Wednesday, 7 February 2007


Nicolas Chauvin was a devoted follower of Napoleon in spite of being wounded 17 times, disfigured and maimed, in his service. In post-Napoleonic France this earned the poor fellow ridicule and derision, and after he had been mocked in several plays the word chauvinisme was coined as a term for excessive nationalistic fervour (we dropped the "e", of course). In recent years, prefixed by “male”, it also denotes misogynistic contempt.

I have not been able to establish whether Nicolas ever married. Let us assume that he did, and that his wife was called Solange, which for all I know she might have been. Then we could coin a new word to describe the misandrist equivalent of a male chauvinist.

A solangist friend of mine—let us call her Vespertilia, for that is not her name—holds firmly to the belief that women would be perfectly well able to follow any occupation or sport had they not been oppressed by men for many millennia and prevented from engaging in most of them by men’s selfishness. If there were no discrimination and the right training was on offer, she says, women could equal or surpass men’s achievements in every field. and she rejects any suggestion that few women would have the desire to excel as, say, coal-miners, serial killers, caber-tossers, Royal Marine Commandos, hangpersons, front row forwards, bass-baritones, waste disposal operatives and so on. “Ah, but with encouragement they might”, she says firmly.

She is also very hot on gender-specific words and feels strongly about actress. If acting is acting, and there should be no distinction by gender between practitioners, of course they can all be called actors, but then logically we should demand that they compete together for awards, and there can be no “Best Actress” any more. This would probably be OK for your Denches and your Mirrens and your Blanchetts, and bully for the little dears, but in a bad year for male actors even the finest among them might have to be content with lesser trinkets such as Best Supporting Actor in a Foreign-Language Wildlife Film, which seems a bit hard.

“So what?”, says Vespertilia, “Awards are a load of silly rubbish anyway.”

Well, it’s a point of view.


Pennyroyal said...


I tried leaving you a comment earlier in the day, but it didn't get through. I guess it was because I wasn't logged on to my own blog. Well, here I am trying to reconstruct the previous message.

I thought that, given the history of St. Solange (died c. 880), your title was an interesting coinage. I did think of other saints, who like Solange, had hung onto their virginity at the cost of losing their lives, but realized that they weren't French; hence, would have not been a good alternative for your "Solange."

For example, Juliana, in the Old English poem which bears her as title and topic, is as adamant as Solange in preserving her virginity, but since she lived in Nicomedia, she wouldn't qualify as a "Chauvin" adversary :)

Hugh said...

They didn't know there is no Fate Worse Than Death, did they?