I like to curse”¦ a lot. And I like to be as creative with spellings as I am with uses (fuck can be used in a surprisingly diverse number of ways). As a feminist, though, I’m constantly considering linguistic histories of the words that I use. With regard to cursing, I think things like, “What’s the male equivalent of ‘bitch’? Is there one? Of ‘pussy’? Is it OK to use these words? In what context?” Sure, you have “dick,” but, let’s be honest, it doesn’t hold the same demeaning history.
But fear not! I’ve done the heavy lifting. Today, I’d like to demonstrate why “douche” is the most feminist insult and appropriate for all occasions.
First, a brief history of douching. To douche is to use an instrument that has been claimed to “freshen up” a woman’s vagina by “rinsing” menstrual blood, semen, or odor (and, therefore, contribute to sexual desirability). As you’ll see from some advertisements below, the logic behind the douche is that vaginas are dirty and stinky, and that, if you are a Good Woman, you douche. You know, for your loved one. The argument is essentially that the vaginal opening is located in an area where waste and dangerous bacteria are discharged from the vagina and two other openings “down there.”
Douching has been thought to prevent pregnancies (it doesn’t) and to cure of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In reality, however, doctors have found that douching actually kills the good bacteria that live in your vagina. When you kill friendly bacteria, bad bacteria takes over, and the pH balance of your vagina is thrown off. So what was a perfectly healthy vagina is now a vagina that is at risk of an infection (which, if you’re following, is precisely why many are douching in the first place). Studies have shown that douching, in addition to increasing risk of infection, increases the odds of cervical cancer and ectopic pregnancies. [citation: Historical dictionary of Feminism, Janet K. Boles, et al.]
When it was discovered that douching was not an adequate means of birth control, advertisers turned it into a cosmetic tool, based on the pervasive and persistent paranoia that we women are unclean. And, boy, did advertisers drive this point home:
Oh, and here’s this gem:
And just in case you think this sort of thing is a vintage phenomenon, this doozy came out just last year:
This one’s brand new, too:
Hail to the V – Summer’s Eve Advertisement
Video: [Image of cave-woman-esque woman with baby going all, “Simba one day you’ll be King.” Then to Cleopatra on top of a temple, getting hailed] “It’s the cradle of life; it’s the center of civilization.” [Two men fighting, one with bamboo the other with a sword. Then two jousters.] “Over the ages and throughout the world, men have fought for it, battled for it, died for it. One might say it’s the most powerful thing on earth” (so far I’m not hating this). [Video cuts to woman in supermarket with nice elevator music] “So come on, ladies, show it a little love!”
What is really important (and offensive) in this Summer’s Eve ad is that these men aren’t fighting for love, they are fighting for your vagina. One that, by the way, they presume is nice and clean. So don’t disappoint them. And just in case you were feeling like you were the only woman that needed to douche, don’t worry! As you can see, women in primitive, ancient (read: non-white) civilizations did it, too! Even Cleopatra! And who doesn’t want to be Cleopatra?! Further, this advertisement irresponsibly continues the trend to reduce women–historically noteworthy women, known for great things like running empires and general badassery–to a single (dirty) body part.
Whether you douche or not, advertisements for douching are notorious (as seen) for encouraging women to self-hate. Don’t be unclean! If you have a vagina, you’re unclean! Periods are gross and unnatural! You can’t control your body! It leaks! Don’t be so porous and out of control! It means you’re unclean! Cleanliness is power! Cleanliness is love!
Though there is ample evidence that douching is actually unhealthy (the vagina is a self-cleaning organ), even without this proof, advertisement has given me plenty of fuel for why calling someone a douche is a deliciously feminist thing to do.
Urban Dictionary defines “douche” as “a word to describe an individual who has shown themself [sic] to be very brainless in one way or another, thus comparing them to the cleansing product for vaginas.”
Well, not quite, Urban Dictionary.
Or, rather, not anymore.
I’m calling for a reclaiming of “douche” to mean, as it should, “a useless, even dangerous, tool made to make women feel bad about themselves.” It should be said to people who, like the douche itself, have an over-inflated sense of worth despite having a low level of use and/or intelligence.
So go, my clever, bookish ones! Go out into the world and call that douche out for cat-calling or mansplaining! And know that, in using this wonderfully feminist insult, you’re fighting back against the suggestion that women are unclean and should be ashamed of their dirty vaginas.
It’s an insult that insults insulting women! Is it even possible to have so more linguistic, feminist fun with an insult? Oh? You think it is? Yeah, well, then you’re a douche.