On the word "douche"

Some men are douches. They're easy to spot: cocky, arrogant, and confrontational, with only stupidity backing up their aggressive actions. For example, one might call Rush Limbaugh a douche. Mel Gibson has displayed douche-like qualities, particularly when drunk. Carrot Top, Hasselhoff, countless politicians both historic and contemporary, all have earned the epithet.

The other night I called someone a "douche." Never mind who, because I forgot. But I haven't forgotten the surprise I felt when some of my girlfriends objected to its usage. I'd grown so accustomed to its slang meaning, I'd completely forgotten its original definition. My friends hadn't. They didn't see it as a derisive term for men, but another example of society's hatred towards women, hatred embedded in language itself. Like telling a little boy who's crying to "Stop acting like a girl" as if that were a bad thing! (By the way, I throw like a girl and am proud of it too.)

My immediate response was that few women use the hygienic device anymore, modern medicine pretty much debunking it as a beneficial practice, and I launched into a defense of the word's continued usage as a slur based on that shaky premise.

Now I'm not so sure. Does using the word perpetuate misogyny? Do our word choices reveal our true beliefs? And the big question: Am I a douche?
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5 Response to On the word "douche"

July 27, 2009 at 9:15 PM

from Monda's Handbook of Delicate Southern Etiquette:

A woman can USE a douche, but she can never BE a douche (see "pussy," page 173).

I guess you're in the clear, gal.

July 28, 2009 at 11:14 AM

I think the insult is pretty much divorced from the hygenic product at this point. Though I always have to keep from laughing when one of my colleagues refers to that popular sinus treatment where you pour salt water into your nose as a "nasal douche."
I was also just thinking about that word yesterday--one of my students this summer is a total douche, a nasal douche even. I was going to tell Diane that he was a douche, and see if she agreed. But then Diane wasn't around. Oh well. He's still a douche.

August 2, 2009 at 8:10 PM

It always gives me pause when one of our (young, oh so sweetly young) assistants or interns coughs up "douche" as a dismissive phrase. I'm pretty sure they never sat through "girl's hygiene" lectures from Nurse Ratchett in Grade 7. I've never been able to think "that word" without hearing her voice hectoring us about how we didn't want to smell bad...ever.

Of course, we had to walk by the boys PE locker room to attend the class...enough said?

August 15, 2009 at 11:11 AM

I'd say you're good. You can probably make an argument about the original hygenic object being itself inconvenient/oppressive etc., and say that you're drawing a comparison between the negative values of a person and the negative values of the object.

Interestingly, Mel Gibson, who you mentioned, plays a character who condemns that use of the word in Signs.

August 27, 2009 at 12:10 PM

I like it, because I think it generally refers to male behavior that is as antiquated and oppressive as the douche that males once forced on women.

Hence, "He's so douchey" etc. variations on the terms are particularly pleasing.

And I disagree that it can't be applied to women, Ann Coulter, for example, is a total douche.


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