There’s more to Valentine’s day than cringey cards

There’s a lot to this Valentine’s Day malarkey besides cringey cards and exorbitantly priced flowers; it’s also the anniversary of the eponymous saint being martyred, which is somewhat ironic given the amount of men who’ll be killed tomorrow for coming home empty-handed.

While I’m all for a bit of romance, one thing I can never understand about the relationship between the sexes is this constant expectation that women are there to be spoiled and cossetted.

You won’t see this from me very often, but what about the men?

I have yet to see an ad for the lingerie you’re meant to buy your boyfriend for Valentine’s Day (sorry for that mental image) or an ‘all because the gentleman loves’ ad for a box of chocolates.

Tradition is nice, but more often than not, it tends to perpetuate stereotypes that can put a dent in the equality gains we have spent years gaining.

Women as helpless, childlike beings that just want something shiny; and men as the great protector.
Equality begins at home, and while nobody actively dislikes a bunch of flowers (well, except people with really bad hayfever), it’s not as if this spoiling really does anything for you.

Think about it. If you’re all for being spoiled on Valentine’s Day but do all the cooking, cleaning and caring by yourself the other 364 days a year, your partner’s getting away with a lot.

(If you think being practical with your gift is a solution to this one, be warned – buying your lady love a washing machine, as one retailer is encouraging men to do, will result in almost certain death, unless she has expressed a specific wish for a washing machine for Valentine’s Day. A wish for a washing machine in general is not enough. But I digress.)

Don’t get me wrong; I love getting presents. But so does himself. Because we’re getting married this year, and hence are broke, we’ve agreed not to buy each other anything, but to spend a day together this weekend, not doing anything work or wedding-related.

Because it’s not about him taking care of me. It’s about both of us taking care of each other – as Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook urges us in her book Lean In, make your partner just that. You’re meant to be in a relationship of equals, not in some kind of weird daddy fetish scenario.

All of this is why I was so disappointed to read in an English newspaper yesterday that apparently, researchers have discovered that women want to date men who are taller than them for “protection and feminity” reasons.

Apparently, despite our increasing equality, evolutionary psychology means we want men who can physically dominate us.

The study was done in two parts. The first took information from personal ads. This alone sends up an immediate flare; has anybody, anywhere, ever told the truth on a personal ad?

The second part was an online survey asking open ended questions, to which, apparently, about 55 per cent of women said that they would only date men who were taller than them.

What the study most definitely did not do is check the height of couples who are actually together. It also didn’t weight the answers for the heights of those answering – so we don’t know how many of the men were actually smaller than the women being surveyed.

Despite these flaws, the study does raise numerous questions. Isn’t this why high heels were invented? What about women who weightlift and their weedy husbands? Haven’t we all gotten taller anyway (I’m thinking of those 17th century doorframes we all bang our heads off, even me at 5 foot nothing)? And most importantly, I have a question for the researchers: Shouldn’t you be doing something useful?

Thankfully, the lead researcher on the project pointed out in an interview that the supposed desire of women for taller men is a result of a patriarchal society valuing men who appear stronger, and not something that is ‘hardwired’ into us. Phew.

So, if you’re a woman reading this, buy your man a box of chocolates. And make him share. Equality; it’s a win-win.

Published in The Herald on Friday 14 February. 


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