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Yeah, I’m A Feminist, But I Like It When Guys Pay On A Date

feminism /ˈfɛmɪnɪz(ə)m/ noun: the advocacy of women's rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.

Equality? Heck yes! Same pay, same rights, same respect for everybody? Of COURSE I am here for all of that. Who wouldn’t be? (Well, I guess a lot of people around the world, but that is a whole other kettle of misogynistic fish.)

I am definitely, 100 percent, through and through a feminist and damn proud of it.

But.

(You knew there was a ‘but’ coming. You knew.)

I have to admit, I also like it when a guy goes traditional on a date. When he opens the Uber door for me. When he insists on paying for dinner. (Swoon.) When he gives me his coat because it’s cold out and I’m shivering because I wore a cute little dress to look nice on my date and ooooh crap this is starting to feel very against-the-rules-of-girl-power...

Now, I might be publicly owning this, but you should know that I do feel a bit conflicted about it. (Can I get some points back for that at least?)

And I would also like to mention that I don’t EXPECT a date to pay. Never. If he does, well, that’s lovely, and after the requisite, "No, I can't let you do that...well, are you sure? Only if I can get it next time", I don't argue the point. But I tend to assume from the outset that we’ll be going halvsies.

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And even if he does offer to pay, I’ll never not offer to contribute at least something -- whether it’s picking up the tab for after-dinner drinks or dessert, or making it clear that I'll be the one whipping out the plastic next time. (Because, #equality.)

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So what’s so wrong with letting a guy pay (and not feeling oppressed/like a kept woman when he does)? Why can’t we take on these (admittedly socially created and imposed but nonetheless existent) old-school gender roles from time to time if the new-and-improved unspoken rule underpinning them all is a genuine and mutual respect for each other as equals?

And yet, here I am, stuck with this inner turmoil.

Because I get it. I really do. It might make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but at the end of the day, it is still a form of sexism ('benevolent sexism' is what the kids are calling it these days. And by 'these days' I mean since the term was coined in 1996. Yep, this dilemma has been going on for a while).

And then there's the argument that when a dude pays on a date, he might think of it as a form of sexual currency, a one-way ticket into his date's pants. It's not something we really speak about because, ick, but it's a thing:

Research has shown that guys have higher first-date sexual expectations than women -- especially when they reach for the cheque.

Like I said, ick.

Despite the fact that we are nowhere near kicking the goals we need to in terms of gender equality in society, we have made at least some progress since the 1950s (right?). Chivalry needn’t die out completely for women to comfortably take a seat at the table -- in the boardroom or at the local Italian restaurant.

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It’s 2019, and we should all be grown-up enough by now to realise that someone buying someone else a meal doesn’t automatically endow Person-Number-One with any kind of physical, financial, psychological, sexual or otherwise unstated dominance over Person-Number-Two.

I’m talking about man-woman dating here because that’s my personal jam. But when you look at it under a friendship lens, it seems pretty simple:

If I go out with a friend -- male, female or otherwise -- and I pay, it’s because I want to do something thoughtful for someone I care about.

Why can’t that be true in romance-land too?

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Am I being horribly naive? Maybe. But I'm not alone. According to research out of Iowa State University:

"Even staunch feminists may prefer a chivalrous mate who picks up the cheque on a first date or walks closer to the curb on a sidewalk."

So for me personally (the only person I can speak for) -- a hetero chick with my own money, my own place, and a whole bunch of independence -- it comes down to this: I think it’s just nice to let someone do something nice for you. (Just as nice as me doing something nice for someone else.)

So romance. So nice.

Sure, when we take it into the dating arena, it can have a bit of a gender-stereotypical, patriarchal flavour to it… But if we’re all clear it’s just about doing something nice for someone you regard as an equal -- and letting your date do the same -- what's the big deal?