For decades, women have been pushing for gender equality. We’ve worked hard not to be considered a man’s property; to be able to work and vote; to do everything men can do. Oh, but we don’t want to pay the bill.
I mean, come on.
Whenever I’m out with my boyfriend, I insist on splitting the bill, or alternating the payment. I always have. We met when we were both penniless university students, and now we both work full time. So what excuse would I have had, at any point during our relationship, to automatically expect him to pay for our meals?
Yes, he earns more than me in his job, but that doesn’t mean I’m incapable of paying for my own food, and it never fails to baffle me when women assume a man should hand over his hard-earned cash for food that he hasn’t eaten, and drinks that he hasn’t drunk.
Would you expect a man to pay for the socks you wear? Or the books you read? Or the morning coffee you drink on the way to work? No, because he most likely wouldn’t get any use out of them.
So why is it different when it comes to a date night?
Well, I know what a lot of people might say. ‘It’s gentlemanly!’, ‘It’s proper and old-fashioned!’, ‘It’s romantic!’
Excuse me, but since when were old-fashioned traditions ever beneficial to women? It used to be tradition to shun an unmarried pregnant woman and for women not to be able to vote – and I’d hope we can all agree that’s not right.
The idea of a man paying for food stems from a time when women couldn’t work, or were banished to a life of housekeeping and raising children.
Women were considered their partner’s property, and the man was the ‘provider’.
As comedian Sara Pascoe so rightly points out, men basically had to feed their partners, or else they’d die:
— BBC iPlayer (@BBCiPlayer) April 25, 2019
Expecting a man to pay for the meal is bringing back the mentality that men must provide for a woman and allow her to live as a well-fed person.
I don’t know about you, but I think that’s an old-fashioned tradition that can stay in the olden days.
Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s not always women who sit back and refuse to pay – often the man insists, again because there’s this impression that it’s the ‘right thing to do’; that it’s impressive and romantic.
But here is a prime example of why that ‘gentlemanly’ action isn’t always welcome:
Although in this situation the man, Vivek, might have thought he was being generous, he ended up being almost aggressive in his need to pay the bill, as he told his date Cecilia to ‘shut up for once’.
Vivek’s desire to take control of the situation made him unpleasant, and I think the stigma surrounding men paying the bill is to blame. In order to come across as a ‘gentleman’, this man wanted to cover the cost – but he caused an argument in refusing to let Cecilia pay, like she wanted to.
When trying to give a rational reason as to why she shouldn’t pay, Vivek said ‘you get the next one’. While that may seem like a fair split, on a first date it can create an assumption that the woman then owes something to the man, putting unwanted pressure on her even if she doesn’t want to see him again.
Thankfully this situation ended well, as Vivek agreed to split the bill, and the pair did decide to see each other again. It is a perfect example of how the connotations which come with paying the bill can result in an uncomfortable situation which could have been easily avoided.
It’s clear Ceclia was all for paying for her own food, but there are many examples on First Dates where women seem genuinely shocked when a man wants to go halves.
Take a look at this woman’s reaction, for example:
— Channel 4 (@Channel4) December 26, 2018
When the waiter asked if they’d be splitting the bill, the woman looked at her date expectantly, as if he should quickly refuse and insist on covering it all himself.
The man obviously didn’t want to pay for the whole thing, but because of the presumption that men should pay, he felt bad about admitting it and actually had to ask if it was ‘alright’ for them to split the payment.
The woman accused him of being a ‘cheap date’, and although she claimed she ‘didn’t need someone to pay for everything’, she said it ‘was that kind of generosity she was looking for’ – which is just plain confusing. The poor guy didn’t stand a chance.
How on earth is that fair? Why should the man be made to feel guilty about not wanting to pay for food that, once again, he did not eat?
UNILAD spoke to one woman named Lynda, who made an appearance on the latest season of First Dates, about who should pay the bill.
Lynda explained that although she would offer to split the bill, she would judge a man who didn’t pay.
Although I would always offer, on a first date if the guy didn’t pay the bill I would think it’s a sign of things to come.. i.e. he’s mean..
But after the first date.. I think it’s defo [sic] split each time…
Lynda didn’t expand on exactly why she would consider a man who didn’t pay to be ‘mean’, but it’s this kind of assumption that can lead men to feel pressured into paying the bill, and to feel guilty when they want to split it.
At the end of the day, women have no reason to want men to pay the bill. In this day and age a woman could easily earn much more than a man, so why, simply because of ‘tradition’, should the responsibility fall solely on him?
We can’t pick and choose when we want to be equal with men and when we don’t. It’s a dangerous mentality which really doesn’t have any benefits.
The stigma encourages men to go out of their way to be the ‘perfect gentleman’, and as a result it could either put unwarranted pressure on the man to cough up, or give them a feeling of power or ownership over women.
Women have come so far in being considered equal to men – we shouldn’t set ourselves back by encouraging romantic interests – male or female – to win us over with money. Don’t expect a man to pay the bill, just because he’s a man!
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.