Reality TV star, Bethenny Frankel, who made a fortune by sharing the secrets of being a “SkinnyGirl” to grown ass women, is now touting a relationship advice book based on what’s she learned from failed romances.
To promote “I Suck at Relationships So You Don’t Have To,” Frankel recently did an interview with People Magazine and her advice on dating seems just as antiquated and sexist as the advice you’d find in “The Rules” or “He’s Just Not That Into You.” When it comes to who should pay on a date, she offers this nugget of wisdom:
“…men need to feel in control – there’s nothing more emasculating than a woman pulling out her credit card. I don’t care how women’s lib we are.”
There are several things that are odd about this: 1.) It was said in 2015, not 1915. 2.) Frankel is a fabulously wealthy entrepreneur, who sold her Skinnygirl cocktail company for an estimated $100 million. 3.) Frankel always seemed like the kind of independent woman who’d laugh at any “defer to the man” advice.
In an article for the Guardian, David Mitchell claims that when a woman allows a man to pay, she’s signaling that the date is going well and when she insists on splitting the check, it may be a way for her to convey that the date sucked.
Conversely, Mitchell continues, when a man picks up the whole tab, he’s signaling that he’s pleased with the date and when he doesn’t, he’s signaling for her to lose his number.
Sure, this arrangement might prevent that whole “who picks up the tab?” awkwardness at the end of a meal, but it also feels vaguely prostitution-y. What’s more, insisting that men pay is not only condescending to women, it’s extremely insensitive to men on a tight budget. Being flat broke is a crappy enough of an experience on its own. To then make hetero guys on a budget feel inadequate because they don’t earn enough to pretend to be a sugar daddy for a evening, is just plain cruel.
This arrangement might have made more sense back when there were more strident barriers to women amassing wealth. Thankfully, we no longer live in the era of “female help” and “male help” sections in employment ads. That doesn’t mean everything is perfect. Women are still routinely paid less than men for the same work and women of color are paid the least of all.
This is why Bethenny Frankel’s dating advice is so troubling.
When a woman whips out her credit card to pick up the tab, she’s displaying economic strength and generosity. Calling it “emasculating” to men, implies it’s the natural order for men to earn more. Otherwise, it wouldn’t make sense to view a woman paying for a man as demanding. This only makes sense when you regard paying as a less feminine and more masculine act.
Of course, it’s pretty obvious why this rule might seem like a nice perk to some hetero and bisexual women. But in the end, is dating someone who views your displays of strength as threatening really worth a free meal?