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Chauvinism is a form of extreme patriotism and nationalism and a belief in national superiority and glory. It can be also defined as "an irrational belief in the superiority or dominance of one's own group or people". Moreover, the chauvinist's own people are seen as unique and special while the rest of the people are considered weak or inferior.
According to legend, French soldier Nicolas Chauvin 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.
Chauvinism has extended from its original use to include fanatical devotion and undue partiality to any group or cause to which one belongs, especially when such partisanship includes prejudice against or hostility toward outsiders or rival groups and persists even in the face of overwhelming opposition. This French quality finds its parallel in the British term jingoism, which has retained the meaning of chauvinism strictly in its original sense; that is, an attitude of belligerent nationalism.
In modern English, the word has come to be used in some quarters as shorthand for male chauvinism, a trend reflected in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, which, as of 2018, begins its first example of use of the term chauvinism with "an attitude of superiority toward members of the opposite sex".
In 1945, political theorist Hannah Arendt described 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.
In the workplace
The balance of the workforce changed during World War II. As men left their positions to enlist in the military and fight in the war, women started replacing them. After the war ended, 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 employments, but they soon realized women had taken over 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 predominate, holding positions of power while women worked as their secretaries, usually typing dictations and answering telephone calls, this phenomena could be a result of men being more skilled in their respective areas as well as it could be because their inherent manly nature was preferable for the purposes of productivity. This division of labor was understood and expected, and women typically felt unable to challenge their position or male superiors, argue Korda and Lloyd.
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. 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.
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.
- Macmillan., Palgrave (2015). Global politics. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781137349262. OCLC 979008143.
- "Chauvinism". Encyclopædia Britannica.
- "15 Words You Didn't Realize Were Named After People". Grammar Girl.
- "Chauvinism". The Oxford English Dictionary.
- "Jingoism". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
- "Jingoism & Chauvinism". Word Histories. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
- "Chauvinism". Merriam-Webster's Dictionary.
- 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. doi:10.1017/s0034670500001649.
- Mansbridge, Jane; Katherine Flaster (2005). "Male Chauvinist, Feminist, Sexist, and Sexual Harassment: Different Trajectories in Feminist Linguistic Innovation" (PDF). American Speech. Harvard University. 80 (3): 261. doi:10.1215/00031283-80-3-256.
- 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.
- 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
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