The Douchebag Counterargument

37 Responses

  1. Pearl says:

    That was delightful.

    You know, I’d never assumed that the term “douchebag” was insulting to women, even while knowing that the act of douching, itself, IS.

    Thanks for writing — and eloquently! — about what needs to be examined. Critical thinking skills? Intact!


  2. Deborah says:

    Wonderful!! Following you through the labyrinth that is your mind is as entertaining as it is instructive. I owe you one, Jocelyn, for having liberated me from the cringe-making after-effects of hearing douchebag at least three times daily when in the company of my offspring, and especially my daughter. I am spared hearing it here in France and have been relieved about that, although there is much, much worse, I suspect. But now I think I can, if not embrace it for personal use, at least dump the vestiges of faint shame I had associated with it.

    Such a brilliant essay. I wondered if you’d lost your way in the kitchen at lunch, but you roared back on track and left me stunned and admiring, the former in part because I can’t believe I ever interpreted this word as an insult. Hell, did I say I wouldn’t use it?
    I loved your trio of conclusions and especially the nod to your mother. And as for scumbag – who knew???

    Now that I’ve read it all again, I appreciate the whole thing doubly. Is this the face you show your students? Poor them, if you feel you have to keep it hidden.

  3. kmkat says:

    I have been eddicated again by My Friend Jocelyn. Douchebag is a perfectly acceptable pejorative applicable to those males who deserve it. Scumbag is a used condom. Got it. And thanks for the trip through your mental day!

  4. cloudia says:

    Ah, Pearl is here! That makes PERFECT sense!

    Aloha from Honolulu

    Comfort Spiral




  5. I get all that, but I still disagree. And I’ll tell you why: The vast majority of people aren’t calling someone else a douchebag with the awareness that the vagina is a self-cleaning organ and douching is not only unnecessary but also potentially damaging. I think since women are still less powerful than men (financially, and so on), it’s meant as a perjorative because it’s something associated with women applied to men to show how distasteful their behavior is. It seems not much different than calling a man a pussy (Gah! that’s a word I would never say out loud) or a man saying another man cried like a little girl. So I would still argue that it is indeed misogynistic. And I think until the gender imbalance disappears – in whatever eon that might happen – it behooves us to be careful not to use insults whose power originated in the disdain for women.

    (And BTW, yes, I’m aware I’m the same person who posted those signs about decoding women’s speech. But that was one of my metaphor posts, as I was silently processing a very difficult relationship issue.)

    • Jocelyn says:

      The only lingering question, after this forceful and justified expression of opinion, is this: so is it okay to use “dickwad”?

      • Forceful? Maybe – you can’t ever get tone in writing, but if I’d been saying it to you it wouldn’t sound so much forceful as thinking aloud-like. Dickwad, I guess it just hit me what that actually is – the contents of a scumbag? But I’d be less troubled by that word, again for power imbalance reasons.

        • Jocelyn says:

          Your words came across, definitely, as forceful. That’s a good thing–like you knew your mind and were comfortable with expressing it. I was left thinking you’d be a convincing candidate, if you ever considered running for office.

  6. chlost says:

    I know that your mother and I would agree- Why do you need to say any of those words? Your mouth deserves better.

    Yeah, I’m an uptight ()#&*$.

    • Jocelyn says:

      I only wish I still had my mom’s card, sent to me freshman year of college, remonstrating me for a letter home that had used the word “pee.” Her reply detailed a long list of acceptable replacements for the word “pee” (haha! look at me using it twice here!), including “wet.” You two should, indeed, get together and cross-stitch.

      For me, I like the raw unshieldedness of the occasional BAM word that doesn’t seem to fit. I like to speak in relatively elevated fashion and then drive home my point with a bit of unpolished vernacular.

  7. geewits says:

    Well, there’s critical thinking and there’s overthinking. I say if you use words in an offhand manner, so what? If you overthink every possible angle of every word and the history of those words going back to the time of Ptolemy, then it’s you, not the user of the word that is giving that word some sort of mystical evil power. I’ve been trying to find replacements for my two favorite words because certain groups find them highly offensive. What am I supposed to say, “Man that’s so “stray,’ what are you ‘redheaded?'” People use “fat” and “old” all the time and I don’t take offense unless someone were to look right at me and say, “You are fat and old.” Well, no, I’d probably just laugh.

  8. lime says:

    i think pejoratives in general say a lot about the given culture of origination. a couple of years ago i read a post from a german blogger talking about how americans use all sorts of sexual terms as our worst forms of pejoratives. fuck being the most widespread and then all the various terms for genitalia applied to people or in the case of douchebag or scumbag and apparatus designed for use on the genitals. she found it perplexing because sex is good and pleasurable and life-giving and builds bonds of intimacy in a healthy relationship. she went on to say that in the german language words associated with excrement are considered the worst pejoratives and that seemed to make sense because let’s face it. shit is pretty gross. useful as a fertilizer but not something folks want on their carpets or faces and hey….it even leads to rectal douching, which i am sorry sounds ridiculously euphemistic to me. it’s an enema, folks.

    anyway, all that to say i tend to agree with what secret agent woman said.

    • Jocelyn says:

      I like this point about how pejoratives reveal a culture’s greatest hang-ups. We are so damn Puritanical in this country that it makes sense sex would be the basis of the most negative insults.

      I completely get the argument you and Citizen support; however, for me, there’s something about letting the language evolve away from its origins that I’m able to go with. I really like and want to know how a phrase or word came into being, but I don’t need to hold it to its origins when its usage has moved on. Anyhow, great discussion!

  9. Jazz says:

    I’ll have to read this again since my brain went into overload at this:
    I just made some brown rice and sauteed some kale and onions with soy and sesame sauce, if you want some for lunch. I had a craving.

    Groom craves kale, onions and rice?!?! Really?

    The mind boggles, and boggles and boggles some more. And then my brain explodes.

  10. Green Girl in Wisconsin says:

    Really? Scum? I had NO idea.
    And to think I’ve used that word on POLITICIANS.

    I learn so much from you.

  11. Count me in with your mother. WTF?!

  12. Jess says:

    I stand with your mother on being enlightened to the trend of, um, rectal douching. Although I do know what santorum is because I am a addicted viewer of the Daily Show and Mr. Stewart is responsible in his duties to eddicate the ‘Merican public on such things. ;D

    I agree with you about words not being tied to their origins. The only language that doesn’t constantly change and morph into something slightly different is a dead one. I get a kick of how relentlessly alive and squirmy our own descriptive language is.

  13. Maxine (the mom) says:

    Oh, poor Mother, who herself was raised by a lovely and loving Mother who thought she was still in the Victorian Age in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s and beyond. I enjoy being couth, but I understand that there is no such word; it only comes in the negative sense as in “uncouth.” Sigh.

    • Jocelyn says:

      Mom: What’s heartening are all the commenters (of a younger generation) who share your sensibility! You are not alone, nor, as a standard bearer, are you anything resembling “poor.”

      I’m actually with you, in some ways, although my overall sensibility is less refined than yours. Despite all this dribble about the “douchebag,” it’s not really a word I use more than twice a year. I just don’t have much need for it.

  14. Robin says:

    Loved the post. Loved it. Understand the concerns about the misogynistic origins, but also agree with accommodating the evolution of language. AND the “we are WAY too uptight part.” Finally, also enjoy tossing a juicy “fuck” into conversation every now and then. Keeps everyone on their toes.

  15. Maxine (the mom) says:

    In my vocabulary – I use the word “jerk” on a regular basis, (but only about the very dumbest, meanest, or unaware) and then only a few times a year as I try not to be in the presence of that sort of person. It may be my “douchebag” substitute… but it doesn’t make my mouth hurt. (or brain.)

    • Jocelyn says:

      …and I’m sure your use of “jerk” comes from the idea of a soda jerk or, um, beef jerky, right, Mom? Because I’m pretty sure when you use that word, you’re not thinking about its associated meaning with what “excited” men and boys do to, erm, relax. ‘Cause if we’re playing this game where we look at the origins of our pejoratives, then you might have to consider what you’re really saying when you call someone a “jerk”!

      I’m left feeling, with this whole subject, that anyone applying a negative term simply has to accept negative words rarely come from “couth” places.

  16. Maxine (the mom) says:

    Hmmm. Whoops! I overlooked the possible origin of “jerk.” (Actually, I was a few decades into my life when I learned the term to which you refer.!!!!! I’ve been told fairly often that I have lived a sheltered life.)
    I’m deciding now to substitute the word “drip” for my label of those whom I think are low-down, terrible, douche-bags.
    (I must go to the library immediately to look up the origins of “drip.”)

  17. Bone says:

    Not to be a non-gender-specific rinsing apparatus or anything, but, uh, are guys welcome here? 🙂

    I think I’ll listen to some Lyle Lovett whilst I wait…

  18. Chantal says:

    Joselyn! I read this post over a week ago and I meant to come and type a response… So I clicked on that santorum ~shudder~ and the thing that scares me the most is that over 35000 people LIKED IT ON FACEBOOK. What the!!! This world is a crazy crazy place. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by my blog! I missed you while you were gone 🙂

  19. kathryn says:

    Holy crap! I occasionally drop the f-bomb, and I am a (gasp) cross stitcher.
    Two worlds have just collided like butt cheeks after a poop. Whamo!
    Because in your world, Jocelyn, one either uses words like douchebag, or one does needlework, but not both. Well, have I got news for you. Sometimes when I miss a stitch or break a thread…..I yell: Douchebag! (or scumbag, where appropriate).
    And….I’m not a grandmother. (I do have cat, but whatever. They own the place and I am just the litter scooper). Furthermore, if vaginas had teeth then douching would be more appropriate (and dentists chairs would have to be slightly reconfigured), so it’s really TEETH that are dirty, and we should all be yelling, ‘Mouthwash!’, ‘Flossroll!’, or ‘Spinbrush!’

    • Jocelyn says:

      Kathryn, you are a hoot. I did my first cross stitches in my early twenties, and I can swear like a mo-fo, so I promise I am able to see, em, The Full Cross-Stitcher, at any age.

      Let’s start a tooth-related subcategory of pejoratives, ‘k? On that note, “Floss You!”

      • kathryn says:

        Why, you Oral B !

        • Jocelyn says:

          Touche, you cavity-ridden cuspid.

          • kathryn says:

            ‘Efferdent!’, she replied. And then,
            ‘Molar Flosser!’, she tossed out, as an afterthought.
            (and then two worlds collided again, and she screamed, ‘Efferdenting Mo Flo!’, but by now the room had emptied, and the only witness was the janitor, an embittered man named Arturo, with a chronic flatulence condition and a wife with a lisp.)

          • Jocelyn says:

            Somehow, I’m left with the impression (get it? I’m very punny with my orthodontia humor) that you and I are soulmates, Kathryn. Take that, swish it around for a few, and let the hose suck it out.

          • kathryn says:

            If you can even BE a soulmate with a Canatheist, eh? We’ll continue this convo in future posts. Brace yourself (get it?) for more immature humour.

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