I have a question for you: when it comes to heterosexual and heteronormative relationships, who do you think should pick up the bill? Should it be split evenly, or should the man pay? To split or not to split the bill—this is the age-old debate that is now dividing opinions on TikTok among young people. So what exactly is going on and where does this trope come from?
Traditionally, the expectation to pay the bill in full has always fallen on men, in the name of ‘chivalry’. Over the last few decades however, this concept began to slowly change. Many men and women started to feel that the act is rooted in sexism, and if anything, it holds us back from true gender equality. Both millennials and gen Zers are considered to be the two most liberal generations, so it might come off as a shock that many of them do not believe in an equal fifty-fifty split.
Many argue that splitting the bill equally shouldn’t happen in a world where women are still not treated as equals. Recently, 23-year-old TikToker Kiera Breaugh went viral for sharing her opinion as to why women should not be expected to pay half of the bill while on dates with men, describing it as one of the most “insidious” effects of patriarchy.
“Men going around like it’s 2021, equal rights, right? You’re gonna pay fifty-fifty,” she stated in a video. “The fact that men expect women to pay fifty-fifty when [they] don’t get 50 per cent of anything? 50 per cent of the money, 50 per cent of the privilege, 50 per cent of the safety, 50 per cent of the space they’re allowed to take up—none of that. But, pay. Pay equal amounts even though you don’t have equal rights. Do you understand how ridiculous that is?”
“Why are we starting with women pretending like they’re equal, before they get equal? Because it benefits men. It benefits men to say, ‘Oh yeah, I’m a feminist, I believe in women paying fifty-fifty on dinner dates.’ And that is the only time they believe in equality. Make his pockets hurt,” she went on to conclude.
Breaugh is not the only person on the platform to hold this view either. Another TikTok user, Leanne, posted a stitch to Breaugh’s original video, stating, “Most men don’t actually care about fifty-fifty, except when it comes to money. They don’t care about [it] when it comes to the risks of pregnancy,” she listed as an example.
She continued, “They don’t care about fifty-fifty when it comes to the mental, emotional, and physiological changes a woman has to go through after childbirth and dealing with all their bullshit. They don’t care about [it] when it comes to the wage gap. But they do care about fifty-fifty when it comes to paying for dinner. Or moving in together, so he can ask you to pay 50 per cent of the rent.”
It’s understandable why a lot of women on the app (and outside of it, for that matter) feel that a lot of their experiences are not equally matched to those of men. The gender pay gap in the US, for example, reportedly remained the same over the past 15 years, with women earning around 84 per cent of what men earned in similar roles, according to Pew Research. Meanwhile in the UK, the Office For National Statistics (ONS) reported that while the country’s gender pay gap has been declining slowly over time, it went back up to 7.9 per cent in 2021, in contrast to being at 7 per cent in 2020.
What is crucial to point out though is the fact that this discourse taking place on TikTok is predominantly led by gen Z and millennial women. On the one hand, millennial women have been in the workforce for over a decade now, so the wage gap is something many would have experienced. But how is this different for gen Z women—many of whom are just entering the workforce—and is the wage gap something they need to worry about?
According to Student Beans, when entering the workforce, both men and women are likely to start on similar wages, the gap widening as they move along in their careers. Data suggests that 59 per cent of students have part-time jobs, mainly in fields like retail, customer service, and food (reportedly, men tend to earn 1.8 per cent more than women in the food industry). Similarly, 74 per cent of female-identifying gen Zers reported the gender pay gap as a top concern for entering any male-dominated industry (with the gap still being at 6.3 per cent in industries like teaching, 6.2 per cent in psychology, and 5.2 per cent in fashion and other design professions).
To understand this discourse a little bit more, SCREENSHOT spoke to other women about their views on this. “My TikTok sensationalises my views, but overall, I have a relatively negative opinion of splitting things financially fifty-fifty. At a bare minimum, I think there should be an equitable split—for example, two people each making 30,000 and 70,000 should have a 30/70 split,” TikTok user @arealtwit told us.
“Ultimately, I feel like over-focusing on splitting everything equally is a major red flag and indicates a lack of true commitment,” she continued. “Paying for things as a woman can feel empowering. However, creating rhetoric that undercuts women’s overall societal disadvantages with the goal to make us pay for dinner… Pathetic […] Men traditionally make more money and have more professional opportunities than women. As we make progress towards professional and financial equality as a society, other dynamics will become popular (and feasible). However, until then… Don’t let a broke dude con you into paying for his dinner in the name of feminism,” she concluded.
22-year-old Brianna, who also stitched Breaugh’s video at the time, shared: “I don’t believe the act of men paying for women is sexist. Women and men have the same rights and opportunities to have a career. I think people who label chivalry as sexism are simply looking to find ways to identify as a victim […] I can think of many far more sexist issues in the world.”
“I personally don’t date men who expect me to split the cost of bills. I have dated both types of men and found that men who pay for the bill are generally more ambitious in their career and life, which is a quality I appreciate in someone. In my dating experience, the men who expected to split bills fifty-fifty grew up in a home where their mom was the main breadwinner. I know I want more of a ‘traditional’ relationship, so this wouldn’t work for me. I do believe, however, that there are some women who would enjoy dating a man who splits bills fifty-fifty, and that’s completely okay too.”
Of course, men paying for dinner every now and then does not solve the underlying issues contributing to the gender pay gap, or any other inequalities. But it is important to note that splitting a bill equally doesn’t necessarily help that either. So why did we start doing it in the first place?
I myself am 23 and in a heterosexual, long-term relationship. I like to alternate and take turns in paying as I like the feeling of giving and doing something nice with my partner—this always felt fair. However, I can also admit that throughout the course of my relationship, my boyfriend has probably picked up the bill a lot more. I can’t tell you how much of this is due to gender expectations, and how much of it is due to our age gap—my partner is a few years older than me, and thus, was able to establish his career and income before I did, as we met when I was still a student.
For many other women, letting a man pay for them might feel uncomfortable for a multitude of reasons. In some cases, it may feel like they expect something more in return—and as we all know, sometimes rejecting a man is not as easy, or safe, as we would like it to be. In other instances, women feel a lot more independent by doing so. Long story short, everyone has a different approach to their finances.
In fact, outside of TikTok, a 2021 Student Beans survey on the new generation’s dating habits found that 43 per cent of gen Zers prefer to take turns in paying for dates (with 46 per cent of those voters being female and 29 per cent male). 29 per cent voted to split the bill in half (with 30 per cent being female and 22 per cent male). When it came to wanting your partner to pay the bill in full, female voters accounted for 21 per cent and the male just 1 per cent. In contrast, 3 per cent of women voted to pay for the bill themselves in full, in comparison to 47 per cent of men.
Of course, having someone pay for you doesn’t take away your independence, but it is also understandable why a lot of women would feel so. Gender inequality is still very much prevalent (and not just among cis men and women), so it is also valid that so many women just do not believe in a fifty-fifty split. This conversation would also be entirely different within a queer relationship. So what do you feel—is a fifty-fifty split between men and women fair?