Valentine’s Day is coming up, and no matter how you feel about it, there’s a good chance your kids will want to participate. Between school activities and cartoon holiday specials, little ones usually know what’s up when V-Day rolls around. But is it possible to celebrate Feb. 14 if you’re inclusive and believe in gender equality, but still a sucker for romantic comedies and roses? The short answer? Yes. There are ways to have a feminist Valentine’s Day with kids that won't fill Cupid's Special Day with unnecessary gender norms and patriarchal messages. Trust me.
Truth be told, I’m still fairly new at the whole "celebrating Valentine’s with my kid" thing. My son is just shy of 4-years-old, which means that up until this point I could consider buying a pack of Valentine's Day cards from the Dollar Tree, complete with a Hot Wheels car (because he loves those, probably more than he loves me), a job well done. Now that he's older, though, he has grown more perceptive about holidays, and this one is no different. I know he’s going to pick up on social cues from the rest of society about how people should behave (including how “men” should act) on the so-called "most romantic day of the year."
So, now that I've been forced to think more and more about how we can still celebrate Valentine's Day while remaining true to the feminist ideals I am teaching my son, I've invested my time into thinking outside the box. So with that in mind, here are are a few ways I’ll be incorporating my feminism into our Day of Love. Hopefully a few of the following will work for your family, too.
Ditch The Traditional Valentine's Day Cards
Rather than buy the usual V-Day card from the store (which are often full of specific messages related to gender roles), find some more feminist-friendly alternatives. Passive Juice Motel has these really great ones with pictures of important historical female figures, which is great for tweens and teens. Even better, sit down with your kid and craft inclusive cards together. Feel free to find snag some ideas off Pinterest that are age-appropriate without being problematic.
Talk To Your Kids About The BS Of Gender Roles
There are a lot of heteronormative expectations that come with Valentine’s Day, especially when applied to kids. Boys are often discouraged from giving other boys Valentine's Day cards or gifts, while girls are asked to be nice to everyone (even kids who might not be so nice to them) for fear they'll hurt someone's feelings. Teaching our boys to curb their very human emotions, and teaching our daughters to put themselves in uncomfortable situations so a person's (read: boy's) feelings won't get hurt, are not great lessons.
Have a quick chat with your kid about the expectations of Valentine's Day versus the undeniable fact that they should do whatever makes them feel comfortable and happy, and as long as it doesn't make anyone else uncomfortable or take away from their bodily autonomy. And, of course, let your kid know that their gender should in no way dictate their actions.
Read Books About Love & Friendship
Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about love, right? So maybe fill the day with some solid reads that truly capture the essence of what love and friendship are all about. A few good options are Love Is A Family by Roma Downey (yes, that Roma Downey!), Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill, and for the littlest ones in the bunch, Friendshape by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.
Purchase A Feminist-Friendly Subscription Box
If you’re thinking about getting a gift for your little one, nix the chocolate and plush animals and opt for something with a positive feminist message. Subscription boxes are all the rage these days, and one particularly great one is The Little Feminist. Kids will totally dig getting a new feminist-friendly book in the mail, along with activities the two of you can do together. If your kiddo has other particular tastes, you could always choose from one of these other subscription boxes, too.
Give Back To Your Community
To show a child how to truly love beyond their core set of people, invite them to join you on a volunteering or donation project. Help them gather old toys and clothes they’ve outgrown to take to a local shelter. Sign up to do a beach cleanup or help at a community garden. Show them that love can actually make a difference, and not just in relationships, but in the world.
Perform Random Acts Of Kindness
This is a fairly easy way to show your kids how to spread a little joy and love in the world. Go to a coffee shop and give them a few bucks so they can pay for the next person in line. Have them create extra Valentine's Day cards for strangers, so they can give them to random people walking down the street (supervised, of course). They’ll quickly learn how nice it is to make someone smile.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.