Chauvinism, in its original meaning, is an exaggerated patriotism and a belligerent belief in national superiority and glory. Its eponym is a seemingly apocryphal French soldier Nicolas Chauvin, who was badly wounded in the Napoleonic wars. He received a pension for his injuries but it was not enough to live on. After Napoleon abdicated, Chauvin was a fanatical Bonapartist despite the unpopularity of this view in Bourbon Restoration France. His single-minded blind devotion to his cause, despite neglect by his faction and harassment by its enemies, started the use of the term.
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, but its meaning has not expanded beyond nationalism in the same way that the word chauvinism has.
Chauvinism as nationalism
Political theorist Hannah Arendt describes the concept thus:
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.
Technical Chauvinism has been used for those examples where inventors of a particular nationality have been idolised, one case being that of the ship's propeller. It had no sole inventor, but claims have been made for the Swede John Ericsson and the Czech Josef Ressel. The latter even has a national monument dedicated to him.
Male chauvinism in the workplace
The balance of the workforce changed during World War II through the dramatic rise of women’s participation as men left their positions to enlist in the military and fight in the war. After the war ended and men returned home to find jobs in the workplace, male chauvinism was on the rise according to Cynthia B. Lloyd. Previously, men had been the main source of labour, and they expected to come back to their previous employment, but women had stepped into many of their positions to fill the void says Lloyd.
Lloyd and Michael Korda have argued that as they integrated back into the workforce, men returned to predominantly holding positions of power, and women worked as their secretaries, usually typing dictations and answering telephone calls. This division of labor was understood and expected, and women typically felt unable to challenge their position or male superiors, argue Korda and Lloyd.
Religio-cultural and geographic spread
Male chauvinism is seen in different cultures. It is a classical concept of the Jewish and the Muslim religious traditions as seen in the patriarchial structures in the Torah and Koran. Although Hindu religion and Indian cultural practice does not strictly dictate the status of women, many conservative leaders and gurus continue to hold and espouse deeply misogynistic views publicly, leading to clashes with more liberal Indians, both verbal and otherwise.
Causes of male chauvinism
Chauvinism is seen by some as an influential factor in the TAT, a psychological personality test. Through cross-examinations, the TAT exhibits a tendency toward chauvinistic stimuli for its questions and has the "potential for unfavorable clinical evaluation" for women.
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 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.
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- Oxford English Dictionary
- de Puymège, Gérard (1997). Pierre Nora, ed. Realms of Memory. Columbia University Press. p. 337. ISBN 0-231-10634-3. "Nicolas Chauvin did not exist, ...(but was) a legend, which crystallized under the Restoration and July Monarchy, from the pen of songwriters, vaudeville and historians."
- The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. Retrieved 4 December 2008. "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 users may no longer recall the patriotic and other more generalized meanings of the words."
- Arendt, Hannah (October 1945). "Imperialism, Nationalism, Chauvinism". The Review of Politics 7 (4): 457.
- Mansbridge, Jane; Katherine Flaster (2005). "Male Chauvinist, Feminist, Sexist, and Sexual Harassment: Different Trajectories in Feminist Linguistic Innovation". American Speech (Harvard University) 80 (3): 261.
- Lloyd, Cynthia B., ed. Sex, Discrimination, and the Division of Labor. New York: Columbia University Press, 1975. Print.
- Michael Korda, Male Chauvinism! How It Works. New York: Random House, 1973. Print.
- Daniel, Frank Jack; Bhattacharjya, Satarupa (9 January 2013). "Asaram Bapu's view on Delhi rape raises anger, but shared by many". Reuters. Retrieved 2013-02-20.
- "Activists slam Asaram Bapu for his comments on Delhi gang-rape incident". Times Of India. 8 January 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-20.
- "Post-Delhi gangrape comments, Asaram Bapu's camp vandalised, visit to Kumbh Mela opposed". Indian Express. 10 January 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-20.
- Potkay, Charles R., Matthew R. Merrens. Sources of Male Chauvinism in the TAT. Journal of Personality Assessment, 39.5 (1975): 471-479. Web. 31 Jan 2012.
- Woods, Sherwyn M. (January 1976). "Some Dynamics of Male Chauvinism". Archives of General Psychiatry 33 (1): 63. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1976.01770010037007.
- "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 0-7432-8428-3