Don’t be sucked in by the novelty boxer pants and his and hers pillows, prioritise self-care and socially conscious products with a feminist Valentines Day.
We cannot stop the changes that nature enforces upon us but we can change the way that we cope with those changes. Here are some thoughts about what we can do to lighten the burden:
1. Celebrate love for everyone
Back in my first job, surrounded by bright-eyed graduates determined to change the world (check out the Worthwhile Grad Scheme if you’re one of these and you want a job), we decided to practice “Thank you Thursdays” to acknowledge and thank everyone who had helped us in the past. Valentines is a lovely chance to do the same. You don’t need to send a tacky card (see point 3), instead just take the time to reflect on the last year and acknowledge the people who have supported you, cheered you on, picked you up and made you cups of tea. Tell them how grateful you are.
2. Remember Self-Love
Alongside those who have been there for you, take some time to love yourself. Prioritise yourself and your happiness for a day (or an hour if you really can’t get away for longer). Perhaps think about how you can build more self-care into your routine in the future. Self care doesn’t have to mean yoga and facemasks, check out Jenna Wortham’s article on how she learnt what self-care means to her. It might feel counter-intuitive to put yourself first on the day we celebrate romance but it will mean you’re in a healthier mental state to care for those who rely on you, so really, everyone wins.
3. Avoid Buying Cheap Tat
Consider the people who may have been employed to stitch that pair of novelty boxer shorts. I agree that a witty slogan over someone’s genitals is a funny thing to behold but not at the expense of cheap labour. Garment workers in developing countries are overwhelmingly female and while the quality of working environment varies greatly, very cheap products are likely to be squeezing costs somewhere, and there’s a good chance it’s by squeezing as much work out of these people for as little money as possible. Checkout the great feminist brands Neon Moon and Birdsong for beautiful gifts you can trust and remember that buying nothing can be a feminist act too.
4. Make a Donation
If you have some spare cash having saved on those novelty boxer shorts, consider donating to a good cause. Services for survivors of Domestic Violence have been cut significantly in the last few years and it’s increasingly difficult for people (often women) leaving abusive relationships to find the support they need. There are brilliant causes out there fighting the corner of these individuals, consider donating to Refuge or Womens Aid or supporting Sisters Uncut who take direct action for domestic violence services.
5. Challenge the "His and Hers" Dichotomy
Sure, his and hers mugs are cute for me and my boyfriend. But why aren’t there any “Hers and Hers” or “His and His” mugs for my friends in same-sex relationships? Or even just “Ours”. Try and buy from places where all types of relationship are represented, not just the relationships which look like Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in LA LA Land. It might seem like a profit-ploy that Sainsbury’s have started selling same-sex valentines cards but if you’re going to spend that three pounds anyway, do it somewhere that inclusivity is valued too.