Chauvinism, in its original and primary meaning, is an exaggerated, bellicose patriotism and a belief in national superiority and glory. It is an eponym of a possibly fictional French soldier Nicolas Chauvin who was credited with many superhuman feats in the Napoleonic wars.
By extension it has come to include an extreme and unreasoning partisanship on behalf of any group to which one belongs, especially when the partisanship includes malice and hatred towards rival groups. Jingoism is the British parallel form of this French word, when referring to nation. A contemporary use of the term in English is in the phrase male chauvinism. Because "chauvinism" is most often heard in this context, it is often mistakenly believed to refer exclusively to "male chauvinism" such as anti-feminism and sexism.
Chauvinism as nationalism
In "Imperialism, Nationalism, Chauvinism", in The Review of Politics 7.4, (October 1945), p. 457, Hannah Arendt, the political theorist, describes the concept:Chauvinism is an almost natural product of the national concept in so far as it springs directly from the old idea of the "national mission." ... [A] nation's mission might be interpreted precisely as bringing its light to other, less fortunate peoples that, for whatever reason, have miraculously been left by history without a national mission. As long as this concept did not develop into the ideology of chauvinism and remained in the rather vague realm of national or even nationalistic pride, it frequently resulted in a high sense of responsibility for the welfare of backward people.
Chauvinism as sexism
Male chauvinism is a term used to describe the belief that men are superior to women. It is often used interchangeably with "sexism" and is closely associated with misogyny and perceptions of women as inferior to men, especially intellectually. The unqualified term "chauvinism" is far more likely to refer to a male chauvinism than female chauvinism in the context of chauvinism as sexism.
An often cited study done in 1976 by Sherwyn Woods, Some Dynamics of Male Chauvinism, attempts to find the underlying causes of "male chauvinism."
- Male chauvinism was studied in the psychoanalytic therapy of 11 men. It refers to the maintenance of fixed beliefs and attitudes of male superiority, associated with overt or covert depreciation of women. Challenging chauvinist attitudes often results in anxiety or other symptoms. It is frequently not investigated in psychotherapy because it is ego-syntonic, parallels cultural attitudes, and because therapists often share similar bias or neurotic conflict. Male chauvinism was found to represent an attempt to ward off anxiety and shame arising from one or more of four prime sources: unresolved infantile strivings and regressive wishes, hostile envy of women, oedipal anxiety, and power and dependency conflicts related to masculine self-esteem. Mothers were more important than fathers in the development of male chauvinism, and resolution was sometimes associated with decompensation in wives.
Female chauvinism is a less commonly used term used to describe the symmetrical attitude that women are superior to men. The term female chauvinism has been adopted by critics of some types or aspects of feminism; second-wave feminist Betty Friedan is a notable example. Ariel Levy used the term in similar, but opposite sense in her book, Female Chauvinist Pigs, in which she argues that many young women in the United States and beyond are replicating male chauvinism and older misogynist stereotypes.
- ^ a b Oxford English Dictionary
- ^ The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. http://www.bartleby.com/68/24/1224.html. Retrieved 2008-12-04. "Chauvinism is "fanatical, boastful, unreasoning patriotism" and by extension "prejudiced belief or unreasoning pride in any group to which you belong." Lately, though, the compounds male chauvinism and male chauvinist have gained so much popularity that some ill informed users may no longer recall the patriotic and other more generalized meanings of the words."
- ^ Some Dynamics of Male Chauvinism, Sherwyn M. Woods, 1976, http://archpsyc.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/33/1/63
- ^ "If I were a man, I would strenuously object to the assumption that women have any moral or spiritual superiority as a class. This is [...] female chauvinism." Friedan, Betty. 1998. It Changed My Life: Writings on the Women's Movement. Harvard University Press
- ^ Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, Ariel Levy, 2006, ISBN 0743284283
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.