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Chauvinism, ( ), in its original and primary meaning, is an exaggerated, bellicose patriotism and a blind belief in national superiority and glory. By extension it has come to include an extreme and unreasoning partisan on behalf of any group to which one belongs, especially when the partisanship includes malice and hatred towards a rival group. Jingoism is the British parallel form of this French word. A contemporary use of the term in English is in the phrase male chauvinism.


The term is derived from Nicolas Chauvin, a semi-mythical soldier under Napoleon Bonaparte who is supposed to have served in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars (1789–1815). Despite the unpopularity of Bonapartism in Restoration France after 1815, Chauvin was said to be an ardent supporter and was often seen wearing a violet in his lapel, the symbol of his deposed Emperor. According to the myth, 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 Waterloomarker, which is unlikely considering his age and the severity of his disabilities. When the Old Guard was surrounded and made its last stand at La Belle Alliancemarker, 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]. This apocryphal phrase was in fact attributed to the Old Guard's commander, Pierre Cambronne who later asserted that his actual reply was "Merde!" ("Shit!").

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 Comédie en vaudeville, La Cocarde Tricolore (1831) (The Tricolor Cockade) by Théodore and Hippolyte Cogniard.

Chauvinism as nationalism

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

Chauvinism as sexism

Male chauvinism is a term used to describe the belief that men are superior to women. The term was widely used by the feminist movement in the 1960s to describe men who believe or display an attitude that women are inferior to men, speak to women as inferiors, or treat women negatively based solely upon their gender. 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; leading second-wave feminist Betty Friedan being a notable example. These critics argue, for example, that in some gender feminist views, all men are considered irreconcilable rapists, wife-beating brutes, and useless as partners to women or as fathers to children.

Ariel Levy used the term in different sense in her book, Female Chauvinist Pigs, in which she argues that many young women in the United States are replicating male chauvinism and sexist stereotypes.

See also


  1. Oxford English Dictionary
  2. "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
  3. Wendy McElroy, Sexual Correctness: The Gender-Feminist Attack on Women; Guests: Camille Paglia & Christina Hoff Sommers Has Feminism Gone Too Far? Think Tank With Ben Wattenberg - aired: 4 Nov 1994 accessed 6 Jan 2006
  4. Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, Ariel Levy, 2006, ISBN 0743284283


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