Selective Feminism: Go Dutch or go home 

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Feminism is a topic that has seen much controversy despite being a movement based on promoting equality and progressive change. Varying definitions for feminism exist, ranging from wanting true equality for men and women to radical positions like the idea that women are biologically superior. Illustration by Kaitlyn Tran/The Daily Campus.

The definition of feminism has always been widely debated, but the most common argument designed to reach the ears of critics is that feminism is about equality, not supremacy. Finance and family are two of the biggest playing fields that feminism seeks to level. While many of the issues occur in more expansive and measurable aspects of society, such as governmental politics, the consequences of misogyny are most readily felt in the minutiae of most people’s average daily life.  

Unlike the heavier debates that often erupt at family Thanksgiving dinners, “Should men pay for dinner on a first date?” is a conversational question that many people are peculiarly outspoken about. Typically, the first topic lands on the idea that chivalry is “dead” in our modern dating scene. The concept originated in medieval times; a courteous behavior intended for a kingdom’s knights. It set a standard for protecting those who were beneath them, ergo women, regardless of their status, by honoring them with respect and benevolence. In today’s world, the cultural connotation of chivalry tends to reflect a more diminutive expression of those values - translating to what are considered “gentlemanly” actions, such as taking care of the bill. Key words: taking care.  

Expecting the man to pay for a meal is painfully close to the “Honey, I’m home!” trope — the implication that a woman needs to be “taken care of” financially; a terribly flawed concept that women have spent decades trying to break through. Feminism has fought hard for the rights that the women of this generation are privileged to enjoy. It is no secret that the bedrock of freedom from a life confined to the kitchen is a woman’s financial independence — the ability to “put dinner on the table” without the help of a man being expected.  

Feminists’ blood, sweat and tears to empower women with the freedom of choice have barely even dried with the classification of romanticized chivalry in the 21st century acting as blatant disrespect. Ignorance is glaringly evident in the unbelievably casual nature of this dialogue. It never fails to shock me how frequently I witness a woman openly admit that they will go on a date with a man they have no romantic interest in solely to get a free meal out of it. It’s often laughed off as a joke, but to be frank, it’s simply a shallow move. In the several times I’ve called someone out on their dine-n-dash move, the lighthearted mood is killed and hostile voices are quick to rise in what can only be described as a defensive tone. 

A topic often asked about in situations related to both romance and sexism, the gender roles of men and women while on a date are something that many people have strong opinions about. At a basic level, expecting men to take care of the bill for any reason undermines women’s ability to be independent and not have debts based on gender. Photo by Wiktor Karkocha on Unsplash.

A common rebuttal I hear is that whoever extends the invitation is obligated to pay; a take that is reasonable on paper. However, this logic’s validity is contingent on reciprocity — an element that is often conveniently overlooked. To put it in perspective, if your friend invites you out to dinner, whether you just met them, or you’ve known them your whole life, do you leave the house with no wallet and simply assume your friend will cover the check? Usually, you go in prepared to spend money on whatever you choose to eat, and if you don’t, you’re something we in the business like to call a “mooch.” That’s a label most people try to avoid, usually by initiating dinner as “their treat” as often as their friend does. So why are the rules any different in a situation where romance is involved?  

Our current social norms dictate men to make the first “move” — an eerie echo of the kind of cultural practices that practically scream regressive. It is important to understand how a man’s initiative actions have complex social implications, especially for a woman and her safety.  Society has always focused on uplifting men in their careers to acquire more money — a currency that buys a benefit far beyond materialism: power. That power is further amplified in situations that disarm who they control, and in the case of a woman, a bar is the most common environment that lends itself to deal some serious damage. When a man buys a woman a drink, it’s not the only transaction that occurs — with the swipe of a card, a woman’s financial control is also stolen. Now she is in debt, and the biggest bank account wouldn’t help a woman pay it off, making it more likely to resort to a different mode of payment — a return through sexual favors. A woman should never be pressured into being dehumanized just because they decided to have fun and let some guy buy them a drink.  

In theory, no interaction with another human being should come with any predetermined expectations, but in reality, these social norms are deeply ingrained within society. The long-term solution to mending and reforming generational misogyny is to build values into education that teach young men what respecting others looks like.  

Both in dating situations and in everyday life, feminism includes women being able to do anything regardless of what it defined as “appropriate” by society. For true equality to be achieved, it needs to be both possible and encouraged for women to do things that are typically seen as masculine tasks. Photo by Jonathan J. Castellon on Unsplash.

In the meantime, women can get out from under the roof that a man “put over your head” and initiate interactions. Hot take: more should be expected of women. Expressing interest in someone is an action that anyone can take, irrespective of their gender. Feminism generates the power for women to take charge, reverse the roles, seize the upper hand and reap the precious benefits of equality. 

This does not mean that men should be absolved of having manners, respect and basic human decency — that’s the bare minimum. But the idea that it’s up to the man to “court” is a social construct that encourages complacency in women who are just as capable of approaching a man with romantic intentions.  

The dynamic is objectively “off” if one party is doing more heavy lifting in the financial department than the other. If that’s okay with both parties in the relationship and has been agreed upon, then by all means, split your responsibilities into “you’re adept in financial management, so you handle the bills” and “I’m naturally inclined to maintaining hygiene, so I’ll take care of keeping the house tidy.” But at the end of the day, in the context of hetero-normative gender roles, attaching these kinds of standards to generalized expectations of men and women respectively is not the kind of forward-thinking progressive ideology that matches Stacy’s Facebook bio that reads: “Proud advocate of equality for all: feminism is the future!” 

Reciprocation is an unsaid and generally accepted standard to expect from your friends, colleagues, family and so on; so what’s stopping women from active initiation and reciprocating the same kind of effort as is currently expected of a man? Letting men “off the hook” is far from what we should be doing, but still, it is important to evaluate whether women are coming to the table with the same attitudes we expect to see in others. In other words, ask a guy out to dinner some time, and if you can’t afford to, go Dutch, or go home. 

5 COMMENTS

  1. While I sympathize with this post, in practice I have learned the hard way that us men ought to continue making the first move, paying for meals (at least initially), and so on. It’s not because I want to be owed something, but because I know that if I don’t do those things I will be compared negatively with all the men who do. I have enough personal experience to know that this will happen, most recently in the case of my ex who told me about how they were dating other men who (unlike me when we had started dating) paid for the meals. I’ve since resolved to always pay, unless the other party insists on splitting the check (which has never happened).

    As for making the first move, one serious issue is that the many men (rightly or wrongly) feel like it is less socially acceptable now to express interest in someone in real life, so we resort to dating apps. However, on these dating apps less than a quarter of the users are women, and generally women are more selective than men when it comes to whom they “swipe right” on (not that there is anything wrong with that). All of this creates an environment where there is less of a need for women to make the first move, and men have to make the first move if they want to stand out from the crowd. For similar reasons, men in real (in-person) life have to be the first to express interest as well.

    In short, while I understand where you are coming from, I do not think the dating scene currently allows for men to not pay for dates or to not make the first move.

  2. Men, if you offer to split the bill you’re shooting yourself in the foot. To Paul’s point youre competing with hundreds of guys in real life/on social media/ on dating apps and when you finally get a chance youre going to potentially throw it away over a few bucks? You dont need to spend a lot but if youre trying to save money stay at home and mind your business, dont date.

    The reason the overwhelming majority of women don’t make the first move and prefer men to cover the tab is the same reason there arent huge pushes for women in mining or for women to sign up for selective service. Having to do those things sucks

    • Right. This is not to say that all women would prefer men to pay the tab, as I’m confident that exceptions exist to the general rule. It’s impossible to avoid generalizing if you’re talking about this topic in a broad sense. But I’m persuaded that the heterosexual dating “market dynamics” (for lack of a better term) do not incentivise women to insist on splitting the check or incentivize them to make the first move, as there are very few other women out there doing that whom they have to compete with. Most men can probably count the number of times they’ve been approached or messaged first on one hand (same goes for a woman insisting to a man that they split the check). Whereas for men that pressure absolutely exists because if you don’t do it than another man will.

      • Paul, you captured exactly how damaging it is for women to expect men to pay – you feel that pressure because ever other man out there does and if not, your (already low) chance with a woman sinks even further. You said the dating scene does not allow men to not make the first move – exactly! My goal is to encourage women to initiate and make it a practice that isn’t an “exception to the rule” as you said.
        Great thoughts on market dynamics – dating apps are a whole other conversation in terms of how they exponentially breed complacency. Forget the check – now it’s who messages first! I’ve lost count of the times a girl has exclaimed “Why hasn’t he said anything?!” My answer, and what I aim to convey with this article, is always to ask “What are you waiting for?” It’s sad to see men so shocked when a woman even strikes up a regular conversation with them — my practical advice to women is to take advantage of that. Ladies, that crush you think has no clue who you are? Message him first and YOU will be the one who stands out and the chances of your success are close to 100%. It’s up to us to undo the toxic masculinity that riddles the dudes out there!

  3. This article is right that men shouldn’t pay for the whole meal, but not because women get hurt. The entire concept of men taking care of women is incredibly damaging to men as well because we have to pay for everything in that world. It is also “rude” for men to expect someone else to pay for their own food. However women get away with it. You should focus more on how it affects everyone next time.

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