Friday Faves: The Feminist’s Dating Dilemma

Recently, a few of my friends and I got into a bit of a disagreement over who pays on a date. Although a few people agreed with me that if the relationship is long-term, the couple should split the costs for practical reasons (after all, especially if you’re on a college budget, it’s hard to bear the burden of all expenses), the overall consensus was that the guy should always pay at first. Some said the first date, some the first three dates, and others advocated up to the first year. My friends argued that if he’s trying to win the girl over, this is the way to do it. Some even joked that it was payment in exchange for what they hoped would be a different type of payment later on.

Personally, I’m still in disagreement with the others on this one. The idea of letting anyone pay for me is just. . . wrong. It makes me feel uncomfortable and goes against every fiber of my feminist being. I’m a strong, self-sufficient woman; I work and take care of my own personal expenses, so why should I have a guy do it for me? And, even more to the point, why should I allow him to pay for me if I can’t pay for him? If we’re going for equality, then why is he footing the bill every time?

At the same time, I can see my friends’ point: the way our society functions, refusing to let a guy pay is usually a girl’s way of expressing disinterest. Social protocol practically dictates that if you like the guy, you let him pay.

Which, to me anyway, is a little twisted.

It’s not just paying though. There are plenty of cases in which being a feminist – or even just embracing feminist ideologies – makes things all the more difficult to figure out. We all know the whole career versus family scenario; since the woman’s place used to be the home, now that we’re in the workforce we’re always trying to balance both. But what about life goals and focuses, especially in college?

The two things that seem to dominate my life, my thoughts, and my conversations are school and boys. Everything is about one thing or the other. But the former always takes priority – it has to, right? We’re in college for education and a chance at our dream careers first, and romance second. That’s why so many people I know are so upset over a friend of mine choosing to graduate early and just work until her boyfriend’s business has taken off so she can become a wife and woman of leisure. She’s throwing away her entire potential for a guy and an old-fashioned idea that women are defined in society by their husbands’ successes rather than their own.

But, on the other hand, she’s not constantly talking herself out of liking a guy or making a move. Another friend and I have been talking about how she needs to hold off on figuring out her guy issues until after her MCAT. And yeah, that’s a life-directing test, but I’ve put off confronting a guy until after my debate competition, after a paper, after an exam- there’s always something academic to justify why dealing with romantic problems has to wait. And wait. Because school always comes first, should always be the focus, and I should never, ever let a boy sway my focus. On anything. Not even the optional one-paragraph writing assignment for the class in which I’m pulling an A.

Part of it, obviously, is the drive to do well. But part of it is also a reflection of the roots of that family versus career conundrum. You want to have the success and happiness that women fought for- and that you genuinely want and have worked for- but you can’t figure out how to balance that with the hormones and the simple desire to have someone in your life. Anytime you start to focus on guys, it feels like you’re sacrificing part of yourself, of your work. But how much are we sacrificing for this idea that career is everything?

Don’t get me wrong- I work hard, and I have a strong sense of where I want to be in five years. I have a career and a life all planned out. I want to work in international human rights, travel, save the world and the people living in it. But I can’t, for the life of me, figure out where a guy would fit in. And even now in college, I have my classes, my thesis, a job, clubs, projects- things that will help me achieve. But at what cost? I feel like I’ve been so worried about betraying my feminist ideologies that I’ve purposely pushed any chance at romance not just to the backseat, but hanging out of the trunk.

And sure, even if I were to make concessions I’d still have issues letting a guy pay for me. But does it really have to be that strict of a trade-off? Or is there a balance we’re just not seeing?

[This story was originally posted by Rachael – University of Miami.]

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