Hear Me Out: Men should pay for the first date, here’s why



Ask not what you can do for misogyny, but what misogyny can do for you.

First dates are awkward enough without the extra complication of payment added to the mix. As there is no script to follow and no binding rules when it comes to who should pay, the situation can feel confusing and clumsy once the bill arrives.

Should women offer to split it? Should we make a charade of reaching for our wallet? Do we just pay for ourselves? Should a feminist take it on herself to pay? It depends on who you ask.

And while I’m sure that queer people navigate through an equally complex but distinctly different dynamic, I’m specifically unpacking the unique dating dilemma that exists between men and women. So if this discussion applies to you, please allow me to enlighten you.

Outside of our own private conversations, this question gets a lot of airtime in the media. It’s one that Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte ponder (and leave unanswered) in an episode of Sex and the City – a culture-defining series that offered 14-year-old me a preview of what the precarious world of dating is like for modern women.

If you asked your friends, sister, mum, boyfriend or Sarah Jessica Parker herself, you’d likely get a range of different answers with all the different variables in play. For instance, you might consider who asked who? Who makes more money? Will there be a second date? Was the date worth your time? After some thought, I’ve landed on the conclusion that we shouldn’t feel obliged to pick up – or even split – the bill.

A bold statement from someone who advocates for gender equality, right? I can hear you shouting through your screen: “Sunny, why are you encouraging archaic gender roles? Why are you undermining the ground women have gained through long, hard, honourable struggle? Aren’t you a feminist?”

And to answer your question: yes bitch, I absolutely am, and I say this because I believe in narrowing the economic gap that exists between men and women, so hear me out.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to say that being a woman in 2020 is expensive. Most of us would be familiar with the wage gap – an index that measures the pay disparity between the sexes. In Australia, women make $0.81 for every $1 a man makes.

But on top of this, women bear the cost of the pink tax too, a form of pricing discrimination that sees women paying 13 per cent more for personal care items like razors, deodorant, shampoo and body wash.

This means that over the course of a year, women can potentially spend thousands of dollars more than men in costs across clothing, dry-cleaning and health products due to the gendered pricing scheme.

As Florence Given, the best-selling feminist author, so aptly points puts it, “It costs more to be a woman, in the same world where we are paid substantially less than men, and we’re tricked into believing that splitting the bill is the route to equality?” While shaking my head in agreement and clicking my tongue I say: “It’s a no from me, sis.”

The resources of time, energy and money that go into looking presentable and desirable are not to be underestimated. In preparing for the date itself, women are likely to have spent more on prepping their face than a man has on clothing his entire body.

With foundation, mascara and bronzer all costing anywhere between $20-$100 each, it’s not as though men and women enter the date with an equal financial investment.

As women, we’re often in some level of danger, which is why we’re more inclined to incur travel costs to and from dates too. We spend money on Ubers or taxis to ensure we get home safely while most men have the privileged option to take public transport because they don’t fear being raped or having unsolicited “compliments” yelled in their direction as viscerally as we do.

I personally wouldn’t risk taking public transport alone in the evening if there was literally any other option available, regardless of what I’m wearing.

As the quote goes, “A man in a room full of women is ecstatic. A woman in a room full of men is terrified”, and it’s because of this fear that I will do everything I can to not find myself alone in a carriage full of adult men without the protection of a friend. I will drive. I will walk.

I will pay an exorbitant amount of money to feel somewhat safe, because I’m far too familiar with the face-burning discomfort of knowing you’re being noticed and wishing you were invisible. It’s an unfortunate and unfair paradox that seems to suggest a woman’s beauty and desirability are both her responsibility and – if noticed at the wrong place and the wrong time – also her fault.

For explanation’s sake, let’s consider all the first dates that eventually blossom into long-term relationships or marriages. In most homes, housework is still considered ‘women’s work’ which is also unpaid work, and because unpaid work isn’t added to a country’s GDP, it goes unnoticed.

It’s widely accepted that the economies of industrialised countries would collapse if women didn’t do the work they do for free, and while the majority of Western women now work full-time, many of us still do the same amount of domestic work our stay-at-home predecessors did.

Not because biological variation makes us better at it, but because of cultural expectations. Put simply, we’re conditioned to work twice as hard while receiving less recognition and reward than our male counterparts. With all this in mind, how much is a woman worth? At the very least, I’d say the cost of a single meal.

On the other hand, because dates have an underlying transactional element to them, not paying the bill can feel equally as uncomfortable. There’s a lingering sense that something is owed – and maybe this ‘debt’ is something the payer will expect to cash in on in the bedroom.

On a thread titled ‘Who pays for dates?’, some Reddit users share this sentiment, with one commenting, “If she doesn’t offer to pay that’s a big red flag… Unless she’s hot as fuck and you’re chasing the pussy” and another adding, “I only pay for people I’m sleeping with”, confirming that chivalry is so fucking dead.

And when men try to frame this argument in a way that suggests I’m hindering the feminist movement, I say: “Why is it that the only time you engage in a conversation about gender equality is when you have something to benefit from it?” Don’t try to weaponise feminism against me, Chad.

So, the next time a man offers to pay the bill, accept the offer without any admission of guilt. Fuck etiquette. Consider this the patriarchy compensating you for all the times we’ve paid for misogyny, then leave.

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