Rethinking concept of love allows acceptance
Opinions Column: Reason in Revolt
During the month of February, store windows displays change to different hues of red, with heart-shaped products, greeting cards, chocolates and roses reminding us that Valentine’s Day is coming soon and reminding people in romantic relationships that their pockets better be ready. For many of us, this day heightens the idea of love is in the airwaves and funneled into our minds asking ourselves, where does love exist in my life?
The romantic notion of Valentine’s Day is a modern invention that originally had nothing to do with romantic love and how we celebrate it. It’s a holiday with mixed origins, celebrating a martyred saint and colonizing and christianizing a Roman festival of Lupercalia that is based on agriculture and fertility.
Today, Valentine’s Day is a billion-dollar industry filled with commodities, films, music and other forms of media that target a specific kind of love that privileges class-status, whiteness and heteronormativity, and the all-consuming monogamous love. A kind of love that is described as an essential aspect of the human experience.
Not only that, but romantic comedies play in to the same trope of love relationships. They perpetuate multiple images of white Hollywood celebrities that not only erase certain people's existence, but also silences and shames alternative love narratives simply because they do not fit the mold. Whether it’s action, thriller or sci-fi, this type of romantic love crosses all genres. All over media, we are bombarded with images of socially accepted ways of loving. Images, not realities, become the lies that keep us from living.
For the ones who don’t fit this mold, such as queer people of color, we’re marginalized in the game and structure of romantic love. If you’re a black or brown body, poor, busy laboring your hours away, a language of love that is bought, owned and contained is internalized and questions our worth to give and receive love.
For many of us, systematic walls were built around us that make love all too elusive. For many marginalized folks, we are rejected from sites and communities that are thought of as the the first site of love’s expression. If you’re a single mother, black, queer, non-able-bodied or all of the above our realities are shamed for not fitting into the nuclear family mold. These realities disturb the idea of a love that is black and white, a dichotomy of have and have-nots, because we live and love looks more like different shades of grey.
By realizing that the kind of love that contributed to my growth and many others like me is made up of a garden of self-love, platonic love and love for our community, this disturbs the idea of attaining the idea of love that is based on dependency and the concept of a soulmate. Through decolonial love, we disturb the structures that shames the kind of love that is necessary for our survival and freedom for our bodies, minds and souls.
By reframing love as more than commodity, compatibility and chance where people “fall in love,” and into a continuous practice of respect, vulnerability and compassion, this opens up to a renewed awareness of love that is limitless and allows our relationships to intensify and grow in different directions.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, I encourage everyone — both single and in relationships — to think about how they prioritize romantic love in your lives that may take up space for love to come in full fruition. And with this self-examination, to think about equally celebrating the different ways in which love exist in our lives. This holiday will live on past our lifetimes, but as history of this holiday shows, the language around this holiday evolves and it’s time to reshape it by an inclusive and collective force.
For some, it’s to remind ourselves to love ourselves, and sometimes that means healing and mending when we thought our preconceived notion of love has failed us. It means going through a journey of self-reflection and self-affirmation in order to shed these social conditionings.
For simply existing and being who we truly are, many of us are made to feel that love was taken away from us. That we are not worth it. But in reality, it was always there in the shadowed corners of our lives. And with this realization, love becomes a central aspect of my life’s journey, where I and many others desire to undo, rebuild and teach ourselves and people around us how to love. To shape a reality where where people like me can safely put our hearts out in the world around us.
Rachel Landingin is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies with minors in art history and digital, media and information technology. Her column, “Reason in Revolt,” runs on alternate Thursdays.
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