If the fantastically ill-informed debate over the Proud Boys shows us anything, it's that few people understand the meaning of the word "chauvinism." The Proud Boys describe themselves as "Western chauvinists," which has led countless ignorant journos to call them misogynists.
But the term "chauvinism," as opposed to "male chauvinism," has nothing to do with sex. "Chauvinism" means excessive patriotism. It refers to the legendary French soldier Nicolas Chauvin, who enlisted at 18 and was horrifically disfigured from 17 wounds.
Napoleon himself presented Chauvin with the Sabre of Honor. His ceaseless devotion to Napoleon earned him widespread derision in France after the Bourbon Restoration. Though Chauvin may be a wholly fictional figure, the term stuck, and that's what the Proud Boys are referring to.
Chauvinism is by definition excessive, so people rarely use the term to describe themselves. One suspects the Proud Boys may be using the term ironically and hyperbolically to contrast with today's faddish hatred of Western culture.
In any case, before journos pontificate on the evils of the Proud Boys, it may behoove them to figure out what they're actually saying.
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