Monday, December 14, 2009

A Douche By Any Other Name

Warning: The language below is unsuited for some readers. Also, I had a difficult time formatting this post. If you see any inconsistencies, I may have not been able to fix them.


The word douche-bag, or the truncated moniker douche, is a word that has been thrown around with unfocused resolve. Douche usage seems to be more and more frequent, with its application becoming less and less sound. What is a douche bag and douchebaggery?

The quest for the elusive proper-use of this term begins in a strange sort of Shire. Its original understandng was a cleansing agent for feminine hygiene. Not even out of Hobbiton, and the journey is already perplexing, since in its pejorative usage, it also describes a bad man. How does an tool used for female washing end up describing a male tool (also a noun that eludes strict definitional precision.) This is reminiscent of a George Carlin joke: in describing one of the seven words you aren't allowed to use on television, "For some reason 'cocksucker' means bad man; it's a good woman."

Before coming to the subject of the douche bag himself, an examination of the accuser may be in order.
In particular, I have read the insult (and similar cold pricklies) at the blog Dating is Miserable. What is most striking is that it is often tied to one of two things: either, is comes as some form of unsolicited dating advice, or a douchy incident had occurred. The first often comes across as patronization; the second, single whinytude. Strangely enough, the d-bomb is almost never uttered from a taken woman's lips.

Both feelings of being patronization and whinytude tend inspire my insolence towards them and never do I feel like I've come away enlightened. Does any single girl in her mid-20s think she can tell me anything I don't already know? Calling a guy you don't like an unqualified douche is often intellectually lazy. It demands nothing of the speaker, whether evaluation of the other person or, God forbid, themselves. What kills me about these girls is their indignation to being hit on by anyone they would rather have just move along. "I just got hit on by this creepy old guy. He was probably over 30 -- eww." When considering women of this species, before appraising their gems of wisdom, I feel it obligatory to ask one question: Is this a judgmental narcissist? This is only fair. A searching single does not a sage make. (As my research revealed to me, there is a term for this kind of person.)

Zack Brown: I've known her since the first grade, you don't fuck someone you met in the first grade.
Delaney: Excuse me, I met my wife in kindergarten, we got married senior year, and she's been the queen of my world ever since.
Zack Brown: But what if you could do it all over again?
Delaney: I would jerk off and live by myself. That woman is the bane of my existence.
~From "Zack and Miri Make a Porno"

Vlogger Bernard Chapin has a wonderful, if not out-of-character, vlog post titled Never Give Up on Women. In it, his logic is simple: women are the only game in town; his advice is likewise as simple: if you want a woman, try harder. I am of two-minds on this. For many people, one of the key struggles in life is the tension between authenticity and acceptance. Speaking as someone who is going to die alone, being true to oneself has its advantages; if nothing else, I say pretty much whatever I want because I have generally accepted my loneliness. The status quo is only one option. Many women are worth falling for but none are worth falling over. My own rule is thus: life is short, the road is long, and anyone who wishes to accompany me along the way is a welcome companion; but, I do not abide people who wish to mold and control me. We are equals or nothing at all.

My shadow's the only one that walks beside me
My shallow heart's the only thing that's beating
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
'Til then I walk alone
Back to finding definitional certitude, douche bag runs the gamut from describing actions to apparel (see picture) to attitude. Here are some various definitions and applications of douche bag.

1. Popped Collars
2. Frequently not wearing a shirt (this one makes me giggle for reasons I can't say here)
3. Tanning
4. Liking Dane Cook
5. Overconfidence
6. Low intelligence
7. Having a certain Jersey Shore metro-esque look
8. Given to clubbing, alcohol, violence and sex
9. Hitting on girls he knows are taken
10. A kind of herd mentality that reinforces douche bag ritualism.

At first blush, d-bag seems to only mean 'boo' to odious behavior. But that is unsatisfying verbicide (the act of "killing" a word by removing any sense of distinctive objectivity about it and using it to merely describe one's subjective feelings towards the thing in question.) This is my main objection. In order for douche to mean anything, it must mean something; more to the point, it must mean something we can all get behind. Even if none of the above characteristics are present, one may still find themselves in douche land. One big criticism I have is that it seem to go along with the typical white person disapproval of anything that deviates from the boring norm. I'm as white bread as they come, but is a man wearing jewelry and Abercrombie and Fitch at 30 a truly bad thing? Dane Cook fans are lapping up the dregs of comedic drivel, but certainly they aren't as bad as the guy who hits on engaged women and whose insecurity starts fights over nonsense. Can we agree that there should be different words denoting bad behavior and bad taste?

This has all left me perplexed. I have searched all over the Mordor of the internet to finally nail down what is a douche bag, and find that I am every more stumped. Will we ever be able to come to a consensus?


AgentNate009 said...

I think that you have stumbled upon a growing problem and trend in our western civilization; the problem of subjective word definitions as a side effect of the post-modernism cultural paradigm shift.

Even the f-word has a noticeable level of ambiguity to it. The brother of a friend of mine said "fuck you" to me and I proceeded to unbutton and unzip my pants while saying something to the effect of "prove it." He back peddled in a hurry! I thought about that later, and my calling his bluff and abuse of a word that should have a specific definition. He demonstrated clearly enough his own stupidity in terms of using words that are proper for the context. He seemed to be using the f-word to insult, rather than per its definition.

I remember seeing in a movie, or reading several years ago of we humans being referred to as "bone bags." I wonder if that is what the ..."baggery" part refers to... I suppose someone may have wanted to insult a person and called them a "douche bag" with the definition of "feminine hygiene product" in mind. I suspect that the word gained in popularity and has now taken on a number of subjective meanings as more words are cast into the black hole of subjective definitions in our "post-modern" culture. It is my understanding that one of the features of post-modernism is the shift away from interpreting written words to understand the message that an author wishes to communicate, and substituting your own interpretation of written works so that those works say what you want them to say.

Toolbit said...


For some reason the word fuck doesn't bother me for the same reason, and I don't know why. You are correct that it can be ambiguous, and yet I love the word. Probably in part because it is so fucking versatile.

On the subject of bone bags, I think that's just making a metaphor out of skin. I would assume no relationship with douche bag. A similar example would be from the movie Men in Black where Edgar/the Insect (played by Vincent D'Onofrio) refers to humans as 'meat sacks.' By contrast, the baggery in douchebaggery seems to modify the noun to relate it to a kind of informal institutional status, like thievery or thuggery.

As for your critique of post-modern culture, I don't know if would blame post-modernism, but I definitely would agree that our culture seems to be driven more by feeling and subjectivity than other generations. I guess that's what I'm trying to fight against. Thanks for your thoughts.

Merry Christmas,

AgentNate009 said...

My sister read your blog (I had it open for awhile while pondering the contents) and she said that the hygienic product comes in a bag, and in her estimation, the term "douche bag" is actually more of an insult akin to calling some guy "pussy whipped." It would seem then, that douche bag is somewhat lower in the continuum of insulting terms.

Toolbit said...


I saw this comic and thought of your friend's brother story.

AgentNate009 said...

That comic was quite appropriate to the situation! I might have to use the "low verbal IQ" on the next person who displays as much!