Well, readers, it’s an extra tough time to experience cuffing season and Valentine’s Day. With 45 and his administration continuing to fight against everything we stand for, it’s easy to get exhausted and demoralized (check out some tips for coping here, here, here, here, and here, for starters). If you’re dealing with mental illness, experiencing a heightened level of body terrorism from the state, or if you’re just feeling lonely, this time of year can feel like the furthest from loving.
On top of all that, almost all the scripts, shows, films, books, gifts, lists, and more for Valentine’s Day are aggressively heteronormative. How can we escape heteronormativity and patriarchy this Valentine’s Day? How can we celebrate radical love and self-love on such a fraught day? Here a few options: mix and match or indulge in just one!
Overall, the theme of my suggestions is the same: do what makes you feel whole, now as much as ever. Know that you’ve been taught you need a partner to be the best version of yourself — and that’s not true. Self-love is powerful and necessary. It’s also not necessarily easy to accomplish, given the capitalist and patriarchal structures that prey on and profit from our insecurity. This makes the conscious practice of self-love — because it is a practice, to be experienced and not necessarily ever perfected — a radical act. This is especially true if your identity occupies an intersection of queer, trans, disabled, immigrant, poly, nonwhite, non-Western, and asexual states of being.
We are also taught that heteronormative love is the only real, authentic love, and that’s not true anywhere. Any partnership built on trust and respect can be fulfilling. In fact, toxic heteronormativity can make for very unhealthy relationships — recognize that whoever may be in the relationship with you, you deserve respect and autonomy. So just know that any love, which begins with yourself and endures no matter the gender of your partner(s), is valid, and worth celebrating today — and every day!
We do not all come from the same spaces of privilege and want. Tips for a radical Valentine’s Day are subject to adjustment due to means, accessibility, and mental health. I’ve tried to allow for adjustments and accommodations, but please know these suggestions are adaptable! And feel free to comment on this post and let us know your favorite radical Valentine’s celebrations.
Today and all days, while the culture of toxic masculinity and American imperialism reaches a sickening zenith, it is okay and absolutely necessary to place your mental and physical well-being first. Don’t deny yourself “guilty pleasures” — never feel guilty about pleasures, not when they come from a conscious place of reclamation and self-love.
Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day, but the most important lover of your heart, soul, mind, and body is you.
Spend the day doing what makes you feel whole.
Spend the day putting yourself first. Listen to your body. Take time to relax and indulge in a healing bubble bath or spa day, or get out there and join a gym, go for a run, a hike, a climb, a swim. Eat your favorite foods. Watch that favorite movie, or binge that favorite TV show. Date yourself, and treat yourself right, or share the day with someone who you can be yourself with, and treat yourself right with them too.
Fight. Protest. Seek community.
Look into actions and protests near you. Some are listed through the Women’s March website, which can be a great starting point. However, you can also look locally into consciously intersectional movements, or actions that are geared more specifically towards your interests and abilities. Today might be the day to spend time with your radical community, sharing art or action plans. If you don’t have one yet or you’re seeking to practice self-love by immersing yourself in a new community, Valentine’s Day might be a great time to join a movement. Check out volunteer or activist groups or chapters near you, like the ACLU, 1460 Days of Action, Planned Parenthood, Stand With Standing Rock, or Black Lives Matter.
If you can’t find or access a local organization near you, consider starting one. You can also consider looking into organizations that work online or remotely, like our forum at The Body is Not an Apology or the courses at Everyday Feminism.
We have so much work to do. In a world governed by body terrorism, the act of protest is an act of radical self-love, and radical self-love is inherently anarchic.
Create or partake in radical art.
Immerse yourself in the work that’s already being done. Surround yourself in creation consciously constructed to combat intersectional body terrorism, heteronormativity, and patriarchy. Find art, theater, music, performance, writing, activism, movement, or academia near you that is invested in intersectional justice. It is an act of radical love to support this work with your presence and/or your financial contributions. It is also an act of radical love to seek joy and solidarity through community. Love begins in the self, but it does not ever need to happen alone.
Unless your self-care needs you to be alone right now. That too, can make you feel more whole. Take time away from others and be alone with radical art. Sometimes the most profound changes in your self can happen when you are alone. Sometimes they need to. This can be beautiful and lonely all at once. Do what feels right — I sometimes love to go to a museum or performance alone, experience the art with no influence other than my own soul, then meet with loved ones to share and process.
There’s no one right way. You don’t have to feel ashamed for wanting to be with others, or for wanting to be alone.
Hit the books! Read up about queer, trans, non-white, mixed, immigrant, nonbinary, and disabled activists. Self-love can mean consciously choosing to learn about struggles that are or are not your own. Seek solidarity and clarity through history. Pick up An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, Redefining Realness, The Making of Asian America, Occupying Disability, Invisible Man Got the Whole World Watching. Finally crack open the Audre Lorde you’ve had on your shelf for years, or venture into a radical museum or art exhibit. We’re never done learning the tools we’ll need for rebellion.
It can be galvanizing, inspiring, and calming to grant yourself deeper insight into the rhetoric and perspective you use to define and articulate your experiences. It is also explicitly essential to learn about oppression that is not your own in order to be an ally to those who do face that oppression. Unpack your prejudices and seek out voices with authority.
If you can, put the money you’d spend on capitalist Valentine’s products towards the causes you believe in. Spending your earnings consciously is an act of radical self-love.
We are all integrated into this capitalist system. Money can mean allegiance. Many of us are not in a position to spend our money on anything except our own care and well-being, and for the most part, that is neither our faults nor anything condemnable. But if you are in a position to contribute, you are in a position to help change the world. Look to donate to Planned Parenthood and Black Lives Matter, but also seek smaller, local organizations that fund low-income trans, immigrant, poor, nonwhite, and disabled justice.
If your plan for radical self-love today means spending on flowers for bae or chocolate for yourself, on bath bombs or plane tickets, on books or toys or food — please, please do. But also consider spending your money at conscious businesses that are not complicit with body terrorism. And consider financially supporting organizations you care about when you can.
Galentine’s Day/Palentine’s Day.
If you’ve seen Parks and Rec, you’ve probably heard of Galentine’s Day. If your group of close friends or chosen family is encompassed of women-identified folks, go ahead and use that term — but I’m introducing Palentine’s Day for the rest of us, whose friends and identities are more diverse! It just means: celebrate your community. Gather together like you do regularly, and consciously express your gratitude for each other — or plan a meet up with friends you haven’t seen in awhile, or gather disparate circles of peers, banding together to celebrate love and solidarity!
Celebrate love without (or with) sex. Intimacy takes many, many forms. If it suits all parties, hold hands or snuggle up. Share secrets, goals, and desires. Share weird dreams and watch comfortable favorite movies. Go out to eat or make a day of cooking together. Make punny and radical Valentine’s crafts. Laugh at patriarchal romcoms, and watch something really dang cute and gay.
Do anything or everything else on this list together — create, learn, donate, fight, partake. It begins with self-love, but if being with your crew is what makes you feel like your best you, lean into that community, and acknowledge how meaningful it is.
This encompasses all of the above. Work to love radically today.
We’re in the midst of a devastating and ongoing uphill battle. Allow yourself to remind yourself that you are worth fighting for. Love yourself, love your loved ones.
There may be jagged spaces echoing between the sacrifices your parents made for you and the reality of your lives today: fill them with gratitude, and celebrate all that you are and have together.
Love your community. Reach out and thank your chosen family, or take a new step towards creating one. Tell your favorite artist what they mean to you.
Love the present, which has arisen for you perhaps despite the odds, which delivers unto you the gift of potential. Love your ability to fill it with truth and joy. Love the prospects of hope and potential gleaming in the future.
Love your body for the unique vessel it gives your heart and mind and soul and goals, love your own perseverance in a world that condemns your success. Love your hair and your flesh and your flaws and your talents and your radical single-itude in a hetero-couple-geared world. Revel in the partnership you share. Love the lines of your girlfriend’s body when she kneels naked, fresh out of the shower, to grab clothes out of the bottom drawer. Love the flutter of your datemate’s eyelashes as they drift off in the middle of a Netflix marathon. Love the way your boyfriend bobs his hips while he makes coffee.
The truth is, every day is fraught with heternormativity, intersectional injustice, and the patriarchy. The truth is, we need to learn to love, radically, every day. The process begins with self-love. The process does not end.
Whoever you are love, whoever you are learning to love, however you love, you are not alone. Root your truth in justice, respect, and compassion. You are beautiful, and so much more than beautiful, and we will endure.
In order to continue producing high quality content and expanding the message of radical, unapologetic self-love, we need to build a sustainable organization. To meet these efforts, we’re thrilled to share the launch of our #NoBodiesInvisible subscription service. This service will provide our community with access to additional content and rewards for your monthly investment in furthering our radical self-love work.[Feature Image: A photo of two people in an outdoors march. The person on the left has short dark hair, glasses and is wearing a purple flower necklace and a black t-shirt. The person on the left has short dark hair, glasses and is wearing a shirt that is black that has a pink triangle and says, “Silencio=Muerte”. Behind them are other people marching. Source: Daily Xtra]