An individual who is acutely biased toward their group or ideals, particularly regarding national, gender or ethnic identity
Exhibiting or related to an unquestioning or irrational belief in the intrinsic superiority of one’s own perspective or group identity
For the most part, people are proud of their particular points of view, so it’s only natural for us to think that our own is the best. But as understandable as it is to take pride in our perspectives, treating others’ views as worthless or inferior in comparison is usually taking things too far. There is a fine line between eager dedication and outright chauvinism, but if we try to appreciate others’ reasons for believing as they do, then even if we don’t agree, our views can hopefully coexist without too much friction. By respecting people who are different than us, we’ll avoid being characterized as a chauvinist.
Chauvinists are people who are fervently supportive of, devoted to, or strongly biased toward their own beliefs or group identities, treating them as inherently and radically superior to those of others. If an enthusiastic member of the fencing team holds the deep-seated attitude that fencers are indisputably the best students at the school, that individual is a chauvinist. What makes this zealous swordfighter a chauvinist is that they contend that they have greater merit or worth solely due to their chosen hobby, rather than their personality or personal accomplishments, and that those whose hobbies differ from this are necessarily inferior without exception. This is a form of prejudicial thinking, as it involves making a judgment before the person being judged exhibits any individual character to assess. Instead, a chauvinist bases conclusions on broad generalizations taken from incidental details, like a person’s chosen extracurricular activity. (Needless to say, we don’t hold any prejudice against swordfighters.)
While such a stubbornly partisan predisposition toward fencers would technically make someone a chauvinist, the word is used almost exclusively to describe a person with supremacist attitudes toward nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation, or other political, biological, or social characteristics or identities. It would be appropriate to characterize an individual who believes races other than their own to be inferior as a chauvinist. If you were identifying this racist individual without any context, you could designate them as a racial chauvinist.
However, when chauvinist is employed without context, it usually means that someone either zealously supports and lauds their own country — in other words, is radically nationalistic — or is convinced that their own sex or gender is superior. Many uses of chauvinist that fit the latter case refer to men who assert or act as though women are naturally inferior. Men who think this way may more specifically addition be labeled a male chauvinist or, somewhat colloquially, a male chauvinist pig; you may even hear chauvinist used as a synonym for misogynist, a word which means “someone who hates women.” As the mindset of any type of chauvinist is discriminatory and prejudicial, it is significantly more likely for a member of a group that is systemically privileged or empowered in a society to fit the word than it is for a member of a less privileged group. When an explicit qualifier is not provided (e.g. “racial chauvinist”, “male chauvinist” etc.), the overall topic of the passage or dialogue should give you a clue on what kind of chauvinism is being described.
Chauvinist can also serve as an adjective to identify something as having deeply ingrained biases toward a group or identity. For example, a national foreign policy in which a country asserts its dominance by seeking the subservience of other nations would be a chauvinist doctrine. Likewise, a group that advocates the supremacy of one race over others would be a chauvinist organization. Whenever someone’s sense of worth is rooted not in accomplishment but in the notion that their group or beliefs are inherently great, their attitude is a product of chauvinist thinking.
Example: The elderly senator was a well-known chauvinist, routinely suggesting that his country had a right to use military power to get whatever it wanted from its neighbors.
Example: The senator’s chauvinist attitude was not appreciated by visiting diplomats.
Example: The former chauvinist began to question his behavior after attending a lecture on gender equality.
Example: Our last principal was terminated after the superintendent learned she was a racial chauvinist.
Chauvinist entered English in the late 1800s and comes from the French word chauviniste, meaning “chauvinist” or “partisan.” Chauviniste derives from Chauvin, the surname of Nicholas Chauvin, a character in French theater who was infamously and fiercely nationalistic in his service in the army of Napoleon Bonaparte. Though his identity as an actual soldier for France has not been confirmed by historians, he is the subject of many works of fictionalized accounts of the period, most prominently in the play by the brothers Charles-Théodore and Jean-Hippolyte Cogniard, La Cocarde Tricolore, which debuted in 1831 and translates to “the tricolor cockade,” an ornament worn by fighters in the French Revolution. Chauvin is also the source of the noun chauvinism, which can be traced back to the 1840s and means “excessive nationalism, sexism, or other bias toward one group over others.”
Chauvinism: Chauvinism describes stubborn devotion to an unsubstantiated belief that one’s own group is inherently better than others, particularly regarding nationality, gender, or race.
Example: Many historians cite rampant chauvinism among the participants as the cause of the First World War.
Chauvinistic: This adjective has the same meaning as the adjective sense of chauvinist and is used much more commonly.
Example: The international school held a globally themed potluck to neutralize any potential chauvinistic tendencies and help the students become more open-minded.
Chauvinistically: Chauvinistically is an adverb that denotes when an action, adjective, or other adverb is radically partisan.
Example: Some examples of sexism in the workplace feature male employers who chauvinistically promote other men to high positions over female employees who are more qualified.
From Asaad Almohammad’s An Ishmael of Syria:
I am not an atheist preacher. I am not an absolutist or chauvinist whose ways are immune to evolution. My core philosophy is that I might be wrong.
Almohammad’s speaker here bares his own self-doubt, proclaiming that he is not a radical devotee of his own perspective, or a chauvinist. Instead, he claims that his guiding ethos is that there is every possibility that his way of seeing things is not the only one or the correct one.
A chauvinist is sure their side is the best.
Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of chauvinist. Did you use chauvinist in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.