Chauvinism is extreme and unreasoning partisanship on behalf of a group to which one belongs, especially when the partisanship includes malice and hatred towards a rival group. Jingoism is a similar term of British derivation. A frequentColumbia Encyclopedia defines Chauvinism as "fanatical, boastful, unreasoning patriotism' and by extension prejudiced belief or unreasoning pride in any group to which you belong[,]" but notes that "[l]ately, 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." contemporary use of the term in English is male chauvinism, which refers to the belief that males are superior to females.

A less common term, female chauvinism generally means the opposite of male chauvinism, the belief that females are superior to males. It has also been used to refer to females who replicate male chauvinism and sexist stereotypes, as seen in Ariel Levy's book, Female Chauvinist Pigs.


The term is derived from the undocumented Nicolas Chauvin, whose legend made him out to be a soldier under Napoleon Bonaparte. He served in the Wars of Revolution (1798-1800) and the Napoleonic Wars, wherein he was wounded seventeen times and severely disabled. Despite the unpopularity of Bonapartism in Restoration France, Chauvin was an ardent supporter and was often seen wearing a violet in his lapel, the symbol of his deposed Emperor. He remained fanatically loyal despite his poverty, disability, and the abuse he suffered.

Many writers and historians falsely attribute to Chauvin the exploits of other Bonapartists. It is claimed that he served in the Old Guard at Waterloo (unlikely considering his age and the severity of his disabilities). When the Old Guard was surrounded and made its last stand at Le Belle Alliance, he supposedly shouted in defiance to a call for their honorable surrender: "The Old Guard dies but does not surrender!", implying blind and unquestioned zealous devotion to one's country [or other group of reference].

The origin and early usage indicate that chauvinisme was coined to describe excessive nationalism, which the original French term continues to do. The term entered public use due to a satirical treatment of Chauvin in the French play La Cocarde Tricolore (The Tricolore Cockade).

Chauvinism as nationalism

In "Imperialism, Nationalism, Chauvinism", in The Review of Politics 7.4, (October 1945), p. 457, Hannah Arendt describes the concept:

Chauvinism is an almost natural product of the national concept insofar 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 peoples.

(See, for example, white man's burden.)

The word does not require a judgment that the chauvinist is right or wrong in his opinion, only that he is blind and unreasoning in coming to it, ignoring any facts which might temper his fervor. In modern use, however, it is often used pejoratively to imply that the chauvinist is both unreasoning and wrong.

Male chauvinism

Male chauvinism is a term used to describe the belief that males are superior to females. The word "chauvinist" was originally used to describe one who has a fanatical loyalty in one's country. The word was later applied by the "women's liberation movement" in the 1960s and used to describe men who believe women are inferior, speak to them as inferiors, or treat them negatively based solely upon their gender.

Female chauvinism

Female chauvinism generally refers to the belief that females are superior to males. According to Nathanson and Young, what they see as 'ideological' feminism is chauvinistic as well as misandric. They assert that many so-called 'ideological' feminists have claimed that "women are psychologically, morally, spiritually, intellectually, and biologically superior to men". They also assert that these feminists consider knowledge created by women to be superior to that created by men.

Wendy McElroy claims that in some gender feminist views, all men are considered irreconcilable rapists, wife-beating brutes, and useless as partners or fathers to women. McElroy and Camille Paglia claim that gender feminists view women as innocent victims who never make irresponsible or morally questionable choices. Other feminists such as Kate Fillion have questioned the idea that women are always innocent victims and men always the guilty victimizers when the interests of each collide with those of the other.

On the other hand, Ariel Levy uses the term in another sense in the title of her book, Female Chauvinist Pigs. She claims that many young women in the United States are replicating male chauvinism and sexist stereotypes about women in their embrace of what she labels "raunch culture" and traditionally masculine attributes. These women she designates female chauvinist pigs.

See also

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