What does ‘Love’ mean to Leeds?

The Gryphon focuses on the notion of love and speaks to students from varying sexual orientations on campus in the week running up to Valentine’s Day to find out their perspectives on love.

As we near Valentine’s Day, instead of focusing on the chocolates, cards, and flowers, we might benefit from examining our notion of what we think love is, on a personal level and in the wider context of society, in order to challenge the overly romantic kind of love we are often presented with in films and on television and to come to the realisation that love has a greater effect on our actions than we realise.

The Oxford dictionary defines love as ‘a strong feeling of affection’ but with 4,070,000,000 Google search results of articles or otherwise telling us ‘how to find the one’ and the media in general perpetuating the idea that being single suggests loneliness and therefore implying a ‘need’ to find someone; we are never fully able to question our own perceptions on we think love is and at times we may even miss appreciating experiences of love in our lives due to these misleading conceptions. To find out what the students of Leeds really pertain ‘love’ to be, The Gryphon spoke to several students on campus, in relationships and single, and of various sexual orientations, to tell us their thoughts on the subject.

What would you say ‘love’ is?

‘I would say that love is not just a feeling but that it’s a choice, because you have the choice to make your relationship work. It’s about seeing that there are flaws but also about accepting them. I mean, if you think about it, marriage is a bit like betting the other person half of your stuff that you’ll stay together!’
Emma, final year, Physics and Maths

‘That’s quite a broad question! But, I think love is an inherent need in life, something we cannot imagine not having, as it would make life a whole lot worse…’
Joe, final year, Music

‘I think love is between two people who support and respect each other but mostly I would say that it is hard to define. I mean, I won’t be celebrating Valentine’s day this year as I don’t think you need just one day out of the year to celebrate love!’
Martina, second year, Media and Communications

What are your views on Valentine’s Day?

‘If you love each other, I think the day should be about the love you have for your partner and your relationship. However, I think today particularly young people aren’t really looking for love, and are perhaps settling for less in terms of romantic relationships.’
Camellia, final year, Criminology

‘I don’t really like the idea that it feels quite forced and that you feel like you have to make it romantic, but I like that you can use it as a day to celebrate your relationship.’
Emma, final year, Physics and Maths

‘I’m personally not a fan because of its commercialism, which I think causes people to stress a lot about the day. I really think that romance should be a fluid part in a relationship and, while it is an important part of any relationship, it’s not the be-all and end-all. I think that everyone should do what they like on the day and celebrate it with their partner.’
Joe, final year, Music

‘I really think that Valentine’s Day is mainly commercial and maybe even a corporate event between Christmas and Easter! But the idea that love can be compacted into a day is not right. Also, Valentine’s can make singletons feel bad, like the feeling that they should be with someone or that they are alone.’
Alistair, second year, French

Having spoken to several students about what they think love really is, it seems that, whilst love is quite difficult to define, the students concur with the fact that love requires work, choice, acceptance, joy, and celebration. In regards to Valentine’s Day, it appears that most people know that the celebration of love cannot be assigned to one day; it is an inadequate way to show love as it suggests romantic gesture, which is not always required to show someone you care. Some students’ views also touched on the consumerist nature of Valentine’s Day, suggesting that it is perhaps just another event in the financial calendar. This reiterates the fact that money is not linked to notions of love and may even highlight the contradictory nature of such a materialstic holiday, designed to celebrate love. Not only that, but it was actually quite difficult to ask people to talk to about ‘love’ and for them to give their honest thoughts on it.

Perhaps love is in the everyday things we do for others and even for ourselves, the actions that we choose to take with care and consideration of others, as well as putting our pride aside and allowing ourselves to open up our hearts. It is in the films we watch, it is in most of the songs we hear; we appear to be constantly exposed to ‘love’ but real love is something that we, as human beings, all long for and require in one form or another, whether that be taking care of yourself or the love of a friend, a neighbour, or family. In a world where everything is increasingly virtual and online, this sentiment has lasted through the ages as an essential and very real part of our being. Whilst one day in the middle of February is a cause for the celebration of love, this should be extended beyond romantic love, to love of any kind, and in fact should let us know that a display of love or affection, however small, is just as valuable on any day of the year.

Stephanie Uwalaka

Image: Michael Winokur

Leave a Reply