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


  1. A lot of people have made the comment that it should be reclaimed, and I am happy to agree with them. While originally douching was seen as a good and necessary thing, and it was the proximity to the vagina that was an insult, I am happy to argue that as an outdated and dangerous practice, the insult of douche is no longer based on my genitalia but rather - as you've said - on the actual (stupid and oppressive) act itself.

    1. Ha, I think that's progress. Feminist victory!

  2. (and I am beyond flattered that you have written a response to my piece by the way. thanks!)