Dan Savage Gets Glitterbombed for Being Transphobic" post by Tobi Hill-Meyer, a side discussion has broken out that's worthy of it's own thread. Is calling someone a douche misogynistic?]]>"/> Dan Savage Gets Glitterbombed for Being Transphobic" post by Tobi Hill-Meyer, a side discussion has broken out that's worthy of it's own thread. Is calling someone a douche misogynistic?]]>"/>

Bil Browning

Sidetrack: Is 'Douche' Misogynistic?

Filed By Bil Browning | November 03, 2011 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: Dan Savage, douchebag, is a douche, is it a slur, misogyny, sexist language

Over on the "Dan Savage Gets Glitterbombed for Being Transphobic" post by Tobi Hill-Meyer, a side discussion has broken out that's worthy of it's own thread.douche.jpg

Capitalistpiggy left this comment shortly after the story went up. I've edited it down for the pertinent part:

You left out this interesting quote from the statement on indymedia:

"Dan Savage is a transphobic and generally oppressive rich white cis gay man who came to Eugene, OR on Halloween weekend. The Dan Savage Welcoming Committee let him know that he can't be a douche with impunity."

I just love groups that fling accusations of misogyny around and then use misogynist language in their own statements.

I agreed with captialistpiggy, but Project Raven Geary disagreed:


"Douche" is the very opposite of a misogynistic term. Douching is an oppressive practice that is harmful to vaginas, which makes it a great insult. This argument was settled in like 1999, people.

I've lifted up the thread and put it after the break, but I encourage folks to hash this one out. I'd like to know the general consensus on this question: Is calling someone a douche misogynistic? Please explain your thinking in the comments section.

Bil Browning
That was my first thought too. "Wait. They call him misogynistic and a douche?!" Oy. The irony. It burns.

Raven Geary

"Douche" is the very opposite of a misogynistic term. Douching is an oppressive practice that is harmful to vaginas, which makes it a great insult. This argument was settled in like 1999, people.

Bil Browning
Tell me more. In the comments section here several contributors (and other commenters) have been taken to task for using the word as a slur.

Raven Geary
Well, that's unfortunate, because I simply cannot see how that term is at all a slur.

Om Kalthoum
Try this:

Douche is really short for the original slur "douche bag," an item used only by women. And, trust me, this slur's original users were exclusively male. Now, they could just as easily have picked an equal opportunity slur like "enema bag" couldn't they? But they didn't. Why do you suppose that is? What does this say about what any user of this term thinks about women?

Kathy Padilla
So - then being a realist about when terms enter general usage and fools errands standards only apply to certain people. Why do you think that is?

Jessica Max Stein
I would agree with Om -- "douche" is misogynistic.

Om Kalthoum
I don't know any women who thinks that being called a douche or douche bag is a good thing, or even a neutral thing. It's a bad thing. Period. It is intended to bring to mind bad smells and lack of cleanliness, at minimum. But you know that.

Shemale, on the other hand, perfectly describes what the purchasers of this type of sexual experience are looking for. Elsewhere, the OP suggested "trans prostitute" as a substitute. But who's kidding whom? If a guy requests such a prostitute, someone with a vagina could possibly show up, right? So to answer the OP's question here, that's what's wrong with just using "trans prostitute."

Kathy Padilla
That can't be right. I just googled it & here's a woman who thinks the word is just fine to use.

Dan Savage Is A Douchebag Posted by: The Angry Black Woman

Are we playing bingo?

  • 'Douche' is not misogynist language. A douche is something that *hurts* women.
  • Being gay means that you lack hetero privilege. It doesn't undo your class, white, cis, or male privilege. No one claimed that Dan Savage or any other gay man has "all the power in society".
  • Reclaiming a slur that is used against you is not the same as using a slur that affects a marginalized group to which you don't belong.

Shaed Greenwood
While douching for general hygiene reasons is harmful, it is sometimes medically useful. I'm not comfortable with douche equaling inherently bad because how will this affect the self-esteem women (and other vag-owners) who need to douche for medical reasons?


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I think you're missing the point. Dan uses "douche" all the time, and is constantly criticized for it, often by the same people that criticize him for transphobia. In context, the line from the glitter-bombing group is meant to evoke Dan's own messaging to further prove their point of how they perceive Dan to be careless towards women and trans people.

To the question of whether or not douche is a misogynistic term... I don't know. Seems to me that misogynistic would terms directed toward women, things like B**** and C***, that are used specifically in relation to women or feminine people. But douche is used almost exclusively toward men. I don't hear people calling women douches. Seems like it's more along the lines of calling a dude femmy. But it does clearly evoke the idea of dirtiness and uncleanliness with regard to women, so I can see where the thought that it could be a misogynistic term comes in...

Every once in a while I get to use the line, "I'd call you an asshole but I really do like assholes."

Same goes for several other words, including the way America now uses the word "suck" -- we now say "That sucks!" to mean we don't like it, even though we simultaneously work to eliminate the traditional stigma associated with cocksucking, especially men doing it on other men.

The word "douche" is similar -- when used clinically, there's no problem with it. But when used as an insult, it's misogynistic spin is unmistakable, all the linguistic somersaulting that gay men do with the term notwithstanding.

As Richard said... Savage uses 'douche' constantly and the glitterer was undoubtedly using it sarcasm towards Savage's continued use of it.

Do I think the word douche is misogynistic... not in and of itself (and I agree with the 'sucks' analogy), but it depends on the context of the person who says it. Have they consistently made other offensive comments about women and, particularly, women's bodies? In Savage's case, yes, therefore, when said by someone with his history, I would consider it part and parcel of his continued misogyny.

The users at Shakesville seem to take "douche" as offensive and misogynistic. You should consult them. Using it will probably get your post deleted if not your IP banned.

The reality of the word "douche" is that is a slur because it equates identity to the ridiculed practice of being used to clean the equally ridiculed idea of an unhygienic vagina.

I use the term too, but if you really inspect the term, its misogyny is clear. It's ironic to call someone out for their misogyny and then carelessly use your own misogynistic terminology to insult them.

Surely I can't be the only one reading this who uses the word "douche" to describe what I do, as a cis male, to prepare myself for anally receptive sex? It need not always be related to vaginas and for me it's a beneficial practice.

I agree that's where the term originated, and thus personally avoid using it. But the word now has a complex set of connotations, not all of them related to vaginas, so when is the language allowed to grow beyond those early confines of meaning? I truly don't know...

Frankly, I suspect use of the word as an expletive may be more due to its sound and brevity than any misogynist intent. Like "shit" or "bitch," it's fast and contains some satisfyingly strong consonant sounds that are common in other American English profanities. Sometimes these things are not nearly so complicated as our armchair academic dissections would indicate.

Nevertheless, misogyny is definitely a real, severe problem in our society, so I tend to avoid any terms remotely in that arena, even if I believe there is often no misogynist intent.

...much like how calling things "gay" is fine because kids "don't really mean 'gay', they just mean something stupid and annoying" or "queer" in a game of "Smear the Queer".

I'm betting George Carlin is laughing in his grave at all the new words that have somehow become slur words in the 21st Century. I guess when the words "the, and" and "of" become slur words, I'll just have to learn to speak Mandarin Chinese.


Nobody has a right not to be offended. But throwing materials on top of someone is a clear cut case of criminal harassment.

It's always amusing to see people taking the moral high ground when they're in turn so ready to stopp to a level of childish assault.

"Throwing materials"...

Um... a wee, teeny, little bit overly dramatic here?

Throwing cinderblocks, explosives, or manure = bad materials.

Tossing glitter = silly materials.

Eventually, smug a-holes will get a plate of spaghetti dumped on their head by someone who just doesn't need to listen to their crap anymore.

Or a pie in the face, as history can attest to.

This topic is probably worthy of a thesis.

After some googling, I found this very succinct explanation:

The original use of the word as an insult goes back to the days when douching was something nice ladies did because their lady parts were dirty and needed to be cleaned. The douche or douchebag was considered contaminated by its association with the dirty vagina and its indelicate secretions. The word, I am told, is now used by feminists and allies to mean a useless thing that is harmful to women.

-Old Feminist

While a douche is derived from the word wash and can technically be simply water, the douches marketed to women have often included perfumes and chemicals that can cause harm. Old Feminist goes on to make a very convincing argument for why such a re-purposing of the term is not helpful, and I'm inclined to agree. But whether or not you think re-purposing is beneficial, it is useful to understand the intent behind those who do.

I consulted a source at the UO connected to the DSWC, and they informed me that the intended use here was to communicate "a useless thing marketed as beneficial to women that instead harms them."

That's right, let's have the entire original point of transphobia in the ghey community (as exemplified by Danny) get derailed into a discussion of whether "douche" is an insult. Let's see, and rather than discussing any of the issues the Occupy Movement is bringing up, let's debate Santa Claus' existence.

Actually, if you wanted to discuss the issue of transphobia in the gay community, you probably want to go here: http://www.bilerico.com/2011/11/dan_savage_gets_glitter_bombed_for_being_transphob.php

This post is specifically about the use of the word "douche", with the added disclaimer that is a "Sidetrack" from the original topic. It seems to be an intentional means of bringing that discussion over here and recommitting the comments on the original topic to that post. i.e. transphobia from Dan Savage.

+1000 bonus points for answering this before I could, luminum.

I think this entire thread is a kind of derail and trying to make a very important subject into something silly and you're very well aware of it. This isn't really a discussion about misogyny, it's an attempt to ridicule the person(s) who glitterbombed Dan Savage. And no, I don't think glitterbombing is so very important, but humiliating someone who seems to have pretensions of being seen as Mr. Mainstream LGBTQ spokesman/activist while being apologetically transphobic is a worthwhile pursuit.

Joe Anonymous | November 3, 2011 3:31 PM

Aside from "bad", "wrong", "not okay", it's difficult to think of really forceful insults that aren't in some way misogynistic/anti-sex/racist/homophobic/anti-disability etc.

Anybody have suggestions for really insulting phrases that don't belittle any particular group?

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While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.
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Joe Anonymous | November 3, 2011 4:23 PM

Deena, I like your style.

Wow. Let's calm down there, and take slow, easy steps away from the edge of the building.

I kinda like, "You sot!" with a strong Britishish accent.

But then, I have no idea what a sot is, lol.

I kinda like, "You sot!" with a strong Britishish accent.

But then, I have no idea what a sot is, lol.

Sot is an Old English - derived from the the Old French word "sott" - slang for a habitual drunk. Somebody who can't get out of bed in the morning without an "eye-opener", and then spends the rest of the day in a liquor-induced stupor. Today it tends to mean anyone who is being obtusely or intentionally stupid. GAWDZ!, but I love British slang.

Yes, douche is misogynistic. Douche is a term RELATING to women. To most men, anything female/women related is below them and inferior, thus "you throw like a girl", "you scream like a girl" as if they were bad things.

Douching is a woman thing and therefore, inferior to being a man. Just like being gay to a lot of men is seen as feminine, therefore below them.

I ask anyone, can you think of any terms related to men that are used as a derogative against anyone else that would be equal to douche (or bitch or any other word relating to women)?

Easy. Jerkoff, fuckwad, penisbrain, wanker. Need more?

...dick, dickhead, cock, cum rag, ballsack, asshole (which I imagine must reference another man's asshole, since I doubt anyone thinks of a woman's asshole when using the term derogatorily or even calls a woman an asshole), bastard, jackass, dumbass, jerk, tosser, meathead, nutsack...

Half of those are really gender neutral: cum, fuckwad, asshole, jerk, dumbass, bastard. But yes, I thought of all penis words after I left my comment.

However, I still don't think the male terms have the same "meaning" as a female term. I mean, really, the penis can be used positively, negatively, and many other ways (oh the man and his best friend) ie: "suck my dick," "Like my cock?" "I have a big nutsack," all very neutral/positive ways to use those words. But bitch, cunt, douche... how can you turn those positive? (And turning Bitch into a new female power word doesn't count).

beergoggles | November 3, 2011 8:58 PM

I must be the only one who associates with a group of lesbians that find innovative ways to use the term douche. So far there's been 'douche nozzle', 'douchelele', 'douche smear', 'douche canoe', etc. The only thing missing has been a term coupling 'douche' to 'santorum'.

Oh please, beergoggles, don't give Dan Savage any more ideas ... he might try to redeem himself! ... or claim, "See, I now have earned a license to use the word 'douche' ..."

Don't do it ... his ego is swollen enough as it is!

I would definitely say that in the context of a feminist using the term against a misogynist, which is the context of the glitterbomb, the history of reclamation is this fashion by feminists means that the word is not misogynist.

I still find it problematic for the reason I said, but do not think the protester was hypocritical in their usage.

Wow. It sounds like some of you have been taking quotes and words from the Drill Sergent's Training Manual. Here's one my father gave me. Try it on Dan Savage sometimes.

"You're so stupid you couldn't pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel."

I've used that one to describe Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, etc, etc, etc.

Ok, We've turned the Douche Bag inside out and analysed it from every angle (mental/visual image intended)and parsed words ad infinitum. It's settled, "Douche Bag" if not misogynistic, is sexist, as is Dan Savage. Was it appropriate for his critics to use the term? No, it's the pot calling the kettle black. Let's just call Mr. Savage, a pretentious, pompous, full of himself, Gay man, who like soo many others, doesn't have a clue about Trans people -who we are are, or what we stand for. Move on. Let's shoot down the next idiot that inserts his extremity in his oriface!

Kathy Padilla | November 4, 2011 8:45 AM

It might have been more appropriate to include my full quotes above so the context they were made in was a bit more full. This was in connection to Om supporting using terms like "she-male" in the same comments section; which she said must be acceptable as it was common usage given how many google hits it returned upon search. I stated that I would be happy to see that standard applied when she complained about offensive language. And, there you are.

"In response to Jessica Max Stein:

Kathy Padilla | November 3, 2011 8:58 AM

I'm not disagreeing. Just pointing out that the standard she/he uses differs from the one she/he used further down the thread on considering she-male & other terms derogatory when applied to trans folk. In that case she argued that it should be fine as it had such wide common usage.

What are your thoughts on the - but Mom - everyone else is doing it, standard? Follow up needn't mention Bridges in Brooklyn, though my Mom would have.

Interestingly, it is Dan Savage who is opposed to using the misogynistic term 'pussy'. He wrote that using 'pussy' to denote being a wimp makes no sense as pussies (vaginas) are extremely tough and capable of giving birth to a much larger baby. Instead, a better term for 'wimp' or 'pansy' would be 'nutsack', 'scrotum', or 'testicles', as they are quite sensitive and delicate.

Well, ideology aside, I love the terms douchebag and asshole. I can't imagine getting through the day without them. In fact, research shows that screaming douchebag or asshole only once a day, even if only at some asshole (see!) on the TV, improves one's general health and even extends one's life. Only kidding. But I think the zip of douchebag comes more from sound then from its association with gender. It's part of a family of -bag terms...sleezebag, scumbag, slimebag, scuzzbag, etc...that manage to sound both insulting and comical at the same time. A Spanish equivalent for both douchebag and asshole (terms that make absolutely no sense in Spanish as insults) is pendejo, which literally means pubic hair. But nobody thinks of a pubic hair when they say it. They think of...well...what we think of when we call someone a douchebag or an asshole. It's the plosive sound of pendejo that gives it its zing. Oh well, Eli signing off here, your friendly neighborhood douchbag.

I'm probably really asking for it with this one, so before I go into my thoughts on the matter, I'll give the simple version.

Yes. As a slur, it's used, primarily towards men, and because it comes from a women's hygiene product, it is meant to degrade men by the comparison of them to women. It's no different than using "pussy" in the same sense, and as a rule I do not use the word in that context. My wife respects that, as well, and has since stopped using the word. I had actually been meaning to write a post about this myself months ago, but, alas, procrastination ensued.

Now, here's what I'm curious about. I, for one, love my douche. Granted, I'm a post-op transgender woman, and I like to douche daily, as my vagina is not self-cleaning. It is a comfortable part of my daily ritual. In fact, the practice for me began just after my surgery, and was part of my surgeon's instructions for post-operative care. So I, for one, and I'm sure many like myself, am grateful that douches are easily available commercially, and will continue to enjoy them. At what point, then, can the trans women's community reclaim the word "douche" as a product from the negative image that cis women have bestowed upon it? Or does anyone really care?


There are limits to how PC I'm willing to be. I suggest that if we can't even figure out whether this term is misogynistic, then it's probably burrowed its way so far into the vernacular that it doesn't really matter. Maybe we should talk about something that does matter, like what the intent of the speaker was.