Valentine's Day: A Symbol of Female Encouragement to Inequality | Teen Ink

Valentine's Day: A Symbol of Female Encouragement to Inequality

July 19, 2022
By karinnakajima_ BRONZE, Tokyo, Other
karinnakajima_ BRONZE, Tokyo, Other
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Valentine's Day was never a day that interested me. Yet, this year, I realized that February 14th is much more than just a day for couples, chocolates, and flowers. Valentine's Day in Japan symbolizes my nation's most significant issues.


As a Valentine's Day gift this year, my father gifted me some chocolate-covered almonds. As I munched on this treat, he explained an odd encounter. When he bought the chocolates, the salesperson confronted him, "These are Valentine's Day chocolates. Would you still like to purchase them?" 


Anyone familiar with Japanese culture would understand that this question is interconnected with Japan's unspoken Valentine's Day rule: gifting chocolates is exclusive to women. Men receive them! Men do not give them! 


Well, at least not on February 14.

A month later, on March 14, male recipients are expected to return the sweets to the women.

This day is called White Day.


White Day may seem like an acceptable approach to make up for the women-give-first concept of Valentine's Day. However, it is really not.


Firstly, women are socially "obliged" to hand out chocolates. They are expected to provide chocolates not only to their romantic partners but also to the men in their workplaces. This type of chocolate is called giri-choco, or obligation chocolate. Buying confections for male coworkers and bosses has become normalized, but so has the harassment in tandem.


76% of women in Japan have experienced some sort of harassment in their workplaces, and I believe that Valentine's Day traditions make up some of this statistic. Male statements like "Where's my chocolate?" or discrimination against female colleagues who did not give out giri-choco are only a few examples of this harassment.


Second, this tradition is simply out of date. Between heterosexual couples, women give in February and men return the favor in March. But what “rules'' are LGBTQ+ couples supposed to follow? This practice further marginalizes the sexual minorities of Japan.


According to TIME Magazine, "Japan is the only G7 state without laws to prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation." Japanese Valentine's Day and White Day traditions are certainly further hindering this issue.


Valentine's Day was introduced to Japan in the 1950s, and it reformed Japanese cultural norms. Before 1950, it was considered taboo for women to express their feelings for men. However, Valentine's Day encouraged women to confess their feelings by using chocolates. 


A holiday introduced as a source of women’s empowerment has, in practice, become a means of maintaining gender inequality and LGBTQ+ exclusion in Japan. However, the holiday itself is not problematic — the “obligation rule” is. 


To the readers living in Japan: we need to reaffirm the true meaning of Valentine's Day. It is not about validation or an obligation to male colleagues; it is about love! No matter who you love, you have the right to express your feelings, whether that be on February 14, March 14, or any other day.


The author's comments:

Hi, my name is Karin N., and I am a high-school student from Japan. This is an article I wrote about the observations I have made in the last couple of years in Japanese society.


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This article has 1 comment.


Afra DIAMOND said...
on Aug. 8 at 10:22 am
Afra DIAMOND, Kandy, Other
79 articles 7 photos 1667 comments

Favorite Quote:
"You can’t ask other people to believe you and vote for you if you don’t back yourself."
-Jacinda Ardern-

"If I can make someone's day brighter, happier, better, that makes me happier."
-Ava Max-

"A writer must never be short of ideas."
-Gabriel Agreste- (Fictional character- Miraculous)

"A Bridge Has Two Sides."
-Elsa- (Fictional character- Frozen)

“I knew who I was as a girl but I had to find who I was as a woman.”
-Delta Goodrem-

When I was about 10, I watched the anime 'Case Closed' and in one episode, it was Valentine's day and girls had chocolates in the hands to give out to men...So, I looked up online about how Japanese people celebrate Valentines Day and I got to know about White Day and all that...
Anyway, what you said finally, was what is needed to be said!!! Thank you for sharing this with us here!!!★★★