So... Shall We Split The Bill?

Feminism on the table

Who Pays The Bill?

Women’s equality is in the news more than ever just now, and amen to that!

But how does the gender pay gap work in your relationship? If you go out for dinner with a partner, who pays? The one who suggested the meal? The one who earns more? Or should you always split the bill 50/50?

In heterosexual relationships, especially if you’re newly dating, things can get pretty complicated pretty fast. We are independent women, with the same financial and social power as men. But it can feel a bit “Pretty Woman” if a date takes you somewhere hideously expensive and insists on paying for everything.

Yet many of us admit to liking the idea of being “treated”. I mean, in this world of budgeting and grafting one’s way through adult womanhood, isn’t it nice to be allowed to take your foot off the pedal occasionally and be given something you might not be able to afford for yourself. I mean, no one hates presents, right?

Yet we know many relationships in which everything is split equally down the middle, and we bet that is often instigated by the woman.

So what is the role of financial independence in the feminist story?

The early days of the women’s movement were all about economics. Wives were doing domestic work and producing children in exchange for pocket money, respectability and a roof over their heads. Then a generation of women said “Hold on, this looks like indentured slavery!” and things began to change. Campaigns like “wages for housework” got people thinking, and a new age of equality was born, in which women could say no to pregnancy and yes to earning their own money.

But several generations later, we are still struggling to make ends meet emotionally. Women earn less, we compromise more on parenting and unlike the archetypal 1950s husband (you know, the one with the indentured slave at home), we have found that coming home after a hard day at work doesn’t mean sitting in a comfy chair with a whisky and kissing the children goodnight. It means starting our second shift as cook, cleaner and family manager. All the while musing inwardly on whether the comments made to us earlier in the day by a senior male at the office constitute sexual harassment.

What has all this to do with splitting bills in restaurants?

Everything. Because women are not yet free. And until we are, it will never be easy to decide who pays for dinner, because the power balance is so delicate.

So what’s your story?

How do you feel when someone pats your little hand away when the bill comes at a restaurant? If you like it, do you feel guilty? If you hate it, tell us exactly why.

We’d love to hear the voices of feminist Vestpod-ers on this small but weighty detail of the slow, heroic women’s movement.


Collage with photos from Joshua Ness & Laura Ockel.