Who Will Pay?
'The gallery', as an abstracted modernist convention of art object display is a Eurocentric, classist, gendered construct. But then again so are most conventional first date locations. Dating as we know it is a 20th Century phenomenon, and reflects the particular brand of capitalism distinct to that era. Dating conventionally involves the consumption of goods and entertainment to create the experience of intimacy in public: milk bars, movies, dinner dates, cars, that sort of thing.
When courtship changed from the convention of 'calling' which took place in the home to dating which took place in public, women still had few employment opportunities and thus very little access to financial independence. The expectation that men should pay for whatever is purchased on a date continues today and is a complex social exchange that has no one singular explanation. Flirting involves innuendo and subtext. It is possible that the tradition of the man taking on the anachronistic role of 'provider' and the woman 'accepting' this performance has maintained its longevity because it is a coquettish ritual to confirm a shared attraction. But as the idiom goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch, and the 'man pays' assumptions has other, more troubling connotations.
Paying for a date apparently does come with sexual entitlement. This study from 2010 found that 'when the man paid for an expensive date, men agreed more than did women that both characters should have expected sexual intercourse'.
The argument about whether or not men should pay can sometimes cloud a more fundamental doxa of our culture, which is that expressing romantic interest in someone necessitates spending money, and affairs of the heart are therefore inextricable from the issues of social stratification. Bourgeois dating rituals celebrate consumption to either emphasise the barriers of class division or reinforce deeply entrenched cultural narratives of hypergamy, which is historically the only access women had to social mobility. Class and courtship have always gone hand-in-hand.
Furthermore, in the era of late capitalism it is very difficult to do anything at all without engaging in the exchange money in some way, let alone the purchase of commercial romantic displays. Sure, you can do it on the cheap and write a love letter or go for a walk in the park or make a macaroni bracelet, but such activities and gestures acquire their quaint charm precisely because they are the exception, not the rule. Giselle Dates are facilitated with this problem in mind. My intervention is not a site of commercial exchange. You can’t buy drinks or dinner or pop-corn. You cannot buy any contemporary art either. No money here. Money can be a bit of a problem; someone always has more of it.