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A book of hate not love

Is beating your wife approved? Read This…

It has been a matter of great debate that whether the society which has always remained a male dominated and have only consider about the desires of a man.

Since time unknown women have faced the suppression at the hands of their male counterparts.

The world has always wondered whether it is justified to act violently against women. Recently a book sparked a new row of outrage in the entire international community especially in the conservative Muslim society. This 160 page guide book written on Islamic marriage by Maulavi Ashraf Ali Thanvi who is a prominent Islamic scholar based in India.

The book titled as ‘A Gift For Muslim Couple’ have come under the huge controversy among the various faction of the Muslim society itself. There are some paras where the writer has actually come out openly with writings to encourage husbands to beat their wives. It is evident enough that in the book’s opening pages it states that ‘it might be necessary to restrain her (wife) with strength or even to threaten her’.

“The husband should treat the wife with kindness and love, even if she tends to be stupid and slow sometimes,” the book says. The book says that the wife must ‘fulfill his (husband’s) desires’ and ‘not allow herself to be untidy… but should beautify herself for him.’

Maulavi Ashraf Ali Thanvi, advises that a husband shouldn’t beat his wife too hard, but pulling her ears and hitting her with a hand or a stick is all right for discipline.

According to the report, the book, which came to light after going on sale in Canada, has faced a backlash from moderate Muslims who claim that it encourages domestic violence,
“I wouldn’t say it’s hate, but it is inciting men to hit women,” Canadian political campaigner Tarek Fatah told the Canadian Media. “This is new to you, but the Muslim community knows that this is widespread, that a woman can be beaten. Muslim leaders will deny this,” he added.

As said above in one of the statements that domestic violence is widespread in Muslim community which is to very extent is true to the fact and the book is just out of several reasons of encouragement which has now created a new definition to the already victimized feminine gender in the world of so called modernity.

Women are not subject of comfort or luxury. They too are human beings and have equal rights as the man himself has. These kinds of thoughtless attempts to bring false in society not only ruin the efforts of those who have been struggling to maintain the social order on equality framework but also motivate those who are already being violent against the being of nobility and humanity.

The writing and views of raging society along with the respected Maulavi Ashraf Ali Thanvi are the slap on the face of every woman and on those who are working to maintain a better equal and positive society at large. It is the slap on the believers of all faiths who have thought their religions to be unbiased and equal rights in gender terms. It is a certificate of authenticity for those who have been inhuman and love to crush their women desires and her choice and her rights.

The humans are born equal and women in particular must be respected at all cost. Their choice and acceptance must be given top priorities against the personal priorities or preferences. It is the woman who plays the multiple roles in the society and thus it is she who nourishes the entire humanity with her grace and modesty. If women are respected and will regularly be treated as slaves of desires than how can a society would be called as civilized, it is the time now that we all irrespective of any believes of faiths must come together should have unified thought on the issues pertaining to woman. It is the responsibility of each and every body to respect women and their rights. It is our duty to protect her presence and to provide her a equal status in the society.

If radicals say whatever is being done to women is in the name of religion and on the order it has put for its believers than it means that they are cheating on society while making not only fool to the people but also cooking their own meal of the day through these kinds of falsehood preaching.

These kinds of writings or content must not be encourage by media and promoted by the publishing community for retail or any kind of publication. The writers or publishers who are publishing these kinds of anti social stuff which provoke domestic violence in the silent corners of the society behind the close doors of personal lives should be punished and perpetrators who support this kind of acts must bring to trail in the court for inciting negative sentiments against the entire feminine society.

Maulavi Ashraf Ali Thanvi who is the writer of “A Gift for a Muslim Couple.” It was published in India and distributed in Canada by Idara Impex must be brought to trail and the publisher must be charged with severe penalties. Even the title is very well misleading, how can a book be gift for couple which encourages domestic violence. Is “A Gift for a Muslim Couple” protected by free speech and the exercise of free religion or does it go too far?

Let’s see what the world would gives out of modernity and civilized communities, may be something like this which has no meaning or sense in it but has now became a source of contention between the two already divided worlds of human genders.

Karo-Kari; A twisted mind

Karo-Kari, another menace, another twisted way of murdering people has existed for many years in Pakistan. Various news agencies NGO’s have highlighted the growing problem for years but the government has failed to do something about it.

For those who don’t know what Karo-Kari is, it is a premeditated honour killing which is originated from the rural and tribal areas of Sindh, Pakistan. Karo-Kari is part of cultural tradition in Sindh and is a compound word literally meaning “black male” (Karo) and “black female (Kari), a metaphoric term for adulterer and adulteress. Honour killing has given different names in different regions of Pakistan  as it is named kala-kali in Punjab, tor-tora (KPH), siyahkari in Baluchistan and karo-kari in Sindh.

Once a female is labeled as a Kari, male family members get the self-authorized justification to kill her and the co-accused Karo to restore family honor, although in the majority of cases the victim is female, while the murderers are male. Such “immoral behavior” may take the form of alleged marital infidelity, refusal to submit to an arranged marriage, demanding a divorce, perceived flirtatious behavior and rape. Suspicion and accusations alone are many times enough to defile a family’s honor and therefore enough to warrant the killing of the woman. Women are seen as property with minor or none rights in the communities that the government mainly ignores the daily murders.

Women who are believed to have brought shame and dishonor to their family by engaging in illicit pre-marital or extra-marital relations are targeted. Men who have engaged in sexual activity with the female are also killed but majority is women. In order for the honour to be restored, a male family member must kill the female who is found guilty. What’s outraging is that the victim has absolutely no given opportunity to defend herself and once found guilty, only blood will remove the stain of dishonor. Other violations can be a woman refusing to enter into an arrange marriage, seeking divorce (even from an abusive husband), having relations with a man outside of marriage (sexual or non-sexual), flirting and even if she is the victim of rape. Most of the murders take place because of suspicions, misunderstandings and animosity. It reminds of crime of passion where the husband kills his wife. The accusation comes as a sudden surprise that usually the victims has no opportunity to save their own lives, seek help, find protection from the police or court. And because it usually happens inside the family, the perpetrators get away with paying blood money and forgiving each other.

I believe that this practice is just an bad excuse for getting rid of women, get hold of someone’s land, earning blood money  and to take revenge.

If and when the case reaches a court of law, the victim’s family may ‘pardon’ the murderer (who is usually one of them), or be pressurized to access blood-money as compensation. The murderer then goes free.

Once such a pardon has been secured, the state has no further writ on the matter. Human rights agencies in Pakistan have repeatedly emphasized that women falling prey to Karo-Kari were usually those wanting to marry of their own will. In many cases, the victims held properties that the male members of their families did not wish to lose if the women chose to marry outside the family. More often than not, the Karo-Kari murder relates to inheritance problems, feud-settling or simply to get rid of the woman. The families always say that it was suicide or fatal accident.

Lives claimed

 Unmarked graves of victims

During the first months of 2011, 11 murders took place in Sindh province of Pakistan. 6 women and 5 men were killed.

An unbelievable incident was when a 25 year old man killed his 55 year old mother suspecting her for having a relationship with another man. Begum Khatoon, the mother was sleeping when her son Hussain shot her to death. Hussain and his friends later threw her body 50 meters away from the village. The victim’s brother filed a report at the police station against his nephew and 2 others. The cold blooded killer stated from prison: “I don’t have any regrets for killing my mother because she was kari and deserved punishment”. “I am a man of honour and will not spare the karo, once I am out of the lock-up.”

In April a police constable shot and killed his wife on the pretext of Karo-Kari when he saw her in an objectionable state with her brother-in-law in his house. She was his second wife. The same month, 5 other people were killed for the same reason on 19th and 20th April 2011. Sono Mastoi had been suspecting his wife for having sexual relations with the youths of the area. He first shot his wife and then the 2 boys. There was not performed any post mortem, neither was anyone arrested.

12th April 2011, Farooq accused his wife Mukhtaran for having illicit relations with Asif Unnar, a residedent in the same village. Farooq tried to kill his wife but she managed to escape and hide in her parent’s house. Next day, Farooq went to a landlord, Mohammad Hassan Unnar telling him the story and Mokhammad Hassan gathered a meeting of community elders at his home. The accused Karo, Asif was on the run and the elders ordered that both Karo-Kari should be killed. When Mukhtarans father got the news, he went to the nearby police station and placed a police report against the 9 men, including Farooq and Mohammad Hassan. They were soon arrested.

Saima Bibi, a 21 year old woman was electrocuted by her family because she had secretly married a man they didn’t approve of. Police arrested her father and 3 other relatives after being tipped off from an anonymous caller. Bibi, an ethnic Baluch, defied demands from her family to marry a Baluch relative and instead ran away to the southern port city of Karachi to marry a fellow villager. Her father and several other relatives traveled to Karachi and duped her into coming back home, when she didn’t listen to further demands they electrocuted her, he said. Bibi’s family told police she committed suicide on Friday in their village in the district of Bahawalpur in Punjab, but a medical report showed signs of torture and electrocution on her hands, legs and back, police said.

Another case was that of Taslim Khatoon Solangi, 17, of Hajna Shah village in Khairpur district, which was widely reported after her father, 57-year-old Gul Sher Solangi, publicized the case. He alleged his 8 months’ pregnant daughter was tortured and killed on March 7 on the orders of her father-in-law, who accused her of carrying a child conceived out of wedlock.

Official numbers from the Pakistani Senate showed that more than 4,000 people had been killed in the name of honour the last years as a result of Karo-Kari. Of the victims, almost 2,800 were women and over 1,327 were men. The highest number of murders had happened in Punjab, followed by Sindh, the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), and the south western province of Baluchistan. Of 2,774 murdered women, 1,578 were killed in Punjab, 751 in Sindh, 260 in NWFP and 185 in Baluchistan. Of the 1,327 murdered men, 675 were killed in Punjab, 348 in Sindh, 188 in NWFP and 116 in Baluchistan. The actual numbers are much higher and many cases go unreported because of loyalty to the family.

Turn the blind eye

Even though the authorities haven’t exactly shown too much interest in punishing the criminals, there have been some attempts to stop this heinous act. In December 2004, the government passed a bill which made Karo-Kari punishable under the same penal as murder. However, this bill seems very useless besides another Pakistani law; a proven murderer can seek or buy pardon from the victim’s family. No attempts of changing the law have been made, and since a family member commits the crime, almost all of them are pardoned. And once the perpetrator is pardoned, the state cannot to any further thing with the case.

Illiteracy and Ignorance

It has been noted and highlighted by sociologists that honour killings do not always have something to do with religion but rather from customs and cultures from different areas of the country. The practice of karo-kari actually dates back to the pre-Islamic period when Arab settlers occupied a region adjacent to Sindh, which was known as Baluchistan according to Dr. Kay Ashraf.

The number of honour killings in Pakistan is estimated to be around 2,500 to 3,000 cases every year, however, a good number of these cases go unreported or are passed off as suicides and only 25% of these are brought to justice.

These murders happen in rural areas and villages with a high number of uneducated people. People get married in an early age and children don’t get education. Women and girls are usually forced to stay home and not socialize. The husband and in laws can literally do anything they want and walk unpunished.

The government and authorities has not done enough to stop this barbaric custom. When I look at the numbers of females killed, I notice that it is much higher than the men. So does it mean that women are more unfaithful? I don’t think so. Besides all the NGO’s, the media workers should have enough freedom of speech and censorship to highlight this problem.

Something must be done to save these women from this heinous act because they also deserve a life without violence and abuse.

Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?

Skin bleaching originated from Asia all the way to ancient China and Japan where the proverb says; “one white covers up three ugliness.” Then in 1960, skin lightening products were imported from Asia and launched in USA mainly for African-American women then it spread to Africa and Latin America where societies considers far skin as beautiful and as a higher social standing.

In Britain, obsession with fair skin can be traced all the way back to the 16th century and was called Venetian Ceruse, also known as Spirits of Saturn. The ceruse would be used as a skin whitener and the best they could find in that time. The product consisted of a pigment made by a white lead that caused lead poisoning and damage the skin as well as significant hair loss. If used over a long period of time, it would cause death. A famous user was Elizabeth I of England.

Skin whitening is considered to be a multi product as the consumers in the West use it for its lightning and anti age benefits while Asian consumers prefer it for lightening the overall color and tone of the skin. An important fact is that Asian women does not use these products to look like Caucasians but simply because fair skin has a social status in the society.

Poor people,villagers and those in India who are considered as low cast works outside and their skin will become dark. Rich people and those who can afford to stay indoors will remain pale and fair so this is connected to social status. Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese etc have a yellow undertone in their skin and the whitening products do target this as well.

Dangerous effects

There are 2 dangerous and extreme methods of whitening the skin. The first one employs cortisone which destroys the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin). It passes into the bloodstream and the person develops a strong addiction towards it. Many women who have used this method have reported that they have developed depression. The other method is to use products with an ingredient called hydroquinone which was banned in the entire European Union in 2001 but still sold in the black market. Hydroquinone lightens the skin color by killing the cells that produce melanin (the melanolyte). From historical background, hydroquinone was first used in the 1930s when some African-Americans employees noticed that there were some discolorations appearing on their skin caused by Monobenzyl Ether of Hydroquinone (Monobonzone).

A fair business

The strongest and fastest growth remains in Asia-Pacific with Japan dominating the market followed by India and China. According to a report done by Global Industry Analysts (GIA), the Asian market will cross $2 billion by 2012. By 2015, it will reach $10 billion as new markets in the West emerge together with the growth in Asia-Pacific. Western markets have shown growth largely because Asian and African consumers demanded lightening products. The same report also revealed that lately there has been an increase in the market for men’s whitening products.

Fair & Lovely was first launched in India in 1975 and has become the largest selling skin whitening cream in the world. It is created by Unilever’s research laboratories and claims to give drastic results in 6 weeks. On their website, the product is called “the miracle worker* and is proven to give 3 shades of change. It held a commanding 50-70% share of the skin whitening market in India in 2006, a market that is valued at over $200 million. The target market for Fair & Lovely is mainly young women aged 18-35 but according to retail and market research reports, girls down to 12.14 years widely use fairness creams.

Despite being one of the leading products in this sector, are allegedly using photo touch-up to achieve desired results. The ad campaign was withdrawn when they got public criticism, especially from women’s groups from India, Malaysia and Egypt. Similar ads manufactured by FMCG giant Unilever showed a miraculous change in the complexion from dark to very fair using photo touch-ups was also withdrawn from the UK market in October 2008.

Many dermatologists have been debating on this subject and they claim that the fairness creams won’t be effective and show such results without the use of skin bleaching ingredients such as hydroquinone, steroids, mercury salts and other dangerous chemicals and Fair & Lovely does not contain this.

These products were once produced targeted only to women but the products are very popular among men. The sales have raised 100% in rural India and the products for male increased 20%.

Hindustan Unilever, one of the largest consumer products companies in India, producing Fair and Handsome, sent CNN an email saying: “Fair and Handsome is a market leader with almost 70% market share in India and doing extremely well in Gulf countries and the Middle East as well.”

Africa

Sale of whitening creams in Africa is worth millions of dollars each year. In Tanzania, where use and import of skin lighteners are banned, the sale is still high as dangerous creams are smuggled into the country and caused many women skin damages such as scratch marks and black dots after burning their skin. Others developed skin cancer. There is no doubt that bleaching harms the skin. The procedure destroys the black pigment in the top layer of the skin called epidermis, but exposure of the dermis layer under the epidermis to harsh weather will increase the chances of skin cancer. In Tanzania, women have been warned against using these chemicals after a woman had taken some tablets to bleach her skin and died after her flesh turned into liquid form and started dropping off. Despite the dangers, the women still use the products and the men continue desiring women with lighter skin.

Pakistan and India

Fair & Lovely is the most popular whitening product in Pakistan and recently this company has come up with a whitening product for men called Fair & Handsome. The commercial starts with a young darker skinned man sad because he can’t get a date. The Indian actor Shahrukh Khan advises him to use Fair & Handsome his skin tone gets lighter and he is suddenly surrounded by sexy supermodels. The same is shown in a television drama named Bidaai, featuring 2 sisters, one adopted and has dark skin while the other is pale. The pale gets prince charming. In another TV commercial that is very discriminating, two men, one with dark skin, and the other with light skin stands on a balcony overlooking a neighborhood. The darker skinned guy says “I am unlucky because of my face” to his friend. His light skinned friend replies, “Not because of your face, because of the color of your face” before handing over a whitening cream. The commercials are sending the message; get whiter skin, and you’ll get the girl, the job of your dreams etc.

 

Pakistanis and Indians are obsessed with the idea of becoming fair. The women who can afford it, stays away from the sun, get facial treatments with whitening products and use foundation and powders that are several numbers lighter than their own skin color making them look gray rather than white. So when parents look for a bride for their sons, they prefer a fair skinned girl and the men are more attracted to lighter skinned girls. A survey done for the biggest matrimonial site named Shaadi.com showed that almost 12,000 people said that skin tone was the most important criteria for choosing a life partner in 3 northern Indian states.

Even after the partition from India, Pakistanis held on the cast system and most families prefers to marry their children within the family and cast. Most of the upper class does have lighter skin and many of the lowest casts have the darkest skin. Darker skinned people do have a hard time in both countries since having lighter skinned people gets more respect. A choice of a partner with darker skin color will raise many questions from people (also in front of your partner) of why you married a dark skinned person. They don’t mean to offend but ask because it is strange to them.

The desire for fair skin has also isolated the women so that they are not able to function outside the home such as participating in sports. “Because of Indian men’s concept of beauty, so many talented players do not take up cricket because it is a grueling sport and you are out in the sun for at least seven to eight hours,” said a Cricket Captain to the news once. If the men also do the same then there will be no sports played in the country. On the other side, Fair & Lovely has an ad where a female cricket broadcaster gets a job after lightening her skin…

Snow white syndrome; Maybe not fair but still lovely
Unfortunately people can’t accept their skin color in countries where they are dark or brown skinned and go drastic steps to change the color of their skin. One of the major reasons for this is that the media and the society that forces on these ideas. A fair skinned female is more likely to get the job instead of a darker skinned girl, the handsome boy is more likely to choose the fair skinned girl to be his wife and the fair skinned girl will get the lead role in a movie or music video while the darker skinned once are pushed behind her.  The same goes for men. Let’s be honest, if you have fair skin, you will be successful. We all know that the ads aren’t truthful and that there is Photoshop work behind.

Just look at Aishwarya Rai. Her picture on the cover of Elle magazine India made headlines when she appeared miraculously fair. Instead of doing this, Elle India could go in front as an example by putting a dark, dusky, golden, brown girl on the cover to respect those who have a darker color, to show them that they are beautiful and to tell them that they too matter.

This obsession with fair skin and priority of the girls and men with lighter skin color is discriminating. Still in the 21th century, there is this ignorance that those with lighter skin is more superior and those would darker does not matter. Girls have the pressure of trying to find a suitable husband who will marry her because he loves her, not because of her skin color. I dont think that the older generations will change this way of thinking but the younger generations can stand against the stereotypes and make a statement.

 

International Literacy Day; September 8

September 8 was proclaimed as the International Literacy Day by UNESCO on November 17th 1965 and first celebrated in 1966 with the sole aim to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies.

Today some 793 million adults lack the minimum literacy skills; 1 in 5 adults are not literate and 2/3 is women, 75 million children are not studying in school and many more drop out.

According to UNESCO’s “Global Monitoring Report on Education for All (2008)”, South and West Asia has the lowest regional adult literacy (58,6%), Sub-Saharan Africa (59,7%) and the Arab states (62,7%).

Countries with the lowest literacy rates in the world are Burkina Faso (12,8%), Niger (14,4%) and Mali (19%). The report shows that there is a connection between illiteracy, poverty and prejudice against women.

Why is literacy important?

Literacy is a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development. Educational opportunities depends on literacy as it is the heart of basic education for all, and essential for eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy. There are good reasons why literacy is at the core of Education for All (EFA).

 

Source; Wikipedia and Unesco.

To see the complete list of countries, visit; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_literacy_rate

Powerful men in red

Clothing and color choices are strongly connected together, and it is a striking correlation between red garments and power.

Like women, men do also follow the cultural codes that come with the situation and certain patterns and colors as well. A book written by a Swedish professor distinguishes between; money power, physical power and beauty of power.
At the beginning of the 2000s we saw clearly how men would belong to the cultural elite which are knowledge power, dressed in full black and often with a polo shirt to focus on the face and so used the 1600s professors, and many other scholars to do. They dressed because they were men without body, just brains. So why is it so important for men to show that they have power? Maybe because it is linked to masculinity and that power is defined as male.

The red tie

The Norwegian PM chooses often to wear a red tie. Probably not only because he is socio democrat as even the Swedish PM who is conservative often wears a red tie. George W. Bush had very often a red tie, and he was definitely not a socialist. Some studies shows and indicates that today’s top politicians often wear a red tie, and especially when they want to show that they have the power by a political meeting or when they will emerge with particular gravity, for example on TV. They express power to act with his red tie.

 

So why does red sig­nal rank? The au­thors see both cul­ture and bi­ol­o­gy at work. In human so­ci­eties across the globe, red tra­di­tion­ally has been part of the re­ga­lia of the rich and pow­er­ful.  Along with this learn­ed as­socia­t­ion be­tween red and sta­tus, the au­thors point to bi­o­log­i­cal roots of human be­hav­ior. In non-human pri­ma­tes, like ma­ndrills and ge­la­da ba­boons, red is an in­di­ca­tor of male dom­i­nance and is ex­pressed most in­tensely in al­pha ma­les. Females of these spe­cies mate more of­ten with al­pha ma­les, who in turn pro­vide pro­tec­tion and re­sources.

“When wom­en see red it trig­gers some­thing deep and probably bi­o­log­ic­ally en­grained,” said El­li­ot. “We say in our cul­ture that men act like an­i­mals in the sex­u­al realm. It looks like wom­en may be act­ing like an­i­mals as well in the same sort of way.”

Historical view of the color red

If we travel back in time, we can see that in the Middle Ages and renaissance, it was very common and important to demonstrate masculinity through the color and clothing. And as for the nobles and royals there was only one color; RED.

The Duke of Urbino – one of Machiavelli’s favorite princes would wear red from head to toe when he was pictured. Red was also an obvious choice in the Catholic Church’s powerful cardinals and Napoleon used red when he was on the top of his career as emperor. An­cient Chi­na, Ja­pan and sub-Saharan Af­ri­ca all used the vi­brant tint to con­vey pros­per­ity and sta­tus. An­cient Rome’s elite were lit­er­ally called “the ones who wear red.” Even to­day, the au­thors note, busi­ness­men wear a red tie to de­note con­fi­dence, while celebr­i­ties and dig­ni­tar­ies are fet­ed by “rolling out the red car­pet.”

Women that time preferred brown, beige, pale pink, pale green and other pastel colors. But the 1800s marked the end of the color party and men went from being peacocks to gray and black sparrows and red became the color for women and children.

Studies in University of Rochester

Studies made by researchers at the University of Rochester found out that men wearing the color red become more attractive to the woman who is unaware of this color effect. “We found that women view men in red as higher in status, more likely to make money and more likely to climb the social ladder. And it’s this high-status judgment that leads to the attraction,” Professor Elliot said.

The researchers found that the red effect was limited to status and romance as red made the man seem more powerful, attractive, and sexually desirable, but did not make the man seem more likable, kind, or sociable. The effect was consistent across cultures: undergraduates in the United States, England, Germany, and China all found men more attractive when wearing or bordered by red and the effect was limited to women. When males were asked to rate the attractiveness of a pictured male, color made no difference in their responses. In earlier work, Elliot documented that men are more attracted to women in red but the red effect depends on the context.

The same effect goes for the red neckties. As red is a very powerful color and when it is matched properly it will create a more powerful image allowing you to look like you are in authority and power. Most guys wearing red ties are those guys that are oozing with self-confidence and self-esteem. Red represents powerful sensations such as influence, confidence and even strong secrets even adventurous personalities rarely use red for their neckties.

If you want to match red neckties with shirt, go for the safest which is white. When it is worn on a white background, it will create an enigmatic look and irresistible attractiveness. Some men tend to avoid using neckties that are colored red especially when it simply does not represent the kind of personality that they want to project. Subtle personalities will shy away from red because it is not their color. But, if you want to create a more powerful look for your next corporate event and you are dressed to impress then red ties, black suit and white shirt would be the best outfit for you.

Research done by Daniela Niesta Kayer, University of Rochester; Tobias Greitemeyer, University of Innsbruck; Stephanie Lichtenfeld, University of Munich; Richard H. Gramzow, University of Southampton; Markus A. Maier, University of Munich; and Huijun Liu, Tainjin Medical University.

The research was funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and an Excellence Guest Professorship at the University of Munich.

University of Rochester

The History of Saint Valentine’s Day

Today is February 14th, and Valentines and couples all over the world celebrate this day with their loved ones. The shops started one week before to sell valentine cards and accessories and all I could see for one week was the colour red. But this doesn’t mean that only couples can send each other nice messages or flowers. Friends that we hold dear can also be remembered on this day and how important the friendship is to us.

Saint Valentine’s Day, commonly shortened to Valentine’s Day, is an annual commemoration held on February 14 celebrating love and affection between intimate companions. It is traditionally a day on which lovers express their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards The day first became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. Modern Valentine’s Day symbols include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.

Valentine’s Day started in the Roman Empire in the ancient Rome to honour Juno, the queen of the Roman Gods and Goddesses. The Romans also recognized her as the Goddess of women and marriage. The following day, February 15th, began the Feast of Lupercalia. The lives of young boys and girls were strictly separate however; one of the customs of the young people was name drawing. On the eve of the festival of Lupercalia the names of Roman girls were written on slips of paper and placed into jars. Each young man would draw a girl’s name from the jar and would then be partners for the duration of the festival with the girl whom he chose. Sometimes the pairing of the children lasted an entire year, and often, they would fall in love and would later marry.

The history of Valentine is shrouded in mystery, but we have all seen that it’s been a month of romance. St. Valentine’s Day contains both of Christian and Roman tradition. One legend tells that Saint Valentine was a priest who served during the time of Emperor Claudius II Rome was involved in many bloody and hated campaigns that gave him the name “Claudius the Cruel”, and this made it difficult for him to make soldiers join his military force. In his mind, he believed that the roman men did not want to leave their loved one and families and because of this, Claudius cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome. Seeing the frustration, he and Saint Marius aided the Christian martyrs and secretly married the couples. For this deed, Saint Valentine was dragged before the Prefect of Rome who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and to have his head cut off. He suffered his martyrdom on the 14th day of February around year 270.

Another story tells the tale that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons were they often would be beaten and tortured.

The third story was that Valentine sent the first valentine greeting himself. But it is believed that while in prison, Valentine fell in love with a young girl, who may have been the jailors daughter that visited him. Before his death, Valentine wrote her a letter which he signed “from your Valentine,” an expression that is still used today.

In ancient Rome, February was the official beginning of spring and was considered a time for purification. Houses were ritually cleansed by sweeping them out and then sprinkling salt and a type of wheat called spelt throughout their interiors. Lupercalia, which began at the ides of February, February 15, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus. To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at the sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would then sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. The boys then sliced the goat’s hide into strips, dipped them in the sacrificial blood and took to the streets, gently slapping both women and fields of crops with the goat hide strips. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed being touched with the hides because it was believed the strips would make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would then each choose a name out of the urn and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage. Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day around 498 A.D. The Roman “lottery” system for romantic pairing was deemed un-Christian and outlawed.

Later, during the middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of February, Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The greeting, which was written in 1415, is part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England. Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one’s feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine’s Day greetings. Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America.

According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated of 1 billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas. 85% of all valentine cards are also purchased by women around the world.

The first recorded association of Valentine’s Day with romantic love is in Parlement of Foules (1382) by Geoffrey Chaucer:

For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
(“For this was Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”)

This poem was written to honour the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia. A treaty providing for a marriage was signed on May 2, 1381. (When they were married eight months later, they were each only 15 years old).

Valentine’s Day in modern times

Valentine’s Day has almost become a national holiday in the world known by everybody. Paper Valentines became so popular in England in the early 19th century that they were assembled in factories. Fancy Valentines were made with real lace and ribbons, with paper lace introduced in the mid-19th century. In the UK, just under half the population spend money on their Valentines and around 1.3 billion pounds is spent yearly on cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts, with an estimated 25 million cards being sent. The reinvention of Saint Valentine’s Day in the 1840s has been traced by Leigh Eric Schmidt.

Shops selling cards and other romantic gifts can be seen several days before the festivity starts. Florists that have their best business of the year, prepare beautiful bouquets of exotic flowers. The most popular way to celebrate Valentine’s Day is to go to a romantic dinner and spend time with the loved one. Although many criticize it also and think that it is only a money industry luring people to spend money, there are those who don’t want to celebrate it because it is an ancient Roman tradition. No matter what it is, I think it is sweet that people express their love to one another and take the opportunity to spend time together to nourish the relationship.

Happy Valentine’s Day

 

 

 

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