Feminism | Posted by Ashley B on 01/25/2012

Let Me Buy You Dinner



“Let me buy you dinner,” he said with a smile. He looked at me with confidence. He was close to me in age, and handsome. His actions were presumably innocent. On the surface, there was no reason for me to refuse. He thought he was simply asking me on a date, but it implied a deeper meaning.

He didn’t phrase his proposal as a question, but I still had a choice. I could say yes and smile endearingly; I could take the sandwich he wanted to buy me and thank him for his generosity. But I knew that if I wanted to live with myself, the answer would be no. I could not carry on as a hypocrite. I could not relinquish my self-respect for a sandwich.

“Why?” I asked him. He was uneasy now. There was a possibility that I was going to turn down his advance. “Well,” he ventured, “I was hoping we could eat together. And you know…you’re a girl. If I’m in your company, I have to pay for you.”

He seemed so clueless. There was no reason he couldn’t just ask me to sit with him. I didn’t want to be rude, but I needed to make my point. I wanted him to see that I was as capable of caring for myself as he was. “Thank you for the offer, but I’ll pay for myself.” I turned to the cashier, “Can I get that to go please?”

The cashier’s scowl conveyed her annoyance. She didn’t see me as a person standing up for my right to equality and self-determination. She saw a stuck up, unappreciative girl. She silently handed me the sandwich and my change. I took both and made for the exit.

I am expected to adhere to a set of unwritten rules that men are not subject to. From an early age I was taught that the meaning in my life would come from the man I marry. The law says that I am allowed to work, but if I dedicate all of my energy to bettering myself instead of caring for others, I am considered unfeeling and selfish. If a man makes the same decision he is applauded. Double standards are rampant in this society. People cling to twisted traditions. I am going to take a different road. I want to use my talents to change the world. I won’t be lulled into just settling down with someone exceptional – I am going to be exceptional. And I won’t let a few admonishing glances get in my way.

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  • Kristen A @ at 3:51 pm, January 25th, 2012

    I cannot go a single day (night, really) at work without some guy who I have never seen in my life asking, nay, saying he will buy me a drink. Nothing is more annoying than that scenario, since firstly I can certainly pay for myself if I happen to want food/a drink/anything and secondly if I were to accept I would be obligated, in the eyes of most men that I’ve encountered, to them in some way. Also, it annoys me because at work (as a cocktail waitress) I am regularly required to be overly polite to rude, disrespectful people and simply stating “no” might lower the tip percentage I receive. A lady has to feed her chihuahua somehow!

    Does anybody else here find it so amazingly irritating that many men will only stand down if a woman has a boyfriend/fiance/husband? We do not have to justify why we have no interest in accepting something from someone or or no interest in going on a date with them, yet that is frequently the quickest response to come out of my mouth (I do have a long-term boyfriend, but that’s irrelevant). Ugh. It’s been a rough few days.

  • Talia bat Pessi @ at 11:55 pm, January 25th, 2012

    Beautiful. Everything you said in that last paragraph totally reflects what I’ve felt my entire life, too.

  • lolita @ at 8:15 am, January 26th, 2012

    . . it’s just a token, let him pay sometimes as long as he lets you do the same. . .

  • Ann @ at 6:14 pm, January 26th, 2012

    Lolita, we’re talking about strangers here not boyfriends.

  • Hecko @ at 3:23 pm, January 27th, 2012

    I must admit, I agree with lolita. I like to take my girlfriend out dinner, and when I do, I pay for her meal as well as my own. Inversely, when she asks me out, she pays for me as well as herself.

    So from my point of view, it’s like lolita says; paying it’s just a token, like a different way of saying “thanks for taking time out to spend with me, I really enjoyed your company” or something along those lines. Sometimes, it’s just that I want to pamper her, and sometimes, she wants to pamper me.

    That having been said, I can totally relate to your line of thinking in the scenario you’ve presented, and I find it admirable.

    However, in certain other scenarios, I would agree with the cashier’s line of thinking.

    Therefore, I’d like to ask, if he hadn’t come off as such a dick (no pun intended) towards the end, but had just answered “Well, I was hoping we could eat together,” would there still have been a problem?

  • HarrietM @ at 10:54 am, January 29th, 2012


    @Heck & @lolita: She is talking about a total stranger. A total stranger who thinks that the way to talk to a woman is to offer her money. That is not at all the same as letting your boyfriend pay for your dinner this time and you pay next time. So, yes. There would still be a problem.

    The stranger is not asking if it is okay; he is announcing that it is going to happen. “You will let me buy you food and then you will talk to me and entertain me. You should say nice things to me because I have bought you food and you would have starved if it weren’t for me. Let’s go sit over there so we can be comfortable while you gush about how awesome I am and I can tell you that you are pretty because that is all I need to know about you.”

    Even if the stranger is handsome and interesting and just the nicest guy *ever*, he has just put a woman in the position of being obligated to him before she even knows his name. He has established that from this point forward in the relationship, he is the one who in charge. He will take care of her and she does not need to do anything but be pretty.

    The only way to get out of that situation without having him or nearby witnesses judge her as a b*tch is to cater to his massive ego and apologetically tell him that she has a boyfriend or a husband already and she is terribly sorry, because he is SO amazing, but she will have to decline. To quote from a blog post on “tigerbeatdown” (link below): “You do not have the right not to interact, as far as these guys are concerned.”

    How is that a safe environment for women? How is that “just” anything?

    I read the blog post (posted below) a few months ago and find it to be just about the best explanation of what it is to be a woman in our culture. I wish I’d had access to this information when I was in my 20s.


    @AshleyB: Keep standing up for yourself. I am so glad to hear young women being strong and capable and not letting our insane cultural standards squash them into boxes. The more you stand up for yourself, the more men hear that their methods are not acceptable, the better it is going to be for all women in our culture.

  • Ashley @ at 10:50 pm, January 30th, 2012

    @Hecko: The problem was not only the way this man phrased his question or the expectation that goes with it, but also the double standard. Most of the men I know would see it as an offense to his manliness if I payed for his dinner, as if I were suggesting he were incapable of paying for me. I resent the implication that I am unable to pay for myself. I prefer to pay for myself because giving money to someone usually denotes an exchange of goods. I know that isn’t what consciously passes through your mind, but I dislike the suggestion that I pay for the pleasure of someone else’s company or that anyone would pay for mine. Going Dutch is just simpler.

  • Baby Steps are Best « zdix @ at 9:47 pm, February 2nd, 2012

    […] http://thefbomb.org/2012/01/let-me-buy-you-dinner/ […]

  • Anna @ at 1:51 am, February 3rd, 2012

    Why didn’t you just inform him of his mistake and then eat with him… What the hell. You’re giving feminists a terrible rep. You don’t punish someone out of ignorance. Most people don’t understand the impacts of such a statement. Explain it to them nicely… Don’t be a bitch. This is why feminists like yourself come off as elitist jerks.

    And for all the other commenters… She’s not standing up for herself. She’s being a terrible person. This man meant NO offense. She should have just informed him of the issue then had lunch with him. Instead, she choose to be an elitist bitch and walk-out on him just so she could write an article on this site and feel like some moral goddess. What the hell?

  • Baby Steps Are Best « thefeministblogproject @ at 1:35 pm, February 10th, 2012

    […] http://thefbomb.org/2012/01/let-me-buy-you-dinner/ […]

  • Jake @ at 12:58 am, February 15th, 2012

    Next time a guy asks you something like that, you should say something like “how about I buy you dinner instead?” and see how he reacts.

    If this gender role were reversed, I’d certainly use that to judge how a potential suitor viewed me.

    Does someone want to spend time with me, and figure that I were more likely to say yes if I didn’t have to pay? Or do they see me as meat they need to throw money at before they can get any further?

  • Svetlana @ at 8:40 am, August 15th, 2012

    Men have to pay for ladies, open the doors and help to carry hard boxes.. It’s normal. If a guy doesn’t pay for me, it shows he is greedy. And yes, I can pay for myself, but why should I? I don’t feel that I owe him something, I am not obliged, it’s his offer. I let him feel he is a man. And I want to feel a woman. Not as a piece of flesh. And I’ll never buy a dinner for a man, unless he is my son or dad. This exaggerating with paying and stuff.. If someone pays for you, he likes you at least. That doesn’t mean that he wants to get you to bed. If he finds you sexy-ok. But you can say “thank you” and go home alone.

  • Nicole @ at 7:04 pm, December 18th, 2015

    Not that I don’t respect your opinion, but I do think that your general disdain for having a man pay for you is alarming. At some point, you as a woman will have to choose between your career and your children. Now, I’m not saying both don’t happen for some women. But as someone who has worked with such Girl Bosses who have the dream career and dream family, I can tell you that its a thankless job. At the end of the day, they wear the pants in the relationship and can’t ever feel like the damsel in distress or like she can even take a break from work while she’s pregnant (not good for the child either BTW). So while your attitude can fly while you’re young and independent, you will face the consequences when you either find a man who uses your “can do” attitude to save himself effort, or you wil become the husband per se. Food for thought.

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