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Venus, Valentine and violence - triple jeopardy

Published:Sunday | February 17, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Glenda Simms,  Contributor

The cycle of special days, based on ancient mythologies and the world view of persons who either had overactive imaginations or were totally demented, begins every year on the first of January.

It was, therefore, highly anticipated that February 14 would provide an occasion on which large numbers of people (mostly women) would lose their psychic balance and indulge in practices based on one of the most bizarre and psychologically dysfunctional myths.

This is the myth that some sources argue originated in the ancient Roman Empire, where a voluptuous white woman named Venus was held up to be the most beautiful female of her time in the world. Apparently, every man in her universe was smitten by her beauty, her charm and her sexual desirability.

This mythical goddess of love reputedly gave birth to a chubby, retarded boy child called Cupid who, true to form, loved "boy-oriented toys such as the bow and arrow". It is said that as this man-child developed the muscle tone and strength to shoot off his arrows, he directed them to the bosoms of women and caused them to fall in love. This, then, was the explanation given to generations of women and girls, who spent so much of their lives searching for 'romantic love'.


It is also interesting to note that in this Roman mythology, chubby-cheeked Cupid decided to find a love of his own. He is reputed to have shot his arrow into the heart of a beautiful girl called Psyche, who fell head over heels in love with him.

That is when all hell broke loose because beauty queen Venus had no intention of sharing the spotlight, or her son's attention, with any other woman. Indeed, Venus ensured that Psyche would meet her death at an early age and her boy child Cupid would be transformed into a supernatural being.

One can extrapolate from these mythical roots the creation of the wicked mother-in-law and the psychopathic stepmother and other negative definitions of womanhood, which are clearly transported to contemporary times through the history of patriarchy.

Another version of this search for romance and true love was rooted in the story of St Valentine, a Roman priest who promoted marriages of men and women in opposition to the dictates of Emperor Claudius II, who believed that married men made poor soldiers. He argued that marriage would distract men for the central task of soldiering - the killing and maiming of those who were identified as the enemy at that particular time in the history of the Roman Empire.

No doubt, there are other explanations for the spread of the recognition of February 14 as Valentine's Day throughout the majority of the societies in today's world. For instance, nearly every woman, man, boy and girl in the Jamaican society must have felt either the direct or indirect demands or pressures of the demented games of baby Cupid or the convoluted world view of somebody called St Valentine.


As consumers, we would have observed the red-and-white stuffed teddy bears, the highly decorated boxes of chocolates, the brilliant artificial red roses, the red, lacy underwear, nighties and pyjamas that are designed to make women appear sexy and desirable after dark. We would also be tempted to sample the fat- and cholesterol-laden cakes decorated with red and white icing and flaming red hearts.

We would be enticed by all of this because Valentine's Day has less to do with whatever romantic love is or is not. Valentine's Day is merely a commercial venture.

This point was underlined by Suzan Saper Galamba who, on February 13, 2013, wrote a critical piece about the commercialisation of Valentine's Day in an article titled 'Valentine's Day: The Commercially Manufactured Holiday', which was published in the Huffington Post.

It is, therefore, timely for thinking people to come to grips with the interpretation or reinterpretation of the Roman mythologies and recognise that they are neither interesting nor beneficial to the present-day realities of the dominant nature of human relationship (heterosexual, homosexual or all-sexual).

Valentine's Day is indeed a commercial event - with needless and extravagant spending on imported stuffed toys and other useless gadgets.

Against this background, every woman in Jamaica should welcome the bold initiative of feminist Eve Ensler, who has successfully convinced hundreds and thousands of women throughout the world to change the tone of February 14 to a day marked by One Billion Rising.

This courageous effort is designed to stop violence against women and girls in every corner of the world. In the details on this initiative, the website of Woman's Information Inc describes this bold move as "a call to action". It has been noted that "staggering statistics point to the fact that one in three women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. Against an estimated world population of seven billion, these frightening figures represent more than one billion women and girls."

This means that by our standards, women live in a world of pain, suffering, distress and alienating conditions which are no respecter of age, class, caste, sexual orientation or religious convictions.

What, then, is the real meaning of 'romantic love', which is the mantra of Valentine's Day?

Eve Ensler's determination and initiative must force us to recognise the link between Cupid's arrows and the bullets, daggers, fists, the penis and other weapons which inflict physical, sexual, psychological and economic violence against women and girls.


History will unconditionally record the legacy of Eve Ensler who, by all standards, is a highly intelligent, courageous, strong and committed feminist and the best example of those who claim the right to be identified among those who continue to struggle for the freedom, human rights and dignity of every woman and girl in every society of the world.

Last Thursday, Valentine's Day, one billion women and those who love them (including spouses, children, pastors, priests, educators and political leaders) were encouraged to walk out, dance, rise up and demand an end to this violence against women and girls.

It is also important to note that the United Nations' theme for International Women's Day (March 8) is 'A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women'.

The forces of our collective intellect are coming together to deal with the reality as opposed to the perpetuation of the myth.

It is within this stream of consciousness that the Jamaican society must congratulate the NGO Woman Inc for taking the lead to heed the call to join one billion women in the global village and transform Valentine's Day to a day devoted to end violence against women and girls.

Glenda P. Simms, PhD, is a consultant and gender expert. Email feedback to and