” (Aren’t all holidays made up?)
“Real romance is about what you do the other 364 days in the year.” (So we shouldn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, because we show enough gratitude the rest of the year?)
“It just puts pressure on couples and makes single people feel like crap.” (Then let’s make it about universal love, reaching out to friends and family just to say “I care.”)
The real problem is not Valentine’s Day, it’s how we celebrate it. It’s almost exclusively about men kissing women’s asses.
But that’s where feminism kicks in. In a truly equal partnership, Valentine’s Day can be a wonderfully empowering experience. I get to be wooed, yes, but I also get to do some wooing of my own, which is a pretty great feeling.
My now-husband Lex and I had only been dating a few weeks when our first Valentine’s Day rolled around. It was that magical time, early in our relationship, and neither of us wanted to screw it up by doing too much or too little for the big day. I knew the pressure would rest mostly on his (male) shoulders, so I decided to take the issue off the table, figuratively and literally. I told him not to worry his pretty little head, that I would plan the whole night. I set up a candlelit picnic on the floor of his living room, and to this day, he still talks about how special it felt to have a woman woo him.
Every year since then, we’ve switched off who plans Valentine’s Day. One year, he booked a fancy hotel room and wore a suit to serve me a box of my favorite pizza. Another year, I took him to a silent movie theater for a night of classic romantic comedies. It doesn’t matter so much what we do, but that we each get a chance to show how much we love and appreciate the other person.
That’s love. That’s equality. And that’s the beauty of feminism.