It all started when I decided I wanted to know the origin of the expression “male chauvinist”.
I appreciate her dedication to following a thread of curiosity down multiple avenues of research!
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.
But why “male chauvinism”?
Somehow, somewhere along the line, a term for nationalism became used to express an idea about sexism, and that is not an obvious thing to do.
Her hypothesis and research traces its origins back to communism, before the House Un-American Activities Committee drove it underground:
Communism sees human affairs as organized by what communism terms classes, which mostly lump out to workers and bosses; communism seeks to elevate the status of workers by getting workers to realize that they are workers before all else, and that it is only by banding together in solidarity with other workers that they can have the power to improve their lives. Thus all other identities are seen as threats to the communist project, at least when those other identities are not subordinated to one’s identity as a worker…
“Chauvinism”, thus, is an excellent term for what communists reviled: it doesn’t just neutrally designate a preference for identifying with one’s nation and taking pride in it, but ridicules having absurd, self-sabotaging levels of loyalty and devotion to a nation that will never appreciate or reciprocate it.
2 replies on “Uncovering history through curiosity”
Tangential, but if you’ve not seen this use of male chauvinism, it’s excellent (https://howardisms.com/other-stuff/williams-obstetrics-and-male-chauvinism/)
Thanks Paul! That’s new to me, I’ll check it out!