By definition, being a chauvinist is an exaggeration of patriotism. The word “chauvinist” origins from the name of a French soldier, Nicolas Chauvin. He fought under Napoleon in the Napoleonic Wars. Even after Napoleon was removed from power, he remained a loyal Bonapartist in spite of public opinion that turned against Napoleon. His relentlessly fanatic devotion led to defining chauvinist as a word.
Exhibiting such behavior became to be known as being chauvinistic. Later developments extended the definition of chauvinism to include the male chauvinist and the derogatory term chauvinist pig.
A chauvinist treats all women as inferior by patronizing them, putting them down, disparaging them, or denigrating them. According to About Women’s History, the term “chauvinist pig” was coined in the 1960s by radical feminists. The term “pig” was already being used in a derogatory way to describe police who exercised power over others. By extension, the “chauvinist pig” was a male expressing superiority and power over women, in both his speech and deeds.
Male chauvinism is essentially a form of bigotry, similar to racism. In modern times, men who attempt to express male chauvinism in the workplace in America are subject to being sued for sexual harassment.
Women and Chauvinists
Historically, women have been treated second-class citizens. It was not until the 1900s that women were allowed to vote. In the UK, Millicent Fawcett started the Suffragettes Movement, a movement for women’s right to vote, along with founding the National Union of Women’s Suffrage in 1897. It was not easy to convince men to give way. Suffragettes protested and even went to prison for the belief that women should be treated as equal to men.
By the 1960s, women in UK and America were fed up with being treated unequally. It is no wonder they were upset. Even though they gained the right to vote, they were not treated fairly. Women were paid less than men were, even when they performed the same job functions as the men.
In response to this maltreatment of women, during 1972, Yoko Ono and John Lennon released the song entitled, “Woman Is the Nigger of the World.” The lyrics of that song created enormous controversy. However, they also made a point. John and Yoko went on the Dick Cavett television show to talk about the song and to perform it. It is a fascinating look at what was going on during the time when the term “chauvinist pig” was invented. John admits he was a male chauvinist until he thought about the concept and what it meant.
The male-dominated patriarchal society was, and to some extent still is, out of balance in respect to how females are treated. This is not fair and must change.
Changing Laws and Attitudes
The women’s liberation movement that came out of efforts across the world during the 1960s was actually a people’s liberation movement. Ignorant male chauvinistic thinking was challenged. It became apparent to any intelligent person that women are quite as capable as men. When given a chance, women would rise to excellence and demonstrate their prowess in all kinds of areas including those previously reserved for only men.
Anti-discrimination and prohibition against sexual harassment in the workplace became the law in the United States. UK law, EU laws, and some laws found elsewhere protect women as well.
Other places such as India and China are slow to change. Over 50 million female babies were killed in India alone during the last century.
Women Excel When Given a Chance
When women were allowed to do so, they rose to positions of prominence in business, politics, and spiritual leadership. Women were able to access parts of society that were previously barred to them. Women became doctors, astronauts, engineers, architects, and race car drivers. Occupations that are physically challenging such as construction, welding, driving heavy machinery, and working in coalmines or steel mills all became accessible to physically strong women.
Women Take On the Toughest Military Jobs
In December 2014, the Navy Times reported that the U.S. Defense Department will announce by January 2016 if it will open participation in the elite Navy SEAL program to women. This is not a matter of physical strength. There are plenty of physically strong women who are boxers, athletes, and endurance-runners. The U.S. Navy already tested thirty enlisted women for a week to see if they could pass elite Ranger school, which they did. The U.S. Navy says the decision is a logistical one and that some time is needed to prepare the proper training facilities.
Raise a Non Chauvinist
It is clear now that male chauvinism is wrong. This means enlightened parents will enjoy seeing more freedom for their daughters in the future. It also means that any parent should make sure that his or her son will not grow to be a chauvinist.
Daughters need to feel empowered, and to learn that there are no false limits. Sons need to be able to be masculine without needing to degrade females.
Avoid Internalized Sexism
The first thing to do to raise a non chauvinist, which also goes for girls who have an inferiority complex as well as boys who have a superiority complex, is to teach by example. Everyday Feminism magazine gives some helpful tips on how to raise a gender-neutral child.
The first thing everyone needs to understand is to recognize bias and prejudice as a natural response to outward stimulus that helps create our worldview. As a survival mechanism, the brain makes associative patterns and categorizes things automatically. It is very difficult to avoid this.
To prove this to yourself, take and look at a piece of fruit. Try to look at it in a new way without giving it any label, as if you are looking at it for the very first time and do not know what it is. Very quickly, the mind will label the fruit as whatever it is from an associated memory. You will notice the thought of “apple” or “banana” or whatever the fruit might be, rising up instantaneously in the mind. Then when one continues to stare at the fruit, what typically happens is all the associated memories with that fruit start to come into the mind. What a person experiences is the memory associations not the exact fruit that is right in front of the eyes.
As Everyday Feminism points out, when these associations become automatic or subconscious, a bias is formed, which then directs a person’s attitudes and actions. A study at Yale gave the research study participants identical application materials for a job position as a lab technician, with the only difference being that one had a female name on them and the other had a male name on them. Both male and female research participants rated the female lower than the average rating the male received for exactly the same application.
This is proof that sexism influences both genders. Gay people who hate themselves or other gay individuals are homophobic. Women who think less of themselves or that other women are less than men have internalized sexism.
How to Raise a Gender-Neutral Child
Here are five things to do to improve gender neutrality when raising children:
- Encourage girls to participate in physical activities.
- Let girls do the same things boys try to do and do not exercise more caution when they are trying those things just because they are girls.
- Allow boys to cry and encourage them to express their emotions openly without feeling ashamed.
- Socialize boys by spending quality time with them creating an emotional bond.
- Allow expressions of anger in healthy ways for both boys and girls. Allow both boys and girls to stomp the floor or hit a pillow when they are angry.
The key to raising a non chauvinist is to give up the false concepts that boys and girls are expected to behave in certain ways. Simply let them express themselves in healthy ways that are not based on what a particular gender is “supposed” to do according to history, culture, or society.