In this age of fighting for equality for women, we still seem to struggle with where to draw the line. Women are entitled to equal paying and status jobs, because we recognize that women are not inferior to men and deserve the same treatment. However, I’ve frequently encountered women who, while upholding this notion of equality, will write a man off if he doesn’t pay for date expenses — meals, drinks, cabs, movies, and so on. There is some obvious hypocrisy in this. If women wish to be considered equal, why wouldn’t they pay an equal amount for a night out with a man?
The historical significance of a man paying for a woman was the idea that women were daughters until they were wives, so they weren’t in a position to make their own money and would thus rely on their male counterparts to pay for them. Fortunately, women are no longer forced to stay at home and can now make their own livelihood, yet today we still retain this vestige from the past in the name of chivalry.
It’s considered courteous and good mannered for a man to pay for his date — but if this was only a matter of showing kindness to a prospective or current partner, then surely the gesture would go both ways. It’s quite unusual for a woman to pay for the man on a first date or perform gallant gestures on his behalf — but why is the idea of a woman opening a car door for a man silly, whereas when man does the same thing for a woman it’s considered sweet? No one genuinely requires help pulling a door open, so there’s no logical reason that man should do this and a woman shouldn’t.
Likewise, why do some men insist on carrying things for women? If a girl is struggling with five bags of groceries, sure, give her a hand, but if she has a single bag that only contains some bananas and spinach it’s actually somewhat insulting when a man tries to carry it.
The implication is that these activities are too difficult for women, or that females should be treated as the “fairer sex.” This benevolent sexism — a positive gesture with negative implications — is detrimental to the progress of women being viewed as capable and autonomous, and we’re setting ourselves back on the path to complete equality by accepting this kind but misguided treatment from men.
To truly be viewed as equals, women need to stop letting men pay for everything and take care of them beyond what they’re capable of. Similarly, if men wish to truly show respect for women, they should treat them as competent fellow humans, not inferiors that require financial and physical assistance.
While it’s important to do kind, thoughtful things for one’s partner, these actions need to go both ways and should be based on logic, not conventions. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way in the past century and no longer live in an era where women are subservient to men and rely on their generosity. So let’s move forward towards complete equality rather than remaining stuck in outdated and sexist standards.