March 14 marked Steak And Blowjob Day — a holiday popularized by Tom Birdsey, a host on FNX Radio — and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. In short, Steak and Blowjob Day is a response to Valentine’s Day, which proponents claim is unfairly biased in favor of women. Steak and Blowjob Day, supporters of the holiday believe, is a way of evening out the field so that men get some attention, too.
Since 2002, when it first hit the airwaves, the holiday has gained some traction, as well as inspired some backlash. While cruising the internet trying to get an idea of how this holiday evolved, I encountered an article on The Jane Dough that I found deeply unsettling:
“Steak and Blowjob Day” is the White History Month of holidays; the type of delusional push back based on the idea that men are being asked to do TOO MUCH. Attention SB&J Day fans: Every day is Steak and Blowjob Day. We live in a patriarchal society; if you’re a man, the way our society is is like a personal Valentine to you.
The problem with this take is that Valentine’s as we know it isn’t anything even remotely close to being a feminist holiday. It’s a commercial holiday based on a liturgical celebration and fed on scattered verses from the literature of times past. Despite its beginnings as a day on which cards were exchanged by both men and women, Valentine’s Day today is largely a holiday that sets women in the passive role of recipient.
I have a bigger problem with a holiday that casts women as the passive recipient and object of desire than I do with a holiday that was created to illustrate a need on the part of our male counterparts. Because if you look underneath the crude implication that men are simple beasts who don’t need anything beyond food and an orgasm to be happy, you’ll sense a genuine desire on the part of Steak and Blowjob Day proponents for attention from their partners.
The question is whether creating a separate holiday that places women in the role of subject and active participant addresses the problem of what has become a holiday of unevenly distributed attention.
My relationship with Valentine’s Day is very colorful. Before I got married, I believed it was a brutalizing obligation that made a mockery of desire. It took a very efficient marriage — one that did away with all such silly notions of what romance should be such as Valentine’s and anniversaries — to realize the salubrious effect such celebrations could have.
I wanted to believe that any partnership I had could, on its own, make manifest displays of appreciation, that every day would always be a celebration of how much I cherished a partner and vice versa. But real life doesn’t work that way. There is always something that requires our immediate attention and as a society we are taught that being a good partner means always accepting being pushed onto the back-burner with grace. Everything else comes first — the kids, the job, the mortgage, and so on.
Valentine’s Day, I eventually realized, was a reminder — not just for couples, but for everyone — that relationships need feeding and in this fast-paced world, we need every reminder we can get. This doesn’t work if we enforce the present emanation of Valentine’s as a one-way street. The only place a one-way street can lead is resentment.
From a feminist perspective, nothing about the patriarchy is addressed by making the men in our lives prostrate themselves at our feet — especially if the price of becoming the embodiment of Venus is that we take on the attributes of a statue, only coming to life to bestow approval or disapproval.
The role of feminism isn’t to turn patriarchy into matriarchy. Feminism seeks to abolish the things that make women unequal, so anything that supports woman as the object, the passive actor in the stage of life, runs contrary to its tenets. Unfortunately, separating the celebration of love into a day for women and one for men has the unintended effect of turning both men and women into passive objects once a year.
The focus, I think, should be on encouraging both members of a relationship to be active participants in the celebration of their love. Take Valentine’s Day as a reminder of your union, have the audacity to inconvenience yourself to make sure your partner knows you appreciate him or her, and encourage your partner to do the same. Or better yet, plan something for both of you together.
Obliterate the object. Live your love as a subject — both of you.
Header image by Taryn.