Who Pays Does Not Define My Feminism

I’m a college graduate in a comfortable, full-time career, living on my own in a relatively affordable city. Like the majority of people my age, my rent is too damn high, my dog’s immune system is too damn low (imagine the vet bills), the student loans are kicking in, and I refuse to stop buying my avocados. Also, like many male-dating women my age, our salaries aren’t necessarily comparable to the male population we date.

I digress.

Recently while out with an individual I’ve been involved with for a number of months, the fact that I admittedly rarely pick up the check was brought around.

We’d been dancing around the topic for sometime, both of us noticing I don’t always jump at the opportunity to pay but he doesn’t always let the check sit long enough for me to grab it either. Who is paying is never discussed when deciding what do to or where to go that evening. I believe its a habit that was developed in the early stages of our relationship, never discussing the topic and me admittedly becoming used to the fact that he always, without hesitation, comment, or concern, paid.

Until the day he said, “You talk about being a feminist but you never pay.”

On one hand, I can see where he’s coming from. I rally behind all issues feminism–equal marriage, reproductive freedom, improved sex education, #MeToo, ending FGM, breast-feeding, body shaming, cat-calling, unequal political representation, the gender pay gap, paid maternity/paternity leave–you name it, I proudly have a feminist opinion about it. I can argue politics for days and I’ll ditch a date if they voted for Trump.

But I rarely pick up the check? I get it, I understand his concern. I preach equal everything, fair everything, until I’m blue in the face. But I won’t pay every other time we go out? Or my half of our bar tab?

The trick is that my feminism is not defined by who purchases dinner and drinks.

If you’re still defining feminism by who is paying for dinner, when you believe my most important contribution to the feminist movement is if I pay my way on a date, you’ve got it all wrong. I understand when contemplating a simple, nonthreatening, male-supportive view of feminism, the female picking up the check is a must.

This particular male was replied to with, “If you don’t even practice or identify as a feminist, what gives you the right to patrol my feminism?”

He replied, “Because you identify (as a feminist) and that’s what fuels your choices. And when your choices affect me, then I have the right to comment.”

HOLD UP. When someone’s choices affect you, you have the right to comment? So when I speak up about sexism, feminism, etc., I’m not some ragging, nagging, feminist bitch? How come that right applies to your bank account, but it doesn’t always apply to, say, my uterus?

Criticizing feminist-identified women for not picking up the check is a cheap, dirty attack that undermines and negates the true purpose of feminism.

Only ever using or recognizing feminism to support a momentary, male-centered argument (like a bar tab) is not a fair use of feminism either. What about other’s choices regarding my salary or my birth control? These issues have the potential to affect men  but we don’t hear them speaking up about those. We hear them bringing up feminism when they feel it directly supports them.

My feminism runs deeper than that.

What will me paying for dinner do for society? Will it enhance the rate at which I’m more likely to hold a political position? Will it decrease the miles I have to drive and the amount I have to pay to receive a safe abortion? Will it increase my salary thirty percent, therefore matching my income to my male colleagues who have the same education and experience I do?

Forgive me if I take advantage of one of the few privileges (I will admit there are a few) of being a privileged woman–my drinks are often paid for and so are my dates. Perhaps I could pay more often and be more equal in that sense, perhaps I don’t because you make twice as much as I do, and perhaps that’s an issue of my own. Regardless, this doesn’t define my feminism.

What does define my feminist?

I refuse to call anyone a pussy, cunt, or dick–because those are body parts, not insults.
I canvas my community and help run phone banks for nonprofits, like Planned Parenthood, when I have time off.
I use individuals’ correct pronouns and view them as their true identities.
I do not support Trump and I will not vote for individuals who do.
I speak up in discussions about toxic masculinity, slut-shaming, and body-shaming.
I did not stand for the national anthem at the drive in movie theater.
I use whatever bathroom I want, and I’ll go with you when you do, too.
I will never tell another woman to smile.
I will offer lip-gloss to both my nieces AND nephews.

Growing up my parents taught me to pay for my first dates with unfamiliar men as a means to protect myself from the danger that they would leave the date feeling owed.

I will never be shamed for labeling myself a feminist for many reasons, including the fact I grew up having to deeply consider the risks of paying or not paying for a date. Did you?

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