The Douchebag Counterargument
Sometimes, it alarms me that my job is to teach critical thinking to others,
what with my own significant deficiencies as a critical thinker.
I mean, I’m still shocked that Roseanne and Tom Arnold didn’t work out. And then there’s that whole much-too-recently-made connection between sunflower seeds and sunflowers. It seems one comes from the other.
Good thing I remember my belly getting really big and then some pushing and moaning, or I’d look at my kids and assume they’re the result of neglecting to fold the laundry for two weeks. Thanks to the whole belly growing and moaning stuff, though, I’m well aware that the kids came out of me and that they got inside of me when Keebler elves tiptoed out of their hollow tree at night and sprinkled crumbs from Chips Deluxe Mini-Rainbow Chocolate Chip cookies into my belly button when I was sleeping.
Anyhow, the comments on my previous “slang” post reminded me of how unquestioningly I trip through life; specifically, it was a complete surprise to read that the word douchebag has been regarded as misogynistic. I never before had thought about douchebag as being linked to a soft rain on a country lane on a summer’s eve and thereby an emblem of womanhood. In other words, I had never before really thought about either the douche or the bag part of douchebag, probably because douching feels so “thing of the past” to my frame of reference.
Thanks to your comments, I did think. About douchebag. No, not Girls Gone Wild‘s Joe Francis. The word douchebag. I thought about the word, mind cranking with every step, as I went down into the basement to get a water pitcher from the storage pantry but then suddenly found myself cleaning up toys and ninja costumes and considering, for entirely too long, the options on a shelf of snow boots before heading back upstairs, looking at the kitchen counter, and thinking, “Hey, I need to go downstairs and get a water pitcher.”
I was thinking about douchebag when Groom came upstairs one afternoon to announce, “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.”
True story. I know.
Propelled by the gusto of my stomach engine, I trotted down to the kitchen and, chatting away with Himself, I loaded up my plate and num-nummed my way through sunlit conversation.
An hour later, out for a run, I wondered why I was so damn hungry already. Then, and only then, did I realize I’d had a plate of kale and onions but had forgotten the rice. Groom had said “rice-kale-onions” in one breath, and that meant they were in the same pan, right? He should have used a two-tiered one-pan/one-pot breath to indicate that I needed to serve myself from both, yes? So my hunger was his fault? We are agreed? When I accosted him later with the accusation that he’d made me hungry by not making sure I took rice, that easygoing bastard merely replied, “Huh. I just figured you were trying to stay away from carbs today or something. I don’t ask anymore.”
I thought about douchebag as I watched the construction crew next door take down their ladders and scaffolding, having finally received the just consequence of a sacking after spending too many months dicking around and acting like it takes three guys to light one cigarette and all three guys to support the smoking of that 52-minute cigarette (this, on the days when anyone showed up at all). In this case, douchebag sprang to mind as a direct association of what my eyes were viewing–because, holy hell, what a passle of dinkwads them fellas were, taking thousands of dollars from the neighbors just to leave the exterior of their house exposed to the elements, windows covered with brown paper, as winter begins its ominous descent.
Even as they packed up their equipment, Dinkwad Passle seemed confused about what was happening to them, seemed bewildered about why accepting the equivalent of a year’s salary in Turkey to stand around and smoke 84 hours on the rare days they visited their work site somehow disappointed the homeowners.
I expect to see Passle of Dinkwads at the community college one day.
And when they walk into my classroom, it will become clear that Dipskittle Jocelyn is, in fact, equipped to pass on at least a few critical thinking skills to these lads. It’s all relative, and I’m pretty sure continued faith in Roseanne and Tom Arnold trumps inability to spot a box of nails in the back of a pick-up truck. So, Dinkwads, let’s do it. Let’s try to learn to think.
Good job scratching your heads, boys. I’ll just leave you there, mining for scalp flakes and wondering where all the nails went, and move in to my own head space.
For me, the process of figuring out my thinking about douchebag began, as most thinking does in Jocelyn’s Modrrrun Age, with an airing of every passing thought to my husband followed by a trip to the Magic Google Machine.
When I told Groomy of the objectionable nature of the douchebag, he said, “Callers on Dan Savage’s podcast have been addressing this recently, arguing that it’s not a sexist bit of slang in an era when douching is most often carried out by people preparing for anal intercourse. If anything, douchebag is a slur against Rear Entry-ites.”
Bowing low and kissing his hand, which tasted faintly of onions, I backed away and bolted to the computer to do further research. Here is what I mined:
At Throw Grammar from the Train, blogger Jan Freeman tackles, in an essay called “The Pejoration of ‘Douchebag’,” the history and impact of the word in question. It’s a very interesting and informative analysis, as is the subsequent discussion in the comments.
A commenter named Kelle wrote:
I and plenty of other women have taken to using “douchebag” or “douchehound” and the like as insults without finding that useage misogynistic. The reason is that douching is not actually good for women, it causes irritation and infection of a system which has no need for it and they have traditionally been used to make women feel that their natural bodies were something to be ashamed of. Therefore, douche-based insults are perfectly appropriate to apply to jackasses who are displaying their misogyny.
Kelle’s idea is explored in more detail in an article at a site called Feministe. A writer there named Jill wrote “In Defense of ‘Douchebag‘,” noting that the slang douchebag actually takes the idea of the douche and puts it in its place:
I’m happy to see the douchebag demonized. Unlike a lot of other common insults — “bitch,” “cunt,” “retard,” “fag” — “douchebag” actually insults something that deserves to be insulted. Douching is terrible for women; it can lead to infection and irritation. Even teen magazines will tell you this! Douches exist only because women have been told that our bodies are unclean. Douches, and the bags that reportedly accompany them, are terrible, no-good products. Insulting douches doesn’t insult women — the existence of douches insults women.
The term douchebag, too, is also directed as a certain type of dude. It implies a particular parody of masculinity, or it’s the total smarm-ball.
A commenter on this post points out an important piece of information:
I am of a generation that considers “douchebag” to be a sexist term, though I always thought it funny that the bag was the insulting part as it is the nozzle that comes into contact with the “unclean” body part. The bag just hangs there.
My college-age daughter tells me she never found it sexist because she and her friends thought it referred to a rectal douche.
As Groomy indicated, too, this same idea has surfaced on Dan Savage’s podcast; this blogger at Sound of Rain notes:
People have been calling for the retirement of this word for well over a year now, to no avail. I love it because it’s fun to say and reminds me of my East Coast childhood, when we used it all the time (without having any idea what it really meant). Plus, it fills the gap nicely between “slightly annoying guy” and “total assh**e”.
However, I’ve read various comments around the internet about how the term douchebag is sexist, because it’s used to degrade a man by referring to him as an object used only by women.
As Dan Savage pointed out in a recent podcast (number 154), anyone interested in receiving anal penetration with a minimum of santorum uses them for enemas, though I suppose in that case the term would be enema bag. Not a bad pejorative in itself, now that I think of it, being non-gendered and associated with unwanted poo. It’s not as satisfying to say, though.
But my argument is different. I haven’t seen anyone else point this out, so I will gallantly step up:
The vagina is self-cleaning and self-regulating. Douching is not only unnecessary to the health of the vagina, it can in fact throw off its natural floral balance, and also interferes with the vagina’s ability to keep its delicate tissue moist and happy. Douching is also completely ineffective in the prevention of pregnancy and disease, two other bullsh** reasons women used to be told we need to douche.
Thus, a douchebag is a guy who is unnecessary, useless, and possibly harmful to women. Therefore it’s quite appropriate to say, for example, that Tucker Max is a douchebag.
So there. Everyone gets to be right! Douchebag has been regarded as misogynistic; douchebag has been regarded as an apt summary of the misogynists themselves. It boils down to personal preference. From this linguistic controversy, there have emerged three things I know for sure:
1) I’m pretty sure that if I ever decided to go back to graduate school, I’d be itching to tackle the topic of “the origins of slang.” However, if I went back to graduate school, I’d have to do something with Dinkwad Passle–I couldn’t leave them there in the classroom, scratching at their scalps while I hied off to scratch my own semantic itch; they’d be dead in a week, once their smokes ran out–and the prospect of toting a crew of dinkwad douchebags into my Syntactic Theory II class pretty much squelches all desire to even enroll in the first place;
2) If my mother is reading this post, she’s completely aghast, having just learned of rectal douching before anal sex. Please, please, Mom, don’t click on the “santorum” link above. You’re 76 now. Some things are best left unclicked. Don’t you hear your cross-stitch calling? Heed that call, Jocelyn’s Mom. Go make a pretty angel with metallic threads now, and leave the santorum to the youngsters;
3) If nothing else comes out of this whole line of inquiry, I’ve also recently learned that a scumbag is a condom. I was too busy thinking Julia Roberts and Lyle Lovett should still be together to ever register that scum is semen.
Seriously, Mom. You have to stop reading now.