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Chauvinism is the unreasonable belief in the superiority or dominance of one's own group or people, who are seen as strong and virtuous, while others are considered weak, unworthy, or inferior. It can be described as a form of extreme patriotism and nationalism, a fervent faith in national excellence and glory.
In 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".
According to legend, French soldier Nicolas Chauvin was badly wounded in the Napoleonic Wars and received a meager pension for his injuries. After Napoleon abdicated, Chauvin maintained his fanatical Bonapartist belief in the messianic mission of Imperial France, despite the unpopularity of this view under the Bourbon Restoration. 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 English-language term jingoism, which has retained the meaning of chauvinism strictly in its original sense; that is, an attitude of belligerent nationalism.
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 this sense, chauvinism is irrational, in that no nation or ethnic group can claim to be inherently superior to another.
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 now occupied by women, which "threatened the self-esteem many men derive from their dominance over women in the family, the economy, and society at large." Consequently, male chauvinism was on the rise, according to Cynthia B. 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 division of labor was understood and expected, and women typically felt unable to challenge their position or male superiors, argue Korda and Lloyd.
Chauvinist assumptions are seen by some as a bias in the TAT 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.
Adam Jukes argues that a reason for male chauvinism is masculinity itself:
For the vast majority of people all over the world, the mother is a primary carer...There’s an asymmetry in the development of boys and girls. Infant boys have to learn how to be masculine. Girls don’t. Masculinity is not in a state of crisis. Masculinity is a crisis. I don’t believe misogyny is innate, but I believe it’s inescapable because of the development of masculinity.
The term 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.
Karen Salmansohn described what female chauvinists believe in Psychology Today when she wrote, "female chauvinists believe that men can't be emotionally evolved enough to want to grow, communicate from the heart, empathize and validate [their] female partners," and then labeling this description of men the same as calling men "emotional bimbos."
- Heywood, Andrew (2014). Global politics (2nd ed.). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 171. ISBN 978-1-137-34926-2. OCLC 865491628.
- "Chauvinism". Encyclopædia Britannica.
- "15 Words You Didn't Realize Were Named After People". Grammar Girl.
- "Chauvinism". Merriam-Webster 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.
- "Chauvinism". The Oxford English Dictionary.
- "Jingoism". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
- "Jingoism & Chauvinism". Word Histories. Archived from the original on 26 October 2014. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
- 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". American Speech. 80 (3): 261. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.103.8136. doi:10.1215/00031283-80-3-256.
- Cooke, Lynn Prince. "Why Trump's male chauvinism appeals to some voters more than others". The Conversation. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
- 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 January 2012.
- Woods, Sherwyn M. (January 1976). "Some Dynamics of Male Chauvinism". Archives of General Psychiatry. 33 (1): 63. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1976.01770010037007. PMID 1247365.
- "Men hating women: A look into the psychology of misogyny". British GQ. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
- Brons, Lajos. "On gender chauvinism". Cite journal requires
- "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
- "Are You a Female Chauvinist?". Psychology Today. Retrieved 28 November 2020.
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