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Yesterday, I did a HuffPost Live segment on paying and dating — specifically, if you’re on a mixed-gender date, who should pick up the check? Back in the day paying was a dude’s responsibility, but now it’s less clear. So I got to be the crabby feminist talking about who I think should pay, and how to negotiate date payment. And as a response, my mug ended up on the homepage of AOL (awesome) with a caption that could have just as easily read, “Jill Filipovic, leader of the online castrati” (less awesome). You can watch the whole video here, but a basic summary of my points (and a bit of expansion on some of them):
-I always offer to pay. If I eat or drink something, I expect to pay for it and am more than happy to do so. I’m not reaching for my pocketbook just for show.
-But I don’t fight over who pays. If I’m on a date and I offer to pay, and he says, “No really let me get this,” I say, “Are you sure?” and if he says, “Yes, definitely” then I let him get it and I say thank you. I certainly don’t think, “I am an INDEPENDENT WOMAN and what a SEXIST ASSHOLE for buying me a drink!” I think, “Hey that was really sweet.” If we go out again, I make an effort to pick up the next tab.
-If I were to establish a rule, though, I’d say the fair one is whoever does the asking does the paying, at least on the first date or three. That takes the heteronormativity out of it. Of course, it does have its flaws — men are still the ones doing the asking most of the time — but especially in venues like internet dating, that’s shifting. I think “the asker does the paying” is also helpful insofar as the asker is probably the date-planner, and can therefore best budget for the date given their finances. If they’re broke, they can make the date a $10 bottle of wine in the park, and they aren’t stuck paying for half of a dinner they can’t afford.
-Once you’re dating someone consistently or in a relationship, things are less dicey. I have a Communist view of relationship give-and-take — each person gives what they can, which isn’t always going to be 50/50. If she’s an investment banker with no debt and he’s a struggling actor, she pays more often. But he can make her an amazing breakfast in bed or plan a creative, cheap night out (or in).
-That said, there are lots of women who do expect men to pay for dates. And while I’m not one of them, I don’t begrudge them. Men still have most of the power in heterosexual dating — they’re the ones doing the picking, and women are more often accepting or refusing. Men are usually the ones picking the date location. And women are socially pressured to put a ton of money into preparing for the date and into being perceived as datable in the first place — we drop enormous sums on things like our hair, make-up, clothing, shoes, dry-cleaning, gym memberships, handbags, hair removal and all of the other beauty-related costs that aren’t technically required but basically are. We also make less money.
-There are a lot of reasons why I always offer to pay — and for the record, men almost always take me up on that offer — but one of the big ones is the power dynamic. If I don’t offer to pay and the dude covers my drinks / meal / whatever, I feel some sense of obligation. Not to have sex with him — it’s not that basic — but to be more… accommodating. To go out with him again even if I didn’t like him that much, for example. If I go out with someone multiple times and he always pays, it gets worse. For one thing, the decision of where to go ends up always being his call. And in our culture, money is power. Women are already often at a power disadvantage in heterosexual relationships. The “he always pays because he’s the man” model only exacerbates that.
-I kinda feel bad for men who go on dates with me. The “I’m a feminist writer” thing was either known beforehand or comes out on the date, and then when I offer to pay there’s a visible moment of panic. If they accept and let me pay, is that rude? But if they refuse, am I going to think they’re a chauvinist jerk? Almost all of the men I date end up letting me pay, but I don’t actually think more or less of them for however they go with that one.
I don’t think any of this is particularly unreasonable or militant. Other folks may do things differently, and that’s ok. But I don’t really feel comfortable just staring at the ceiling when the check comes.
Apparently, though, my viewpoint is horribly emasculating, at least judging from that AOL headline (“Jill is strong and independent — but when men try to do something innocent on their dates, she stops them immediately”). And while reading internet comments is not exactly putting your finger on the pulse of America, I found a few of these interesting:
Looks like she is perfect for the role in Gigolo!!!
The man should pay, PERIOD! Spare me the psychobabble, women’s lib, this is about how you were raised. If you’re a gentleman, you pay and you expect NOTHING but a dining companion, if it ends up more, that’s on her terms. I’ve literally shot women down cold when I got the feeling they felt any obligation for anything I’ve done for them, because I had a great mom and sis, I’d nevert dishonor them by behaving otherwise. Ladies, if you date a man who doesn’t pay or even allows you to pay early in a relationship, you’ve got a loser on your hands. If you feel any sense that he expects something….loser. If you feel a sense of obligation…you have self-esteem issues. The only thing you “owe” a man on a date he’s paying for is polite conversation, and that’s only if he’s giving you the same. PS On a first date, drive your own car in case you feel the need to leave, this way, he also doesn’t know where you live. It’s not impolite or cynical girls, a decent guy will understand.
It’s not just in dating. If my spouse and I ask our friends out to dinner and we pick the restaurant then we are expected to pay. No questions asked and inform the waiter (or waitress) to put it on one bill and give it to you personally. The best way is when you ask a person out mention the fact it’s your treat-then there will be no misconceptions when the bill arrives. If the person feels uneasy about your generosity and insists on paying their share then you tell them to kiss off. Apparently they have serious “trust issues” much like the bloggers on Feministe
I pay all the time on a date. It’s the right thing to do. The one thing I wouldn’t do is date a chick who blogs at Feministe!
Funny, when it comes to this the feminists scream blue bloody murder. YET other sexist tradition endure with no complaint, for instance: weddings and Daddy has to walk her down the aisle and ‘give’ her away like his prized possession. Explain to me why this militant feminist let’s destroy everything doesn’t apply to everything??
My experience has been that when I offer to pay, b/c I had asked him out, he says “No, let me”. Thats happened almost every time, and then of course I offer to pay the tip at least. This bothers me b/c I hear Women complain about the death of Chivalry and yet none are smart enough to realize that discussions like this, and follow through of the such, is what IS killing it! You want a Man to be a Man, well you have to LET him BE the Man and stop confusing what is and stop trying to define How To Properly Fall In Love (lets be realistic, you date to find Love).
I was raised different and old school. The lady is treated with resepct and doors are opened and chairs pulled out. At the end of the date, the man pays. Take her home, call it a night. If she is interested in another level, she will “let you know” with their feminine wiles..I have a friend born and has never left texas. He had a job to do for his company in NYC and he opened a door for a “lady” and said ma’m. She used words he never heard before and was shocked. Needless to say, he isnt going back to NYC
I fell for this BS twice when I was in my 20’s. I was/am a social worker so I dated several social workers who of course are open minded, free spirited and a little crunchy. They said the same thing as this lady and I bought into it. The first girl I dated for quite some time (she didn’t like doors opened for her either). When things started not working out she said one of the things she did not like about me was that on our first date I wasn’t man enough to pay the bill or open doors for her. She told a lot of people this and what I learned was this was not a spit thing but really is the way she feels. The second girls was similar wit the dutch thing. I told her I was uncomfortable going dutch because of my previous situtation. She said that girl was full of BS and she was not like that. We did not date as long for I thing she liked my friend better but she told a bunch of his friends that I was cheap and was not “man enough” to pay on the first date and beyond. I never made that mistake again. I am married now and have been for years so my money is her money, luckily she makes more money now than me (she is a DR.) so life works out.
PS – Both of those girls are 40 and single.
This is why women can’t find husbands, they are so worried about power that they simply turn off men.
No wonder this beautiful lawyer and not so bright woman is still dating….Let the man pay sometime and you pay others times. Invite him out and you pay, this is not that difficult…so why make it. I’m old school and the man pays, moving forward to not look like a gold digger, I will offer to pay the tip or treat at another time.
She’d rather do the smack down in public. I despise women resenting chivalry and men being men. There is a difference in genders, different expectations, and I want that considerate, strong man of the past that is becoming extinct. A simple thank you will do. IF there is a next time (with her I doubt it), it can be well established who treats.
she can come collect me anytime and take me out to dinner to show that she is liberated
If she pays, it is communicating 2 things:
1. THIS IS NOT A DATE
2. I am an overly strong feminist, and like to turn off most all guys.
I actually have some degree of sympathy for hetero men out there dating: It is really hard to know what to do on a first (or second or third) date when it comes to the check. You want to be a gentleman, but not sexist. You want to be polite, but being polite means making your date comfortable and you don’t know her very well yet. You want to date, but you don’t want to go broke doing it. You want a gender-egalitarian relationship, but we live in a very unegalitarian world. It sucks! And there is no silver bullet correct answer.
But it sucks for women, too. And it sucks to be publicly berated no matter what we say. I think I took a pretty moderate path here — I don’t expect men to pay for me, but when they do I think it’s very nice and I appreciate it — and there’s a comment section full of men and women saying that I’m militant and will be single forever because I turn men off. And frankly, that’s part of the reason I bring up the “I’m a feminist writer” thing very early, either before or on a first date — I don’t want to spend time with men who are freaked out by that. It’s a waste of both of our time.
But can you imagine if I had gone of HuffPost Live and said what half the male commenters are already saying, and what a lot of women do but never say out loud (at least not in mixed company): That men should always pay for dates, and men who don’t are unchivalrous cheapskate jerks? Or even, women make 73 cents on the dollar and funnel a significantly higher proportion of our disposable income into jumping through all the hoops of beauty culture so that we’re perceived as attractive by the men who are taking us on dates, and so therefore the men should pay? I’d be on the front page of GoldDiggingWhore.com.
I’m pretty lucky that dating hasn’t been all that hard for me — I live in a big city, I’m pretty outgoing, I have a wide social circle, I go out and meet new people fairly regularly, I date online, etc etc. Meeting someone I like enough to date exclusively and for a long time? That’s the tough part. But finding someone to get a drink with isn’t too tricky. So I do have more than a little experience with the ins and outs of Dating While Feminist. And the sad truth is that a lot of times it sucks. It sucks more as I get older — when you’re 22, there are lots of dudes who think your little feminist hobby is a cute trifle. When you’re almost 30 and men are already slightly panicked because they assume you want marriage and babies (or, just as often, because they want marriage and babies and the clock is tickin’), the idea of dating a feminist is less appealing. Some men want to be equal partners in a relationship and a marriage; some men want to be equal partners in child-rearing and in mutually supportive careers. But the sad truth is that most actually don’t. Even the liberal ones — they’ll support policy changes like equal pay, they’ll read Gail Collins, they’ll think Michelle Obama is awesome, they’ll argue in favor of federal parental leave. But at the end of the day, in their own homes, they want a stay-at-home wife to do the vast majority of the work raising the kids, tending to the house and allowing the dude to focus all of his efforts on his personal success (insert usual caveat here about how SAHMs can be feminists, too, but I’ll go ahead and say that men who want to marry women who stay home, or who expect that their wives will stay home, are not pro-feminist men or men who are seeking out egalitarian, feminist marriages).
But there’s also something very powerful and very convenient about having dating weeding-out mechanisms. They aren’t going to help you get married tomorrow. They aren’t going to get you a boyfriend or a girlfriend ASAP. But they will make you a lot happier, and they will help point you towards the right kind of people for you (and away from the wrong ones). The feminist thing is a good one. And so is the issue of who pays. I want to date someone who is kind and generous and thoughtful and interesting and smart and attractive and nice to me; I want someone to date me because he thinks I’m kind and generous and thoughtful and interesting and smart and attractive and nice to him. Men who meet all of those criteria will often offer to pay for dates. What they won’t do is get pissed if you also offer.