If you thought Valentine’s Day in the Western world was absurd enough, get a load of this. First, a bit of context.
As we know in the Western world, Valentine’s Day is really just like any other day for the romantically-minded in which men on their knees practice female-worship and altruistically shower gifts on women to earn their approval, only on this occasion they do it more so. Twenty times the affirmations, twenty times the gifts, twenty times the money spent by the man. It doesn’t take much to conclude that women by and large love this holiday particularly for those reasons. I haven’t even seen romantically involved men show much enthusiasm for this holiday.
The romantic insanity hasn’t been so different in the Eastern world, in particular in Japan. However Valentine’s Day manifested itself in a sufficiently different way. Not unlike the strangeness of having a Kentucky Fried Chicken dinner as a Japanese Christmas tradition (yes, really), the Japanese quirk regarding Valentine’s Day is that girls give the gifts (usually chocolates) to the boys.
A common explanation is that this is the result of a translation error when Valentine’s Day commercially initiated in Japan, but I know of no definite evidence of this. In any case, it is well understood that girls (by which I mean the females in general here) come up with chocolates for not only those who are the object of their affection, but for their classmates or office-mates as applicable. For the romantic target, chocolate is often homemade or expensively purchased. Other guys receive what is referred to as “giri-choco”, literally “obligatory chocolates”.
If you think that this is a dandy arrangement for the guys, read further and think again.
Now to talk about ‘White Day.’ Although it has more recent popularity spread in places like China and South Korea, for purposes of this article I’ll focus on Japan as its origin.
The first White Day took place in March 14th, 1978, a month after the Valentine’s Day of that year. The idea of this holiday is that the men pay back the women for the chocolates they got for them. Not only that, but the general rule of thumb turns out to be that the gift the guy pays back should be worth roughly three times the value. Just like with the original Valentine’s Day as it happened in Japan, this was of course marketed and driven by confectionery corporations for it to blossom in full cultural force.
We can sit on our asses and blame corporations until our faces are white as the chocolates, marshmallows, and lingerie these women may receive back in droves, but it wouldn’t have happened without the social motivation driven by a sense of gross chivalry, no less present in the Eastern world as in the West, and the vulgar narrative that women are precious, deserving creatures and men must pay dearly by design.
Where men are the primary givers on Valentine’s Day, no thought of reciprocity, at least none of substance, would be considered (I can already hear the cries of “That would be unfair to the women!”). However if men don’t reciprocate where expected, they would no doubt be shunned and deemed pathetic. To put this more simply, men should give gifts and earn women’s approval. If women give gifts to men, men can’t get away with just receiving the gifts.
White Day is said to be called so for various reasons including the color of marshmallows, a symbol of purity, or white chocolates, but personally I’d say the white comes from “white knight.” It’s as good an explanation as anything, right?
But not even the existence of something like White Day can prevent the modern woman from complaining, it seems. There are Japanese women who engage in a form of damseling as they complain about the pressure to spend loads of money for all that chocolate to buy for Valentine’s Day, as they allege fear of workplace harassment by others they may potentially offend by not giving them chocolates. As with all matters in our gynocentric world, it appears to be all about the women. These women could just complain about the unsustainable gift-giving culture in collectivist Japan and protest on that basis, but my guess is that these women don’t want to miss out on all the gifts they receive from men, which it would be culturally catastrophic if they stopped getting them, right?
I’m assuming any complaints by the men for the ‘threefold reciprocity’ they have to cough up, if they are the unfortunate targets of affection by the women, fall on deaf or condescending ears most of the time.
Any attempts to explain the popularity decline of Valentine’s and White Day are charged with a gynocentric motive. BBC.com’s 2019 article “White Day: Japan’s Reverse Valentine’s Day” can’t resist in indulging in a white knight’s joust regarding changing gender norms:
‘In those days, it was not common that women declare their love to men, but Valentine’s Day was the day of being allowed to do so,’ says Mayumi Nagase.” Oh, those poor girls. “Hidaka says that it was designed to give women the chance to show their feelings. ‘In a macho, male-dominated era, I guess that made sense,’ she says”. Oh, these terrible men, their male-dominating selves are to blame. I’d have to give the article some credit however, for the following bit: “‘Return gifts that are more expensive than chocolate [received from women on Valentine’s Day] are expected, so it is a troublesome day for males as they have to decide what to give back,’ (Mou Soejima) says. ‘White Day is incomprehensible – have you ever seen marshmallows more expensive than chocolate?’” At least someone is giving some thought to the dudes.
On the whole, perhaps there is some good to come out of the commercial decline of both Valentine’s Day and White Day in Japan, though one’s neck can hurt from shaking it every time one sees another explanation for this to be centered primarily around women’s alleged problems. In any case, may that decline follow suit in the Western world.
I will close off with a friendly reminder that just because cultural gender norms may have subtle differences in Asia compared to the Western world, that doesn’t mean in any way whatever that it is a non-gynocentric alternative. Get that through to your head. Gynocentrism is a global vice, just manifested in different ways across the world.