Society and the media pressure women to look a certain way, so they push certain products in our direction to help us achieve and maintain that standard, says the writer. File picture: Pixabay
Who should pay on a first date? Me, him, or do we split the bill?

“He should pay, obviously,” is how I would have responded to this question in my late teens. I was brought up in a conservative environment, where I was taught it was not only up to men to ask women out, but they were responsible for settling the bill.

At 16 I knew exactly what to do when a spirited waiter put the cheque on the restaurant table: “The Reach.” Though I had no intention of paying, I reached for my purse. My date, a perfect gentleman, stopped me in my tracks.

As predicted, he said something to the effect of, “Don’t worry, tonight is on me.” I put up a mild fight, but finally smiled warmly and uttered the four words I had been practising all day: “Okay, if you insist”.

Things changed after high school, when I was introduced to the political ideology of feminism. Since then, bills have been split 50:50. If I believe that men and women are equal, I’ll have to put my money where my mouth is and pay my half of the bill.

Yet, on my last date, earlier this month, I let the man pay the bill. At no point did I pretend to reach for my purse or put up a fight when he took out his wallet. I let him pay. All of it.

Why? Because being a woman is expensive.

In preparation for this date I shaved my hair and threaded my brows, went for a manicure and a pedicure and bought a new dress. So way before the bubbly, blonde waitress handed us the cheque, I had already spent more than the date would ever cost him.

Hair, nails, make-up and clothes chow a big chunk of many females’ salaries each month.

Also, have you noticed how females often pay more than males at the supermarket for almost identical grooming products? Pink tax is real.

Society and the media pressure women to look a certain way, so they push certain products in our direction to help us achieve and maintain that standard.

However, nobody held a gun to my head as I swiped for yet another little black dress. We can choose not to indulge in these products. We can choose not to keep up with the Kardashians, and forgo the latest trends.

But women can’t choose whether or not they want to have their periods. Sanitary products like pads and tampons are a monthly expense, and they are expensive. Sex, on the other hand, is voluntary, yet the government provides free condoms.

Tampons and pads are a basic necessity, but they are treated and taxed as “luxury items”. VAT went up to 15% on April 1, which means we’re already paying more for menstrual products.

According to Cosmopolitan, the average women menstruates for 40 years. During this time she could spend up to R40000 on her period. This reality brought about #TamponTaxMustFall and created a platform to have conversations around the price of menstruation.

A Unesco report approximates that one in 10 girls in Sub-Sahara African don’t attend school when they are menstruating. For some this means missing up to 20% of school a year.

Statistics and percentages can be cold and removed. One shouldn’t forget that these numbers represent real people.

My colleagues and I visited Soneike High School a couple of weeks ago. Richard Mabaso’s Imbumba Foundation has been providing the school with sanitary pads for the last couple of years.

“I had to stay home at some point, because I didn’t have any sanitary towels. Thanks to this initiative, I don’t miss out on anything that happens at school,” said one of the matric students.