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I’m a feminist, but I still think men should pay for the first date



This week, a TikTok video of a divorce attorney explaining why men should always pay on the first date sparked controversy. “Men should always pay on the first date, for our own good,” it says. “Your date, whoever that is, may very well be the person you end up marrying.

“[If] your date just sits there expecting you to pay as if that’s the obvious course of action, you just learned that the person in front of you is entitled.”

My peers and I were discussing this very own topic a week ago. One of my friends said that if a girl expected him to pay for a date just because he’s a man, he’d “be done”.

When another friend mentioned that her time was worth a lot, but she was “too cool for gender norms these days”, I started thinking about how complex, gendered, and political this moment can be.

Everything is gendered, and women suffer negative consequences due to it. For instance, the perception that women exaggerate period pains, even though they can be as bad as heart attacks, is rooted in sexist stereotypes. We may see ourselves as progressive, but sometimes even our unconscious gender bias can affect our perception of women.

So why, whenever gender norms benefit women, should we reject them? I don’t think I’d ever expect a guy to pay during the first date, but I’d certainly perceive one who does as chivalrous.

Women already have it harder. According to last year’s ONS data, nearly all job types in the UK have experienced an increase in the gender pay gap. Also, it’s no secret females face the pressure to keep up with unrealistic beauty standards, certainly more than men. The average woman spends £95.94 on makeup and £162.52 on their hair annually. British women spend £161m a year collectively on nails. Don’t even get me started on waxing!

So, if you’re a straight man, keep in mind next time you go on a date that, if they’re using cosmetic products, they’re doing their best to feel good and look good for themselves. Still, they likely took the time to choose a nice outfit and put makeup on to be with you.

A simple comment like “your eyeliner looks great” goes a long way. After all, they probably took longer and spent more money on self-care products than you — all to feel good, get ready for a date and keep up with societal expectations.

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And why wouldn’t straight males pay it if it also benefits them? Trauma therapist Lisa Smith, says: “By paying, you get to learn a lot about the other person and I much rather have people learn about people by watching how they interact ‘out in the wild’, in real-time than answering silly questions. Do they say thank you? Do they even notice you paid? Do they offer or suggest they pay?”

Ultimately, paying at the end of the date can be an opportunity to find out about who you’re dating. You’ll learn if they have conservative or liberal values, if they appreciate a kind gesture, whether they make assumptions or not, all based on a tiny moment when the bill gets to the table.

While a woman doesn’t need you to “pick up the tab”, doing so is generous and shows that you appreciate all the effort she puts in getting ready, showing up and facing a world in which double standards still prevail.

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