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The Occupy Valentine's Day movement has a bone to pick with commercializing love

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The Occupy Wall Street movement has been criticized for not getting its demands out. This is not a problem with the Occupy Valentine's Day movement, where the basic message is short and sharp. Down with Valentine's Day, say the protestors -- and that's the polite version.

Started by Samhita Mukhopadhyay (author of Outdated: Why Dating is Ruining Your Love Life), the Occupy Valentine's Day movement takes place not in city parks but on Tumblr (occupyvday.tumblr.com), where contributors blog about their plans to bring down the romantic-industrial complex and topple the tyranny of couple-talism.

The OVD participants aren't against love. In fact, most of them are radically pro-love. They just don't like corporate holidays, compulsory romance and the V-Day obsession with young, good-looking heterosexuals picking out diamond engagement rings. Why fixate on this one kind of love when there's so much of the good stuff to go around?

Many of the people posting are -- no surprise here -- singletons. Several announce that they intend to be their own Valentines, possibly with some help from box wine and Netflix. One user offers a brief but highly expressive video from goofy British comic Miranda Hart. As Miranda likes to say, "I don't know who St. Valentine was, but I hope he died alone, surrounded by couples."

Others just want to open up Valentine's Day celebrations to include all kinds of love, many of which will last longer than the fickle itch of romantic attraction. Users talk about the affection shared by moms and kids, by siblings, by lifelong friends, by neighbours and communities, even by people and pets. "Went and got myself a life partner," announces one woman, proudly showing off a picture of a herself and her dog.

There are also committed couples -- gay and straight -- on the blog, and some of them are even downright shmoopy. But they all resist the idea that love comes down to the purchase of heart-shaped things or red things or heart-shaped red things. Rejecting Valentine's Day as over-commercialized and overpriced, they declare that love is not for sale. It's a process, not a product.

(This proclamation might seem obvious, but clearly it eludes the people behind a Teleflora commercial that aired during the Super Bowl. That depressing little ad basically spelled out Valentine's Day as a goods-and-services contract, in which a tawdry gifts-for-sex transaction is dressed up with rose petals.)

The Occupy Valentine's Day movement can be a bit earnest. Suggestions for alternative V-Day celebrations include having "a sexy candlelit conversation with your partner about structural inequity." But clearly the site is tapping into some powerful feelings.

As two of the anti-Valentine's Day protestors point out, if taking a little time to be nice to your loved ones feels like a holiday, "UR DOIN IT WRONG."

alison.gillmor@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 11, 2012 E1

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