For some countries, the traditional way of celebrating Valentine’s season would cost men a lot of fortune; this includes expensive restaurant bookings, bouquets, and chocolates to complete the package. Usually, it was taught that the woman should be the one who willingly receives romantic gifts, a smart way for business opportunists to gain profit. But the table has turned in Japan; women were forced to give chocolates to men.
February 14 marked a special day for couples and lovebirds, however for Japanese women, flowers turned into placards and dates became venues for rallies as these ladies protested against a decades-old tradition that obliged them to give chocolates to men. This is customarily called “girl choco” or “obligation chocolates” where female workers are expected to offer chocolates to their male colleagues. Women are also anticipated to purchase sweets or “honmei choco” for their crushes or loved ones.
Valentines season in Japan became a symbol of the Japanese patriarchy for almost a decade now, according to Jeff Kingston, an expert at Temple University in Tokyo. However this year, women are being tested especially on the increasing demand to satisfy men during heart’s day. They rallied against the financially draining practice. And just recently, a survey by a Tokyo Department store showed that about 60 percent of women would instead buy chocolates for themselves rather than conform to what is customary and only 35 percent followed the idea.
However aside from the fact that this practice recognizes a patriarchal society, this is also one way for commercial businesses to promote romantic capitalism. In the 1980s, chocolate companies attempted to equalize the chocolate-buying balance. White day was introduce on March 14 as a way for men to compensate. However women often ended up on the losing end because most males did not return the favor. Still, both dates turned out to be a boon for the chocolate industry, where Valentine’s Day accounts for the yearly sales of these companies.
And on Saturday, both female workers and students aligned to protest against “romantic capitalism” in Tokyo. Their organization is called “Revolutionary Alliances of Unpopular People (RAUP)” which staged its 12th annual objection in contrast to companies exploiting events like Valentine’s to push for excessive consumer culture. They also believed that it is unfair for most employees that their value will be compared only to how much confectionery they receive. Seeing the disadvantages, some companies already banned the custom of “girl choco” saying that it affects the company’s atmosphere whenever colleagues compare prices or if others don’t receive any gifts.
According to Eriko Yoshida, Japan should endorses “Tomo choco” or friendship chocolates instead, but this does not necessarily force men or even women to purchase sweets, meaning to say that the decision alone is base on the willingness of a person to give or not.
RAUP will continue its goal to live in a country where traditions promote equality and are celebrated by both sexes. Valentine’s Day surely is a special day for most people but it should not create a society where capitalism and business opportunists are monopolizing romance.