Friday, February 13, 2004

Take Back The Love

Young (heterosexual) love, in silhouette.

At the end of a long week studying the eighties in my Modern American Culture class, a day on Political Correctness; with tomorrow Valentine's Day, I thought I might mention the eighties trend towards giving every kid in class a Valentine so "no one felt left out", and then use this politically correct valentine as a fun example. You know, the usual iconoclasm.

But I never expected a quick google search to produce such a motherlode of politicism around this day of red and roses. Here's Wendy McElroy, who for years has been watching politically correct feminists try to turn Valentine's Day into V-Day, standing for Vagina, Violence (committed by men against women) and Victory. And a six-year-old story, originally covered in the Vancouver Sun, about how the above silhouette of a guy and a girl just about to kiss -- once posted in the window of a college financial aid office -- was deemed offensive and "homophobic" by a few on-campus lesbians and gays. And lest we think it's just PC feminists trying to suck the fun out of my romance, this year, (mostly) Christian pro-abstinance teens across the country have started a movement to make the day before Valentine's Day a Day of Purity, a day where they publicly show their commitment to not having sex outside marriage by wearing t-shirts, handing out brochures, and just generally being in-your-face about their proud and voluntary sexual frustration.

Still, it's no surprise. Welcome, I tell my students, to the brave new world. Forty years after the term "politically incorrect" hit conservative circles, and twenty after the term became culturally rubricized, the eggs have hatched in our children. If my students are paradigmatic of their rising generation, PC, like Marxism before it, is one of those critical perspectives long since crossed over into the cultural subconscious to become "common sense", and so pervasively that students recognize but cannot name nor define the basic conceit.

And there's what's wrong with Valentine's Day, really: like everything else in our postmodernistic nobrow culture, it's been politicized, and in such a way as to remove all meaning yet simultaneously and subtly demand that each of us pick sides...or, like most of my students, internalize the debate unfinished, recognizing the validity of the political critique while simultaneously showing their disgust for a position they cannot afford to examine clearly. Indeed, (most) Marxists and (most) Feminists would, by the most basic assumptions behind their respective critical theories, have us believe that this is both beneficial and inherent: indeed, to Marxists, criticism is political, which is why they criticize in the first place.

To be fair, the aspirations of the politically correct bannerholder are hard to decry. As Tony Martin, in his prizewinning 1997 essay Feminine gender, past imperfect (political correctness and history), reminds us,
No rational person can argue with the vision attributed to Political Correctness: a better, more inclusive society free of sexism and racism, with greater recognition accorded to women and minority groups for the purpose of achieving increased tolerance and international understanding.
But aspirations are neither values nor means. In fact, it's the very machiavellian nature of the PC popcult, and the resulting repression of language and other freedoms, which gives it insidious power and, simultaneously, argues for its dissolution. Too, not everything should be political, for politics demands logic, and squeezes out emotion. A political Valentines Day cannot help but match ecological guilt with cut flowers, privilege with bought roses, gender role reinforcement with acts of giving. And that's just wrong, to sully such nice things that way.

So I hereby declare it's time to get the PC out of Valentine's Day. Who cares if Hallmark invented it, like diamonds: for once, celebrate sweetly, lightly, and deeply with the one you love, and to hell with the agendas of other people. For a day, at least, pretend there's no one else, and simply be.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:45 PM |

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