Valentine's Day a lesson in economic subordination

21 February 2020 - 09:39
By AND Kwanele Ndlovu
Charles Hlelele, 5, and Omohau Lehlethla, 6, from St Raphaels  in Boksburg./DARRYL HAMMOND
Charles Hlelele, 5, and Omohau Lehlethla, 6, from St Raphaels in Boksburg./DARRYL HAMMOND

I am not a romantic and would never remember Valentine's Day as anything special if it wasn't for the elaborate marketing by shops that put 100 red and white teddy bears next to the entrance.

But I always encourage the kid to savour the innocence of high school crushes and teenage friendships.

And so the kid used a significant portion of his allowance to buy a Valentine's gift for a girl last week.

He has always gone all out to impress girls and is very thoughtful and generous.

He went around the mall by himself and picked three items. He is a budding poet and compensates for his coy nature with written words. So he went all out on the card and message.

When I fetched him from school on Valentine's Day, he had no reciprocal gift. None! He did not even get a card from anyone else. In fact, he reported that none of the boys in his class received a gift from their counterparts. It was as if there is a consensus between the girls that they "don't do that!"

This is in a private school where most kids generally come from middle-class families that would afford similar and equal financial privileges to boys and girls.

I had to have a chat with the kid that it is not acceptable for all the girls not to have reciprocated the gestures.

I needed him to understand that girls can afford gifts as much as any boy does.

And that just because he likes a girl, it does not mean that he carries the burden of buying gifts for her and she is excused.

However, everything I preach to my kid is near futile if the parents of the girl he gave a rose to do not bother to make an effort to encourage our kids to see themselves as equals.

My son's day of celebrating love looked exactly like what my world is today, and had been for my mother's generation.

I felt like the girls were already spiralling towards economic subordination and unnecessarily assigning certain responsibilities to the opposite gender.

I shivered at the thought of how these teenage girls have already developed a sense of being the receivers in relation to boys.

They did not think that perhaps they should also show initiative and gift boys they like with cute things.

My son loves chocolates. I have no doubts that a chocolate bar on Valentine's would warm his heart.

In no time, our children will be adults caught in the same patriarchal madness we are bound by as their parents.

We should get to the point where we realise that equality and equity is not something we should debate.

It is not enough to complain about patriarchy while we incubate it in our own homes. Our feminism needs to extend to actual action.

The talk shops hardly ever change the status quo, we need to live what we preach.

We cannot sit pretty while our girls relinquish the simple act of gifting to boys. It is the small things that should call us to action.

Clearly we are not doing enough to reshape the nature of romantic relationships and steer them to levelled ground.

We are, yet again, a generation of parents that is preparing the girl child to accept that they will be perpetual beneficiaries of their future husbands.