Monday, December 07, 2009

What makes a good feminist?

I just got this comment on a post I wrote a couple years ago on splitting the check.

"I need an opinion from someone who knows what they're talking about because I'm new to this whole feminist thing. I have always offered to split the check but I have never had a guy accept it until now. I have been seeing a guy I really like for a few weeks now and he lets me split the check. I'm almost tempted to say that he expects me to split it. I'm not sure why but this has really been bothering me. I guess because it seems like he doesn't think I'm worth him impressing me. Does that make me a bad feminist?"

I'm flattered that the commenter thinks I'm someone who knows what they're talking about, but alas, I don't actually feel like I am.

I mean, I consider myself a feminist, and I believe in equality of pay, of rights, of, well, everything. By the same token, if a guy asks me out, I want him to treat me for the first date. (Not anymore, I mean, with the whole married thing and all.) It's fine to split subsequent ones, although I think much more charming to alternate. But that is me.

In the scenario above, I'd be bothered as well, although I wouldn't wonder if he wasn't trying to impress me. I'd look at other things, like how he behaved toward me (calling regularly, being on time, keeping commitments, listening to me, etc) for that.

As for whether it makes you a bad feminist, I would say no.

But in questions of feminism, I'm not the best person to ask. I grew up in such patriarchal societies, in a household where my father was always in charge and always right. I deferred to men, until, well, I am embarrassed to say how old. And men always paid for everything.

In other words, I would have to say that I was rather late to feminism as well.

So I turn to my extremely bright, articulate, analytical readers.

Does wanting to be treated by a man make someone a bad feminist? What makes a good feminist?


  1. I have no idea what makes a good feminist, but I do know that if I went out with a man and he consistently allowed/expected me to split the check, I wouldn't be going out with him for long! Especialy in the beginning of a relationship. Once you've been dating a while, sure, I would pick up the check (not split it). But, in the beginning? NO.

    And if that makes me a bad feminist? Whatev. . .

  2. wanting him to pay the check doesn't make you a bad feminist; expecting him to certainly does.

  3. I agree that in a lot of circumstances, whomever did the asking should pay. If he let you chip in on the first AND second dates (assuming he asked both times), I'd raise an eyebrow - and then look at the other things, *especially* whether he puts effort into planning interesting dates. For me, a guy that plans is much more clearly trying to impress me, than a guy who simply picks a restaurant at random.

    As for feminism, I think there's definitely something to Rindy's point that feminism is mostly about women getting to CHOOSE what they want their role to be, in their various relationships. So long as you *can* take care of yourself, and don't have problems with other women paying on dates, I don't think that's being a bad feminist.

  4. I think the traditional rule of etiquette is that the person who invites should pay for that date. I think that is a perfectly reasonable standard for the first date, and consider it a red flag if someone doesn't adhere to that.

  5. Something that I find really sweet is taking turns picking up the whole check. One of my friends did this with a good friend of hers, he would pay one time and she would pay the next time, and eventually they figured it would even out. It was sweet because, other than playfully arguing who paid it last time, it got rid of the "he pays-she pays" Thing, and also said that they were always going to go out again. There was no real concern about "evening up", because there would always be another time to trade back.

    Doesn't really answer the "is that feminist?", just another way to consider I guess.

  6. I don't think this is an example of bad feminism. If it were me, I'd talk to the guy. It's never to early to communicate honestly with one another in a relationship. And an important feminist characteristic, to me, is speaking up when things don't seem right or feel right. In terms of dating, I'm from the South but grew up in a big city - so my perspective is a mix of traditional and modern. I'd prefer the guy pay, especially when he asks a lady out on a date, but I can take of myself and like to treat, too, and value equality. Good luck with the new guy Anon!

  7. If the guy asks you out, I think it would be nice to pay. Frankly, I would worry he was cheap as hell and that just cannot stand.

    I once dated a guy who joked around (kinda) about all the meals he had bought me. Well, I cooked for him MANY times. These were nice meals; steaks, homemade bread, etc. Hours of time invested and a filet mignon still isn't cheap at the grocery store. I just couldn't deal and I am a feminist. I am a feminist who cannot deal with tight asses.

  8. I really like what Caroline said; this is the arrangement I have with several friends of mine. As far as being upset or thinking the guy isn't trying to impress you if he isn't paying, I don't think there's any way to know this for sure without more knowledge than who is or isn't paying. I think that the commenter forfeited her right to be upset when she offered to split the check. Especially depending on the guy's financial situation and how much subtext he is clued in on.

    As someone who's dated guys with very little income, I know that after one or two dates, there's a hope that we've decided how much we like each other and can move forward 50-50. Besides that, people are raised to think different things are appropriate.

    As much as I love to be pampered, I think it's unfair to expect men to be clued into the fact that we still want them to pay even when we say otherwise.

  9. That's a tough one. I tend to think that a woman who believes in equality in the workplace shouldn't feel obligated to give up her desire to be "wooed" in a relationship. Work environments and relationships just aren't the same thing, so a woman that fights for equal pay and benefits in the workplace can defer to the male in a relationship (if she wants) and still be a good advocate for women's rights.

    I tend to go with the common courtesy approach to picking up the check, which is whoever did the asking does the paying. It's kinda rude to invite someone out and expect them to pick up half, or the whole check. This goes for friends too, we usually end up trading around who treats and it all works out.

  10. Ok, comment from a 44 yr old who has done a fair bit of dating since the divorce 10 years ago.
    I always prided myself on being an independent, financially secure, low maintenance, non-needy type person. (ok sometimes too independent and non-needy) in that if they bugged me too much they were shown the door rather quickly.
    But to the splitting the check thing...........well in my experience, if you split the check on the first few dates you are setting the presidence for that to continue. If he asked you out he should pay the first couple of times and then if it becomes a relationship, shout him every now and then to make him feel special too, but never ever split the first check when he asked you out. As well I agree with look at the effort he puts in to making the date something kinda special cause thats where his true thoughts lie. It doesnt have to be big or flashy, but if theres a little something special planned then he cares to impress and so he should, otherwise be careful hes not about to start freeloading and leaving his wallet behind. Many times I have been stupid enough and too generous enough and ended up being labelled as the rich girlfriend. And sponge they will, if you let them.

  11. Men should want to pay for the first date. It is a sign of respect and that he's into you. I wouldn't mind paying but I would question his integrity. I think this definitely excludes me from being a feminist no?

  12. oh holy jeebus, what a can of worms the "am i a bad feminist??" question opens! ugh. i wish we could banish the question from existence - there are no feminist police who can come and take away your feminist card. there are no elaborate initiation rituals and codes of conduct. it does get complicated - i mean, sarah palin a feminist?? that stretches credulity to me - but i worry when i see so many women almost asking for someone to take the mantle away from them because of their self-perceived shortcomings on that front.

    in general, i find it useful to think about things/decisions/ideas/etc as being able to fall into three categories: feminist, un-feminist, and anti-feminist. now mind you, PEOPLE are complicated, and can find themselves engaging in some un- or even anti-feminist things and still be bonafide feminists. (bikini waxes, anyone?? ow.) on the check-splitting thing, i'd say that if you're offering to split and then kinda secretly resenting him for taking you up on it, yeah that sounds a bit unfeminist at least. but ymmv, and that one detail of life definitely does not dictate your entire existence as a "feminist."

    /semantics rant

  13. I COMPLETELY agree with Anonymous up there!!

  14. I think the problem with a guy splitting the check is that it ruins the choreography of showing interest.
    Woman offers to split, guy insists on paying- and he does- they have both shown respect and are looking to have more dates.
    Woman offers to split, guy insists on paying, woman pays for her share anyway. The indication is that the woman doesn't want to put the guy out because she doesn't want to see him again.
    Woman offers to split, guy says okay- Well it throws everything off- you lose that indicator of what his feelings are. He may be seeing a bunch of women and isn't investing much in anyone. He may have been brought up to see women as totally equal (a great thing) or he may just be really short of money.
    So like Lisa said- look at the entirety of how he is.

  15. Eep! Great post, lady.
    I don't think that expecting a man to pay for the first date means that you're a "bad" feminist. I really hate the idea of there being bad feminists and good feminists. I feel like there are different levels of feminism and everyone should be able to find their comfort zone and be happy there. For a long time I felt like a bad feminist because I love to cook. A friend of mine made a few snippy comments about what a "good housewife" I was because I cook for Shawn every night. It really bothered me until it just ... didn't. I just got over it I guess. I like to cook; that doesn't mean that I believe I'm worth less than a man. But back to the cheque thing. Personally, I feel like the cheque should be split on the first date. I feel like it removes the pressure and expectations from the situation. That being said, after the first date I feel like whoever does the asking should do the paying.

  16. i dated a guy who insisted i pay exactly half the bill each time we went out. (we dated for over a year) we were both students at the time. i didn't mind paying but to split it evenly each time just seemed so calculating. incidentally, looking back on the relationship...other areas in our relationship was calculated as well: "i did this for you, so why didn't you do that for me?" sort of thing. i would much rather treat back and forth.

    in terms of who the beginning the one who asks should pay, imo ^^

    and no, i don't think that makes you a "bad feminist."

  17. I don't have much knowledge about the whole dating scene since I've been with the same person for 10 years, but I feel like if you (male or female) ask someone out, you should pay. There is nothing wrong with splitting things in the future. But everyone likes to be treated from time to time, so maybe trading off who pays is the best bet.

    I don't think wanting a date to pay for your dinner makes you a bad feminist.


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