The case against douchebag
I’ll be honest, I love saying douchebag. I love the way it sounds, the way it stings. I love that there’s a punchy insulting word for a completely self-unaware fool who doesn’t know shit about what he’s talking about but tries REALLY HARD to seem like he does. It’s about freakin time.
I had long refused to go anywhere near that word for obvious reasons, but then I noticed feminists were using it in their blogs. Some commenters responded with genuine confusion about it, to which supporters posited the following argument (as I understood it): a real vagina-cleansing douchebag is a literal, physical patriarchical tool, so calling a dude a douchebag is really the same as calling him a tool except with loads more ironic feminist derision.
There were some words about reclaiming and such that I willfully didn’t grok, but that didn’t matter cuz I was sold. Douchebag had been feminist-sanctioned! I could say it and not feel like a total hypocrite! W000t!
So after work one night I was with a group of my cool co-workers at a pizza place talking about this guy who had gotten fired that day for essentially being a complete effin tool. Seriously, if ever there was a human that deserved to be called a douchebag, this guy was it.
And I did it. For the first time since my feminist awakening I called someone a douchebag. Out loud. In mixed company. I felt pretty cool for a second as I felt it out – the word came out with confidence and power and at exactly the right moment – but then I got a little sick to my stomach and I felt my face get red. What did I just do? The woman next to me gave me an odd look - one that I have since interpreted as disapproving and confused.
I immediately wanted to explain why it was okay for me to say it, as in “No, no, it’s okay, I’m a feminist! I’m allowed!” but I realized that would require a dinner monologue about dirty vaginas and the patriarchy. No one was in the mood for that, not even me. I just wanted to tell funny stories about the dude that got fired.
So the moment had to pass without context or explanation. None of them were ever the wiser about the tool argument. They just thought I was someone who, like most of the world, feminizes as insult.
I’m not. Today a woman at work asked this guy if he was a girl because he wanted paper towels to clean barbeque sauce off his pork ribbed fingers. I kicked her in the back of the shin out of reflex. Hard. She yelped and I felt bad for resorting to violence. But whatever.
When someone around me calls someone else a pussy or a bitch or they make some tired old gender generalization, they very often look at me right away to see how I’m gonna react and then either apologize to me before or after I say
Hey!” or ask why they shouldn’t say that. Which is weird to me, really, but I am truly comforted that my presence, at the very least, makes people (those that know me at all, anyway) recognize sexist language when they hear it.
So much of the world’s mysogny is expressed so very non-chalantly in modern language. Recognizing and not using the words that ultimately hurt women is a small thing we can do to fight this ugly bloody battle against us. The words we choose to use when we talk to each other is the very easiest thing we can change about ourselves as we get prepped for smashing this shit up.
All of us here know what a douchebag represents. Yes, it’s a tool of the patriarchy in every sense of the word. But getting comfortable with the douche insult and its derivatives in the feminist sphere inevitably results in comfort with it in the non-feminist world, and people generally aren’t privy to the whole feminist take on the term. Calling an Australian politician a douchebag in the comments of IBTP is one thing, but out-feminists calling people douchebags in the company of folks who haven’t come around yet isn’t exactly going to do anything to bring the world closer to treating women as the human beings that we are.
I would bet that it makes those folks think that, holy crap, even feminists don’t have a problem with insulting someone by connecting them to a soiled vagina. Unless the feminist name-caller can fully stop and explain the douchebag-tool connection and why other feminists have embraced it - which is, let’s face it, not typically an appropriate turn to a conversation – then she has only further contributed, perhaps even more significantly, to the mysgony that we battle against.
So I’m done with that word, and that’s that.