Payback Time

Dear Auntie, As a lifelong feminist, I've always insisted on sharing the costs on dates. But I only work parttime and have money troubles, while the man I'm now seeing earns a lot more than me. So he always pays when we go out on dates.We've never talked about it but I feel awkward. Does that make me a bad feminist? Yours, Anne Elliot, Bath

May 1, 2007
2 min read

Dear Ms Elliot,

Take off the hairshirt, sister. If he’s got the money and you’re skint then let him pay.

In fact, there are good political reasons why he should pay. The UK has a gender pay gap of 17 per cent for equivalent work, according to official figures. That almost certainly underestimates the true picture, since women still don’t get these equivalent jobs. So next time he pays the bill at a restaurant, don’t think of it as confirming the patriarchy – treat it as a little bit of wealth redistribution. No need to feel awkward or guilty about it.

In my misguided youth, I used to sing that ‘If women were paid for all they do, there’d be a lot of wages due’. I thought that wages for housework would be a way to start tackling this economic inequality. But with age, and a partner who does his fair share of the cooking and cleaning (well, mostly), I came to realise that we shouldn’t limit our ambitions to a wage packet for ‘women’s work’.

Forget wages, what we need are reparations for housework.

My mother cooked, cleaned, ironed, washed and scrubbed, as women in my family had done for generations. I expect it’s the same in your family.

So next time your man flashes his cash for a cinema seat, top it up with an extra-large popcorn. And next time he shouts you a drink, make it a double. Then, as you’re nursing the hangover the following day, don’t forget to demand breakfast in bed and make sure that he does the washing-up.