It’s Valentine’s Day. Maybe you’ve bought a new outfit? You’ve definitely looked over the restaurant menu for tonight’s dinner, and if you’re dating a new partner – you’re probably guilty of overanalysing today’s exchanges. Despite Valentine’s Day sometimes engendering a polarised opinion amongst society, it’s widely recognised as the most romantic day of the year. And the most common form of celebration? The humble dinner date complete with the most awkward question of all: Who will pay?
One in three men will refuse to pay for dinner this year, according to new research by OpenTable. Twenty per cent of British men claim it’s “outdated” to pay for the bill every time, with young couples being much more likely to go dutch on a date (37%) than the elderly generation (17%). So, is the tradition of men solely paying for dinner dying out? For the sake of Feminism – I hope so.
In heterosexual relationships, it has long been assumed that it will be the man who picks up the dinner bill, but surely it’s time we ditch this archaic tradition.
Conversations around who should pick up the bill are dangerous as they simultaneously dilute and convolute the core message of feminism: ‘political, economic, and social equality of the sexes’. Its main aim is to promote positive inclusivity and a more egalitarian society. It is anti-feminist to assume that one gender (male or female) has responsibility to pay for the bill. If we are striving towards equal rights in our society then we must practice equality in our social behaviours and patterns. Conversations like these are unhelpful at best and damaging at worst.
If our issue is that men should pay for the bill because women still suffer economically due to the Gender Pay Gap. Then perhaps we should tackle this social issue more vociferously rather than being placated by the simple offerings of a free meal in an average restaurant. Expecting to have both, for example, opposing the gender pay gap but also that your male date will pay for dinner is contradictory behaviour. We cannot expect women to be seen as equals in society if we continue to propagate the notion that men have full responsibility over joint expenses. It compounds the myth that women are “in need”, should be “cared for” and are “vulnerable”. These are the toxic messages we should be challenging.
There is an alarming amount of rhetoric that centres on the idea that men paying for dinner is in line with “tradition” and so therefore it is a practice that should be protected. This line of argument has no place in a progressive society. There are many “traditions” that we, thankfully, shook off when we realised how damaging they were to a group to people in society. I’ll spare you the long, gruesome list.
In my own lived and observed experience, men paying for dinner or drinks in a bar, restaurant or club seemed to come with weighted expectations around 70% of the time. The most common inebriated form of courtship would be a man offering to pay for your drinks for the night in exchange for your time/company for the rest of the evening. I have examples where friends of mine have accepted said drinks (after much insistence from the man) and have been verbally assaulted when they refused to spend any more time with the purchaser. The ethics of buying women drinks in bars is still, much to my disdain, hotly debated. But the bottom line is – Men, as long as you are expecting something back from a woman when you buy her dinner/drinks, keep your cash in your wallet.
As for chivalry, chivalry is a concept that was invented by men in the 12th century as a sort of self-congratulatory ‘pat on the back’ exercise. We need to change discussions around chivalry, it not a male-exclusive practice and simply involves being nice and building an equal society. It is not up to one gender to pay for dinner and whomever does may simply choose to be nice.
So, this Valentine’s Day lets abandon the idea that the man has full responsibility to cover the cost of dinner and let us focus on some of the more pressing matters regarding equality in our society.