Someone from the right reaches for a rose in a bouquet

Student and professors at the University of Kansas reflect on whether or not Valentine's Day traditions are inclusive for all genders and sexualities. 

Professors in the University of Kansas department of women, gender and sexuality studies have evaluated the expectations and traditions tied to Valentine’s Day to encourage inclusion and representation in a diverse, modern society.

Marta Vicente, a KU professor who specializes in the history of gender and sexuality, said Valentine’s Day has failed to evolve despite society’s growing acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community.

"Valentine's Day needs to be revamped,” Vicente said. “While I know that many members of the LGBTQ+ [community] celebrate Valentine's, the way this holiday has been marketed is very much towards heterosexual cisgender relationships." 

According to the UCLA Williams Institute School of Law, there are almost 650,000 same-sex couples in the United States. Vicente said each year Valentine’s Day novelties and traditions neglect the acceptance of all relationships, and that the holiday should become more inclusive. 

“If it is a celebration of love, it must embrace the diversity that our society represents,” Vicente said. “In a way, if we do need to have Valentine's cards, they must be crafted to include everyone: the diversity of gender, sexuality and social experiences of each one of us." 

Lyndsie Harper, a sophomore from Olathe studying global and international studies major, agreed that Valentine’s Day is not inclusive to the LGBTQ+ community.

“It’s typically a hetero-dominated holiday, and that’s how it is proposed. You go out with your husband," Harper said. "It’s not terrible, you can make it work, but in all the ads and all the pictures and like what you see, it’s a prime time for proposals, and that’s usually a hetero thing that happens."

KU professor Katie Batza acknowledged the antiquated nature of Valentine’s Day as well.

“I think celebrating love is never a bad idea in my opinion, but spending  lavishly and reinforcing outdated gender roles need not be a part of it,” Batza said in an email to the Kansan. 

Some feel this heteronormative marketing bleeds into the greeting card industry, too. 

According to Time Magazine, Hallmark introduced its first two cards targeted toward same-sex relationships in 2014. However, Danielle Rahto, a pre-nursing major from Overland Park, said one of the reasons Valentine’s Day is an exclusive holiday is because of the cards.

“If you see any commercials [for Valentine’s Day], it’s always a man and woman," Rahto said. “Then a lot of cards are also tailored that way, and I think we could do better as a society to fix that.”

That said, not all University of Kansas students dislike Valentine’s Day. Pierce Giffin, a senior from Leawood studying theoretical physics, said it is simply a day for love.

“I think it’s just a reminder to show the people that you love that you love them, whether that’s a relationship or just the people close in your life,” Giffin said. 

—Edited by Brianna Wessling