The upscale seaside restaurant gave couples different menus – the women’s version had no prices on it.
There’s a strong case to be made for splitting the bill on a first date.
For one, it’s 2019; and two, why should the other person pay? Don’t get me wrong, I’d consider myself a romantic: PS I Love You is one of my favourite films, and I love nothing more than being swept off of my feet by some embarrassingly grand and thoughtful gesture.
But, when it comes to dating, the feminist in me, the one who pays her own bills, listens to Lizzo and buys herself flowers on Sundays, feels uncomfortable with dumping the price of two meals onto one person.
By all accounts, this seems to be the general modus operandi of my girlfriends. Yet, rewind a few decades and things looked a bit different. Traditional gender roles saw men earning the majority of household income and, often, paying for dinner. In fact, restaurants believed women should be given “lady menus” without prices, because apparently they didn’t need to worry their pretty little heads about anything so unseemly as money.
The “ladies’ menu” was a common feature of high-end restaurants throughout Europe and, in some cases, the United States during the 1950s and 1960s. However, a successful court case brought by three women against a New York restaurant in 1980 more or less put a stop to this archaic practice for good. Thankfully, attitudes have progressed since then, and for the most part, “priceless” women’s menus are now extinct.
However, it turns out, not everyone got the memo. La Rosa Nautica, a high-end restaurant in Lima, Peru, has been accused of such sexism, after it was found to be serving women a different menu when they were dining in the company of men. Heterosexual couples were given a golden “priceless” menu for women and a blue menu, with prices, for men.
Associated Press reported that the upscale oceanside restaurant defended its actions during legal proceedings, claiming that menus without prices “extoll the position of women, considering it a pleasure for them to enjoy a romantic evening with their partner, without taking into account the cost of the services”.
However, the National Institute for the Defense of Free Competition and the Protection of Intellectual Property ruled that women must have access to the same assortment of dishes, with prices included, and fined the restaurant $62,000.
“These small things may seem harmless but at the end of the day they are the basis of a chauvinistic construct reinforcing differences between men and women,” said Liliana Cerron, an official with the agency that issued the fine.
It’s fine for one person or another to pick up the tab, or even split the bill, but in 2019, it’s about having the information and the choices. And hidden menus won’t do that.
Lead image design: Alessia Armenise