Managing Chocolate Hearts

Valentine’s Day is a commercialized “holiday” that businesses use to exploit people of their money. The everyday person buys into it out of fear of appearing cynical, unromantic, or as someone who lacks a heart in general. People pay a lot of money for flowers, chocolates, perfumes, and other presents for the ones they love. This has grown from an expectation of being romantic to an expectation of spreading love to all the important people in your life- friends, parents, siblings etc- in order to show gratitude to the people whose invisible work you often take for granted. The least we can do is buy them their favorite chocolates at the closest Walgreens or CVS to prove our love and loyalty. To manage the emotions of those we care about- to make them feel appreciated and positive.

Additionally, Valentine’s Day is an interesting paradox because it is a mainstreamed event that acknowledges the normally invisible emotion work of women. It is a reward for all the emotion management women conduct for their men and children throughout the year, but is still an indirect acknowledgement. Women are often thanked for “all you do” and for how wonderful they are as individuals instead of thanking them for the specific skills they possess to keep everything running smoothly. Additionally, we see more often now that children feel obligated to show their mothers gratitude on Valentine’s Day as well- sending mom some kind of present with a sweet card to remind her she is loved and appreciated. Some fathers also give presents to their daughters, especially the single ones, to cheer them up and remind them a man loves them. I noticed that while moms and dads give their children Valentines, children give their moms Valentines, friends and romantically linked people give each other Valentines, there are few who would give their father, brother or platonic male friend a Valentine. The only time men seem to receive a Valentine is if they are in a romantic partnership with someone else. Therefore, Valentine’s Day is one day in the entire year that the dominant group is tasked with the emotion management of those who keep enhancing their lives and keep things running smoothly. This is not to discredit same-sex couple celebrations of Valentine’s Day, but instead to acknowledge the underlining purpose of Valentine’s Day.

Finally, a newer celebration of “Galentine’s Day” has surfaced in which women celebrate their friendships with one another. In Hochschild’s “The Managed Heart” she discussed how women are often tasked with the emotion management of other women as well as helping fellow women learn how to mange the emotions of their husbands and children. I think that Galentine’s Day plays on that idea simply because women are thanking their friends for the talks about romantic strategies and how to best handle work and family situations. Galentine’s Day supports the same power structure as Valentine’s Day covertly does- thank those who enhance you or whom you exploit or may take for granted on a regular basis for one day.

Patricia Toomey



One Reply to “Managing Chocolate Hearts”

  1. omgosh, I LOVE this post. Great observation on the gender dynamics–platonic, familial, romantic–of valentines day. This is pretty messed up! ugh. I’m also thinking, curious, abt your galentines idea. I totally see what you’re saying but I also wonder if there isn’t something a bit more radical to the galentines idea–something about women putting each other first, acknowledging each other, seems (a little bit?) challenging to the normative hetero-model of intimacy. But, I also see how it also maintains the status quo, maintains idea that women are the emotional workers–for each other as well as for everyone else. Great post!


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