The Toxicity of Valentine's Day Advertising

Ah, Valentines’ Day. So much love in the air, yet so much to hate. Most people associate the day with flowers, teddy bears, and heart-shaped boxes of confectionary. While I am no enemy of these expressions of affection, I cannot ignore the overt sexism that is present in Valentines’ Day advertising.

It is 2015, but looking at these advertising campaigns, you would be forgiven for thinking it is the 1950s. Specifically, Michael Hill Jewellers is circulating an image of a woman’s face, overlaid with the words ‘Tell her you love her before someone else does’. I am unsure what the geniuses who dreamt up the advertisement had in mind, but for me it represents a sexist and misogynistic view of women and relationships.

According to this advertisement, women are gold diggers. If there isn’t something new and sparkly to adorn our fingers, wrists, or necks, we will start searching for a man who can provide us with the ‘love’ we covet. Moreover, women are such fickle creatures that they will give themselves to any man who comes along and confesses his love (read, gives her an expensive trinket). This ad leaves no room for a woman to choose whom she loves based on a mental, emotional, and physical connection built upon trust and respect. She is a cold-hearted narcissist, and nothing more.

Equally awful are the negative messages these ads send to men. This Michael Hill advertisement tells a man he is foolish for feeling secure in his relationship with his partner. Trust and respect is not enough; in order to keep her he must make enough money to buy her expensive trinkets. It’s not about a choice to be together, it’s about control and manipulation.

Both men and women receive a cruel message. Men are taught it’s easy to win a woman from another man, so long as his bank account can take the hit. On the flipside of the coin, he is taught that a woman’s commitment to him is flimsy, and that she can be won away by a sparkly ornament.

Touted as a day to celebrate love, Valentines Day ad campaigns are wont to conflate love with what money can buy. As young people destined to be in a variety of relationships, is this the lesson we want to take away? That your relationship is only as valuable as the baubles you give and receive? That he doesn’t love you if he doesn’t attempt to buy your affections; that she is only with you for your money?

I urge those who find this unacceptable to boycott the companies who saturate the airwaves with their sexist messages. Refuse to purchase from them and tell your friends to do likewise; consumers can direct the marketplace, and it’s not like there’s a shortage of other options.