Why I Don’t Use The Word “Douchebag”

*E-Board Member of the Week post

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The word “douchebag” never bothered me until recently–that is, until I really thought about it. I was at Beanster’s getting a coffee when I overheard an exchange between two individuals, where one person was describing their significant other as a “douchebag” for not having attended an event with them. I have to admit, they were right to be upset- homie should have taken them to said event, no argument there. But why the word “douchebag”? In order to understand why I, as a feminist, was so vexed with the trivial nature of this matter, I got cooking (a metaphor you will soon come to appreciate).

First off: it’s useless. Douching, that is. The act of douching was established as a “necessary” (read: unnecessary) act of female hygiene. It relied on the false idea that the female genitalia was unclean, and, therefore, in need of a good douche.  Douching at one point was thought to be a form of birth control, a manner in which to rid yourself of those nasty little sperms–just wash them right on out! (Laughs hysterically.) Don’t we all wish? Washing out your vagina is actually associated with higher risk of sexually transmitted infections and other numerous health problems.

Ironically, the vagina–besides being the most amazing, versatile organ one could ask for–also self-cleans! Making the act of douching completely obsolete! In fact, douching is actually harmful.  The completely unwarranted act wrecks havoc on the female vagina and body. Hence, the adoption of “douche” and “douchebag” as a slang term for “jerk” or “useless”.

Despite knowing, as a feminist, that using “douchebag” as an insult accomplishes nothing, the word still manages to irk me. It somehow gets under my skin and repulses me. And it’s not because I’m disgusted by the act of douching. In fact, I know several individuals who, for reasons of their own, douche regularly. I just have a strong distaste for any word whose etymology is gendered, meaning that it’s distasteful definition is directly derived from an object created to “clean” the female body. It further proliferates the idea that female genitalia is gross and in need of a good spritz. When the vagina, as I mentioned earlier, is pretty fucking fabulous. When we continue to use “insults” like these inherently gendered ones, we further the idea that to be female is to be dirty, bad, or wrong–whether we do so knowingly or not.

Even though douching is medically problematic, dangerous, and downright unfriendly to the female body, it still doesn’t justify the slang word as being politically correct or socially acceptable.

Maybe I have a hard time believing that individuals using the words “douche” and “douchebag” really understand the context of the word. More likely, though, I think it is a classic case of equating the female genitalia with socially defined “unfavorable qualities”. I can’t imagine that the majority of the general population understand the harmful nature of douching. If they did, would Summer’s Eve still have shelf space at your local pharmacy?

Yet, still it is highly contested as to whether or not feminists should use the insult. That somehow the use of “douche” and “douchebag”, in modern feminist vernacular, indicates a reclaiming of a term that once was degrading, as if to say, “Gotcha suckers! You thought it was offensive because our vaginas were unclean? Joke’s on you! Turns out douching is useless, and our vaginas self-clean, like my family’s boss-ass KitchenAid Oven. Yeah, you heard me, douchebag! I’m talking convection and shit.” You see people engage in the same argument in regards to “pussy” as being a slang word for “pusillanimous”. If that’s the case, then why is my vagina being described as showing a lack of courage or determination? My menstrual cycle passionately dissents.
Maybe this is a petty over-examination of a silly slang word. But maybe it’s not. I can’t help but think that, under investigation, we can begin to not only improve our arsenal of vocabulary but also do so without degrading an entire population of individuals. Regardless, the use of these highly gendered terms, besides being offensive, is super banal. If your amigo is being a jerk, I get it–call them out! Just don’t do so at someone else’s expense. That would make you a real used Kleenex.

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Jacqueline Saplicki

President, What the F Magazine

University of Michigan 2017

College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

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