By Alex Stevens, Second Year Politics and International Relations
What comes to mind when you think of February 14? Is it figuring out how to ‘woo’ your partner like never before? Maybe it’s finishing a whole tub of hummus in one sitting and listening to ‘thank u, next’ more times than you’d like to admit…
Regardless of whether we are in a relationship or single, Valentine’s Day undoubtably has an impact on most of us - although far too often, this impact is a negative one.
People in Finland, on the other hand, are more likely to associate more cheerful feelings with the date, as since the 1980s, they have celebrated it as ‘Ystävänpäivä’ or ‘Friend’s Day’. This holiday is far more inclusive than the typical Valentine’s Day; which tends to exclude people who are single, or do not fit a hyper-sexualised ideal of what being ‘in love’ looks like.
Any platonic relationship could be celebrated in the form of a Finnish-style ‘Palentine’s Day’
When in so many Western cultures there is an emphasis on an endless pursuit of love, Finnish culture treasures friendship - putting a more positive spin on the holiday. Contrasted with the feelings of loneliness and low self-esteem brought about by Valentine’s Day in Britain, it’s clear that some lessons can be learned from the Finnish. But, why is friendship important to celebrate?
C.S. Lewis identified four types of love, originating from Ancient Greece: Storge, Philia, Eros and Agape. Romanticism made ‘Eros’, or the demanding love characterised by sex and desire, the most prominent of the loves, therefore, it forms the focus of Valentine’s Day. Consequently, less appreciation is paid to the beauty of platonic relationships.
The fantasy of romanticism is that we should fall in love with ‘the one’: someone with both inner and outer beauty, who we should have passionate sex with throughout the rest of our lives and shower with romantic gestures as a token of our love. If we do not find this person, then there must be something wrong with us.
Brands have emulated this ideal to profit from Valentine’s Day, with people often being bombarded with advertisements of built men and slim women in their underwear. In doing this, they may create implications that we are not deserving of love because we do not fit this unattainable, over-sexualised portrayal of a relationship.
Taking this into account, it’s no surprise that feelings of low self-esteem and loneliness are exacerbated during the time around Valentine’s Day, especially in the social media age when people may be flaunting their happy - or presented to be - relationships online. A survey conducted by BBC Radio 4’s ‘All in the Mind’ supports this, finding that 40 per cent of 16-24 year olds experience feelings of loneliness often, with those feeling lonely having more online connections than those who do not. People who felt discriminated against - those who are less likely to be represented in how advertisements and the media present ‘love’ - were even more likely to report feelings of loneliness.
Often underrated by a society which sees romance as the ultimate goal, Philia love describes our chosen relationships: the people who enrich our lives and provide us with support when we don’t have a significant other to hold hands with. This type of love is built on lasting goodwill and mutual respect, while romantic relationships too often provide us with short-term happiness.
However, with the term ‘Galentine’s Day’ becoming more popular in recent years, it’s important to remember that a February 14 celebrating friendship does not have to focus on those between women. Even in Finland, most of the Ystävänpäivä’ cards are exchanged between women. Traditional masculine friendships may find the idea celebrating their love to be ‘awkward’, because they tend to be less emotionally intimate than female friendships, but it is still ‘love’ to be celebrated nonetheless, as should all platonic friendships be.
Perhaps a ‘Manentine’s Day’ should be given equal status to ‘Galentine’s Day’. Or rather, any platonic relationship could be celebrated in the form of a Finnish-style ‘Palentine’s Day’, with this not being a distraction from being single, but rather a celebration, including those who are in relationships too.
Featured image: Unsplash / Mandy von Stahl