Thursday, 25 October 2012

In Defense of Using "Douche" as an Insult

I recently read this post on Can Be Bitter, in which the author dissects the meanings behind some commonly-used insults, namely douche, slut, motherfucker, and comparing vaginas to sea-creatures. I'm totally on board with the opening - that language is important, that the words we use reveal and reinforce cultural ideas that we share and which may be harmful or oppressive, and that we should therefore be aware of what the hidden meanings of the words we use. I like the suitcase metaphor - as in, think of each word as a suitcase full of all kinds of cultural and personal assumptions, and in order to communicate effectively with one another we have to all know most (but not all) of what's contained in those suitcases. (Quick aside: this is why "It didn't mean anything, it's just a joke!" is not a defense. If it actually didn't mean anything, it would not have been a joke, it would have been a series of disconnected nonsense words. It's only a joke because it means something, and because everyone who gets the joke knows what things it means. I'll probably write more on this later, but for now this is a pretty interesting article.)

So I think it's really important to acknowledge the ways our words are used and the meanings we may or may not be aware of when we speak, and to take the harm those words and meanings can cause very seriously. Whoever said "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" was, quite frankly, a total idiot.

The purpose of this post is to defend the use of one of the words discussed in the post at Can Be Bitter, not in denial of what the words means, but because of it. The author points out that douche is an insult primarily because it is a thing that is used in the vagina, which obviously makes it gross and terrible and something no one would ever want to be associated with. And that's true, for sure, but it's also true that douching in itself is a pretty oppressive and dangerous practice, and for me that makes it a pretty damn apt insult for a certain type of behaviour.


  • Douching, first, is the act of squirting corrosive, flower-scented chemicals up the vagina, also known as Patriarchy-In-A-Box. It is based on the idea that vaginas are dirty and gross and something to be embarrassed about. Just like this.
  • Douching is a harmful, unsafe practice that denies the actual function of female sexual and reproductive organs, and uses that denial to assert male control over them.  Just like all of this nasty business.
  • Douching is also about selling women products they don't need to fix something that isn't wrong with them. I can't find a link to ALL OF ADVERTISING EVER, so use your imagination. Or go watch some tv. No, wait. Don't.
  • Douching is a symptom of the idea that female bodies exists for male pleasure. Just like this.

It turns out there are a lot of people (mostly male people, but not exclusively) exhibiting dangerous, oppressive desires to control vaginas and the things that happen there. Douches, one and all!

*Photo credit: Gawker

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Some Thoughts About Reddit, Doxxing, and the Anonymity of Images

In case you haven’t heard about it yet, here’s some background on the Reddit-Predditors series of events.

I’ve been reading a lot of pretty great analysis that goes well beyond the obvious “uh, if posting photos of non-consenting women in public is free speech, then me calling you an asshole for doing it is also free speech”, and there’s been a ton written about putting r/creepshots, Amanda Todd, and 12-year-old Slut Facebook pages in the context of a society that is often actively hostile to women and girls more generally. I have some general-ish thoughts about the nature of online anonymity, why we value it, and who benefits from it, so here they are.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Hi, I'm New Here.

Hi! Welcome!

Here are some things that describe me. I will probably write mostly about being those things, and some other things, and what that means for me in the world. Anything I write that is not directly about being those things in the world is still kind of about being those things in the world, if you know what I mean.

As one of the Base Assumptions of this blog (and, you know, feminism) is that the personal is political, I will try my best to be unflinching in what I write here. There is a lot about me that is not likeable, but I will try to be brave about that, because I think it's important to examine the ways our individual lives are impacted by broader social structures. I also think it's important to illustrate that the process of situating your life and your decisions in cultural context does not automatically rob you of agency, or whatever, and that we will get nowhere if we can't at least agree on that. I believe in recognizing my own privilege, and I will do my best to ensure people who belong to a group with which I do not identify will be able and encouraged to speak for themselves here, especially when discussing issues that impact those groups more directly. I believe that listening to marginalized voices of all varieties is necessary to move the struggle for meaningful equality forward, and that likewise - or therefore - those voices and stories are often ignored. Also, though, I will try to be careful in identifying the line, insofar as that's possible, between listening to stories and relying on anecdotal evidence, which is subject to that most pernicious of effects, the confirmation bias, and I will try to make sure that the speech here is based on fairness and openness. I will likely discover that this is much easier said than done (foreshadowing!).

 I hope to build a safe space here, like the many online spaces that have made me feel safe and welcome, and from which I've learned so much. I hope to add my voice and the voices of whatever community hopefully forms here to a vitally important conversation about power and its manifestations, and I expect to learn a great deal here too.

And we're away!