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Sexism In Chivalry? A Defense From Darwin To The Dinner Tab

When a feminist argues that male courtship rituals toward women are a form of gender subjugation, a Portuguese journalist takes his own kind of offense on behalf of the male sex.

Male attention
Male attention
João Pereira Coutinho


SAO PAULO — We all have our doubts about marriage. But Charles Darwin faced the dilemma with a typical 19th-century rationalism. In 1838, as he wondered whether to marry his cousin Emma Wedgwood, the eminent scientist drew up a list of pros and cons to help make up his mind about tying the knot.

I had heard that story before, but I confess I'd never read it with attention until it was published by British newspaper The Daily Telegraph for Darwin's birthday (Feb. 12) and ahead of Valentine's Day. We're presented with two columns — To Marry, Not To Marry — the latter containing significantly more arguments.

Among the first reasons not to get hitched, Darwin mentions the "freedom to go where one liked," the need to "visit relatives and bend to every trifle," less money to buy books and less time to read them, and the potential quarrels that are a waste of time (true that, Charles).

Charles Darwin and wife Emma Wedgewood

He was much more more concise about the reasons to marry, writing that it's good to have "companionship" (especially in old age), to have someone to take care of the house, and all things considered, that a woman is "better than a dog anyhow." Though his pro-list had fewer arguments, Darwin still ended up marrying Emma. In the end, no list can defeat the love a man feels for a woman.

That was almost 200 years ago. Perhaps the love Charles Darwin felt for Emma — visible in his most personal writings — isn't suited to our modern times. Demonstrations of male affection nowadays can in fact be considered subtle forms of female degradation. Odd, you say?

It's not just being nice?

Far from it. A recent article published in the British magazine Prospect, written by Jessica Abrahams, attacks Valentine's Day, arguing that it's "a classic example" of men's "benevolent sexism" towards women. Just another way of overpowering the feminine gender, assigning women an outdated and frankly inferior role.

Offering flowers, chocolates or simply courting women is merely to reduce them to a passive and — who knows — sexually available subject. The exact same dynamic is at play when a gentleman opens a door for a lady or pays for dinner.

Abrahams is brave and spot on. For years, I was actually lost in conservative clichés myself. I also used to open doors for women and to wave my credit card at the end of fancy dinners, even at the risk of maxing out. But one day in Lisbon, a woman growled at me and my "benevolent sexism."

I woke up from my bestial slumber and was born again in my liberated masculinity. To begin with, dinner expenses were thoroughly divided — drink by drink, olive by olive — and paid separately. The money I thus saved was used in books, travels and other solitary endeavors.

Photo: Chodhound

Of course, as far as relations between the two sexes are concerned, I've kept from time to time some archaic notions of chivalry. Flowers, chocolates, private messages. But thanks to Jessica Abrahams, I've finally understood how I had been reducing women to a submissive and shameful role. A thousand pardons to all of them.

And a warning to all men: Don't be savages! For to treat a woman as a woman is, according to Abrahams, to act according to "assumptions about gender roles." It's best not to act at all, not to make any assumptions. And if that means a permanent separation between women and men, well, the extinction of the species would be better than "benevolent sexism."

And for those who are thinking about tying the knot, there's nothing better than to take Charles Darwin's list and cross out all arguments in favor of getting married. Turns out Darwin was wrong. Is a woman "better than a dog anyhow"? This is benevolent sexism. There's women, and women. And there's dogs, and dogs.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Wagner Group 2.0: Why Russia's Mercenary System Is Here To Stay

Many had predicted that the death last month of Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin meant the demise of the mercenary outfit. Yet signs in recent days say the private military outfit is active again in Ukraine, a reminder of the Kremlin's interest in continuing a private fighting formula that has worked all around the world.

Photograph of a Wagner soldier in the city of Artyomovsk, holding a rifle.

Ukraine, Donetsk Region - March 24, 2023: A Wagner Group soldier guards an area in the city of Artyomovsk (Bakhmut).

Cameron Manley


“Let’s not forget that there is no Wagner Group anymore,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had declared. “Such an organization, in our eyes, does not exist.”

The August 25 statement from came less than two days after the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the infamous Russian mercenary outfit, as questions swirled about Wagner's fate after its crucial role in the war in Ukraine and other Russian military missions around the world.

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How could an independent military outfit survive after its charismatic founder's death? It seemed highly unlikely that President Vladimir Putin would allow the survival of a group after had launched a short-lived coup attempt in late June that most outside observers believe led to Prigozhin's private airplane being shot down by Russian forces on August 23.

"Wagner is over,” said the Kremlin critic and Russian political commentator Maksim Katz. “The group can’t keep going. There’s the possibility that they could continue in parts or with Defense Ministry contracts, but the group only worked with an unofficial agreement between Putin and Prigozhin.”

Yet barely a month later, and there are already multiple signs that the Wagner phoenix is rising from the ashes.

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