If you go out on a first date with a Feminist…?

Via Waylon Lewis
on Oct 16, 2011
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…do you pay for them?


Feminists—ie strong, independent women who know their power and value equality—are the best. I’m most attracted to those who are empowered, as are many single-momma-raised gents. But…what do we do on dates, where it might seem to be a damned-if-do-damned-if-don’t-situation?

I personally always pay on the first date, as does every gent I know. But some guys (might not call them gents) disagree (see mean video at bottom). ~ ed.

I recently had a conversation with a good friend who will go unnamed (hint: he makes a cameo here). It’s a conversation I’ve had dozens of times with dozens of young men and women, and it’s this: why, in 2008, are so many of us boys expected to pay for so many of our ladyfriends?

Now, on the first date, call me old fashioned, but I’m happy to pay. I don’t mind, though, if my date “pretends” to want to go dutch—a gesture toward the wallet is sweet, but unnecessary. Once we’re “dating,” however, I find it offensive if I am expected (assumed) to pay. Aren’t we equal?

Well, no. It’s a crime that candidates for political office don’t talk about enough: professional women make 75.5 cents on the dollar compared with professional men in the same position.

Coincidentally, the other night, my buddy said, look, I’m happy to pay 75% of the time. Call it chivalry. Call it the individual modern man’s gesture toward righting our national status quo wrong.

In my case, I’m lucky if I have $500 in the account at any given time—and I’ve got zero family money behind me. But this has little to do with money. I’ve had poor girlfriends who, despite being somewhat younger, insist on paying dutch. I’ve had rich ones closer to my age who never once offered. I’ve had an older girlfriend, much poorer, who nevertheless insisted on taking me out once in a while.

It’s a question, I guess, of how women see themselves in today’s society. And it’s something difficult to talk about. The best I do, once in a while, is suggest that a date pays for our tip—or I joke about it. But the basic issue, here, is that it feels strange when there’s an expectation that I treat—and that’s the difficult part to swallow—I want my treating someone to dinner to feel like a spontaneous act of generosity, as opposed to an expected gender-based burden.

Look. I’m not trying to offend anyone, here. It just comes naturally. In any case I just thought that someone should put it out there…and I’m dumb enough to be the one to volunteer to do it.


These (ladies and) gents agree…and I wish they wouldn’t. We don’t need to be “dicks” about equality.

(deleted this video. One reader said it went overboard, and…well like many readers I couldn’t get through all of it…but rather had shared it here not as “sensical” [my original, critical intro remains above] but as an extreme view worth being aware of. Still, thanks to this reader, I see it went too far and am unwilling even to hold it up as a bad example)

Who Pays on a First Date? (youtube.com)


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


32 Responses to “If you go out on a first date with a Feminist…?”

  1. Seems fair that the person who does the asking pays…regardless of gender. Actually, that seems pretty fair even with platonic & same sex friends too…I love taking friends out & am happy to pay for both of us when I can afford it. Sort of like you wouldn't invite someone to your house to dinner & expect them to bring it. No…I guess that analogy doesn't totally work because most people would offer to bring something. In a relationship, paying for stuff should definitely be shared…not keeping score of whose "turn" it is or anything…just not one person all the time.

  2. emiv says:

    Just to clarify men can also be feminists!

  3. elephantjournal says:

    Cynthia Beard I don't expect the man to pay, but it is a nice gesture that I appreciate. The thing that disturbs me about the part of the video that I watched (confession: I didn't make it to the end) is the emphasis on the economics of dating. While money tends to be part of most dates (even though some of the best dates are free), I'm bothered that the the main thing these people are discussing in terms of gender politics is "who pays." In assessing whether or not a date went well, the last thing I want to do is commodify it.

    Irene Newkirk If the guy asks me out he is going to pay, if we go out again together then we could got dutch. He has to have the abilit to pay every time!

    elephantjournal.com I didn't love the video, as said. ~ W.

  4. elephantjournal says:

    Well, then, we all need to change the dynamic and make it more comfortable/fun/okay for women to do the asking—which is still verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry rare. ~ Way

  5. leah323 says:

    I’m so disappointed at this display of hatred against women. I didn’t expect something so ignorant coming from elephant journal. So sad right now 🙁

  6. leah323 says:

    Woww!! I tried to leave a comment on the YouTube video that I felt it encourages violence against women and got a response seconds later in my email that stated “We don’t allow mindless cunts to comment on our video.” I’m shocked and disgusted.

  7. yogi tobye says:

    How does a discussion on who pays for a date equate to hatred towards women?

    Nobody here likes the video BTW. It was put up because nobody likes it… I think if you read again that you'll find Waylon mentioning that…?

  8. elephantjournal says:

    What?! That's not from us, certainly. We're all for respectful comments, whether positive or negative, as long as respectful and fair-minded. ~ W

  9. elephantjournal says:

    Some women do ask men out, but it's rare. Just hung out with two women pals at the end of the night, and they seemed mystified / excited by the notion that they could approach a man at a bar and be forward. I don't blame them—too often "society" seems to say that's "slutty" or desperate—when at best it's confident, at worst such forwardness from either gender is brave, gutsy, honest, great, fine. ~ Waylon

  10. JLB says:

    For the record, I'm a staunch believer in the person who asks for the date pays for the date, out of courtesy-man or woman.

    That said, drawing parallels between Nazi girls and prostitutes with a woman not paying half of the bill when a man asks her out? It's hyperbolic, demeaning and just plain stupid…all reasons why it doesn't belong in an online magazine about leading "the mindful life."

    Suggestion 1: Be direct and have a conscious conversation about money with the women you're asking out.
    Suggestion 2: Take down the video and replace it with an apology to your readers, male or female, and any female staff/interns you may have that are part of the team that puts Elephant Journal together.

  11. yogi tobye says:

    Well the discussions hopefully lead to appreciation and not just people trying to push their point on others.

    I guess at the end of it all, it's about knowing what we personally need and understanding our little strange twists that we've learnt from society and how we need to get past them.

    My frustration in not knowing what Women really want has made me lose interest in the whole dating scene and it's probably that lack of interest that will get me asked out by a Woman that wants to buy me dinner…. AAARRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!

  12. TMC says:

    The video may have been tough to watch in some ways (some comments in it were questionable, no doubt) but it had a lot of valid points as well.. and I feel as bad for the women as i do the men involved in any of it.

    For me, it doesnt come down to "man or woman", it comes down to "type of person".

    During my first year of university i found feminism, and i took out of it what i needed for myself, and it helped me a lot, but any time i'd use the word "feminism" in any of my social media outlets it would ensue in long winded reasons why i must hate men and never shave…
    the moral of that story: the word feminism means soo many different things to so many different people, that i dont use the word any more for fear of being taken out of context. I would rather humanism or to be more silly "peopleism"

    the entire "empowerment = being sexual" movement is one that i cannot wrap my head around.. it's confusing. i try to stay away from it (and keep my children somewhat away and educated). i have no TV in my house anymore, in a personal protest against the "regular" media.

  13. Lezlee says:

    The video really does not reflect the point trying to be made in the article. I find it very offensive and degrading to women and makes the producers look pathetically small minded. One can only assume that the author(s) have suffered in some way by/at the hands of a woman and this is their pay back. It is sad!

    The feminist movement was started in order to give women some strength through voice in an unjust and patriarchal society. As with most movements (including those involving Only men) there are those who will take it to the extreme. This does not and never will reflect the majority. Even in today's so called 'liberated' times, women still generally earn less, struggle ten times more to make it into top positions, are more likely to suffer from violent attacks and are still seen as being the weaker less important sex. Regardless of the focus in the video on women 'taking over' we still live in a very patriarchal society and things haven't changed in some areas as much as we would like to think they have.

    What is needed more than a debate on who should pay for dinner is an appreciation and understanding of each other's strengths. Skills such as nurturing, communication, understanding, compassion and love that have previously been seen as signs of weakness and only good enough for a woman to have should be valued by both male and female. These are the skills that will move society forward; not (macho?) skills such as violence and greed.

    Why should it matter who pays for dinner as long as you have both had a good time and enjoyed the evening? Surely there are much more important matters pertaining to the evolution of mankind than who coughs up the dough……

  14. elephantjournal says:

    JLB, that video is offensive, we don't love it, and it's being held up—much like, say, an image of war or the KKK or Hitler in another context—as a point for discussion, not a representation of our views. If that was our view, I would certainly not only apologize for having posted it but take it down in a second.

  15. elephantjournal says:

    I do think it's a symbolic, important question to explore—how money and romance and equality are mixed up in the dating scene. Dating can, of course, lead to love and marriage and the baby carriage—it's healthy and helpful to be open and truly loving and respectful from the get-go, not go with the status-quo because it's just that: what's expected.

    That said, yes, I always pay on the first date! If a date however said, no! I'd like to pay or let's go dutch! I'd be surprised, and charmed by that. ~ Waylon

  16. elephantjournal says:

    PS: the notion that I appreciate that video, despite clearly stating that I didn't, is in itself offensive. And don't you worry: Linsdey, Samara, and the rest of our team tend to boss me around–we enjoy and appreciate each other, and treat each other with respect at all times. Thanks!

  17. catnipkiss says:

    OK, I think I will be getting in a little bit of trouble here, but here goes…. I think that in the beginning, before you are an established "couple" and just dating, that if you, as a woman, are intimate with the gentleman (I didnt actually say "putting out"!), he should be paying for the dates UNLESS you have agreed before the date that it is split or he is broke. I have had a few awkward dates where the check just SITS on the table forever …. and why that is more awkward if you are already sleeping together, I dont know, but to me it just IS. SORRY. (I really am, I know how this sounds….) I love paying for a date when I can, I also am the type of person who brings random gifts, so its not a "cheap" thing but to me paying the check symbolizes that he values your company. Especially in the beginning of a relationship. FWIW – Alexa M.

  18. Andréa Balt says:

    Interesting talk. I consider myself a feminist and yet I sort of expect the guy to pay on the first date. Don't know why, since going dutch would also be ok.

    I relied so much on this expectation in the past that I once went out on date without money and the apparently super feminist man by my side, went ahead and paid ONLY for his theater ticket. I was so embarrassed I wanted to cry. 🙂 I didn’t know him at all and and it was too late to fake a “oh-no-my wallet!” scene.

    He ended up lending me the money and I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I don't remember if I returned it but I know I didn't return the calls. 🙂

    Once you survive the first date though, I find that the financial balance comes naturally. But it’s always easier to get past false expectations and misunderstandings when you both come clean about your relationship with money.

    So, I have an almost-blind date tonight and I’m totally bringing my wallet… just in case. 🙂

  19. "But it’s always easier to get past false expectations and misunderstandings when you both come clean about your relationship with money."

    Yes! Love you Andrea – I was hoping you would give your 2 cents here…sorry about the theater ticket incident!!! Hope the blindish date went well!

  20. yogi tobye says:

    I knew there was an easier way of saying it!

  21. yogi tobye says:

    But shouldn't the woman value the Man's company as well?

  22. catnipkiss says:

    of course! But there are so many inequities between men and women that I think the man paying shows his interest in the way she understands it. I'm an old fashioned girl in this way, so I am sure many might disagree with me. I am deeply appreciative when a man offers to pay, even for a coffee (doesn't have to be a lobster dinner.) And if I say "Let's go out to dinner," I would really appreciate it if he can tell me directly that he can't afford to buy, or would like to go "Dutch". I just don't like the little SURPRISES that I had a few times in my dating adventures last year. I don't try to break the bank, I can be frugal on my own and usually am also considering things like the price of the entree if he is paying. Dating is so complicated, isn't it? I am the kind of chick who would be just as happy if he shows up with a bottle of wine (cheap is ok if it tastes good!) and spreads out a blanket and says "Let's drink this and make love all night on the floor.." 🙂

  23. yogi tobye says:

    Cheap wine? French red or German white.. the cheaper it is, the better it is!

  24. BarryMayor says:

    Because feminism claims to be for equality and against preferred treatment based on gender. So, they should be opposed to anything done in their favor because of being female, just as they oppose males being given any special treatment.

  25. BarryMayor says:

    Let that be a lesson that true feminism is about equality, not the gender role of man as the provider. Be a true feminist and pay your own way, rather than expecting a man to do it. If you aren't comfortable with equality, you need to re-evaluate whether you really want to be a feminist.

  26. Andréa Balt says:

    You know, nothing in this world is black or white but different shades of gray. We are people, a process in constant movement, not bricks or rocks. I don’t think it’s fair to say that just because I somehow expect the guy to pay for me on our first date, I’m not a feminist or not comfortable with equality. Often times we’re not even aware of such expectations. We are a mixed result of history, education, knowledge, reason, culture, etc.

    When one says he/she is a feminist or a vegan, that’s only a description of he/she stands for and what tries to abide by; it’s not a perfect description of a perfect and idealistic state of mind and perfect behavior in a perfect world. That’s why it looks like this article was written: to initiate the conversation.

    But hey, who knows, maybe you’re that guy who, just because the girl is an alleged feminist and she didn’t bring her wallet along, you’d only pay for your theater ticket/dinner, so she can learn her lesson and pay with embarrassment instead of that feminist cash she didn’t expect she’d need. All views are equally valid, right?

    Maybe I should be banned from feminism! 🙂

  27. Yikes! Really? Re-evaluate whether you want to be a feminist? Maybe I will. I want everyone to be equal. Our genitals and defining chromosomes don't determine our worth. We are all worthy, and I'm happy to treat people I like to a meal (or to graciously be treated to one.)

  28. Eric M. says:

    Feminism is about gender equality, so there shouldn't be any more expectations of the man than the woman. Thus, the first date should be dutch or split 50/50. That is the only feminist thing to do.

  29. Blimfark says:

    I'm a straight guy who considers himself a feminist… and I don't draw a huge correlation between it & who pays the check. On a first date, I'll usually insist on paying — I'll back off if she's equally insistent but, usually, a "how about I pick this up and, if we like each other enough to get together again, you can get that?" works just fine. On the second date, I'll generally try "but, look, if you get this, then — over the space of both dates — it's like we went dutch. Why don't you pay for our *next* get together?"

    I've been out with a *lot* of women and, sadly, it's still the case that most of them make less than I do (which is not exorbitant for my area, but still a professional salary). Over time, I'm quite content with covering 2/3 – 3/4 of the expense.

  30. girlygirl says:

    Gender equality in any kind of partnership is important to me, and this includes sharing as fairly as possible the financial load of the partnership. But the dating 'game' is not a partnership, it is a negotiation, and this is why I don't think the same rules apply. Because men and women are chemically, psychologically, socially, emotionally, different, and in a heterosexual relationship, different things turn each of us on. You could argue that, on a very basic level, single men are inclined to be attracted to many women physically, whereas women tend to focus emotionally more exclusively on finding 'the one' (apologies for the vast generalisation)… Once the man has attracted the exclusive attention of a woman (by asking her on a date) and she has moved towards him by accepting, the best way for him to take things to the next level (assuming they are mutually attracted) is to convince her that he is especially interested in HER; to make HER feel special, not just one of many. One simple and effective way of doing this is to pay for the date. That's why we like it.