The New York Times Embraces 'Douche' as the Television Dirty Word of the Moment
I had to laugh when I read a front page media story in the New York Times on Saturday by in-house art/media critic Ed Wyatt about how the use of the term douche (and its close cousin, douche bag) is breaking out all over -- get this -- network shows during "Family Time."
Now, there's a lot to mock about the Times article, including the fact that Wyatt used statistics from the notoriously biased Parents Television Council to prove that the use of "douche" is very much on the upswing. And of course it's hilarious to see the Times sticking its toe in the dirty-language pool with a term that has been a schoolyard staple for at least 50 years.
But let's not go down the snark path, or the media crit road just yet. Instead, let's stop for a second and see what is up here.
The piece holds up people calling each other douche bags on a range of shows as some kind of example of freedom of expression, or even gritty bona fides for the networks. According to Wyatt, the use of douche seems to represent "the latest of broadcast television's continuing efforts to expand the boundaries of taste, in part to stem the tide of defections by its audience to largely unregulated cable television."
I'm sorry, but this won't do. I don't see the increased use of a sexist term related to women sanitizing their vaginas as a mark of progress. The word's street meaning, as described in the gritty urban dictionary: "The douche bag is a total moron and doesn't think before he speaks or acts," makes the gendered meaning all too apparent -- and repugnant.
Now, I'm stating the obvious when I note that using douche bag is quite pervasive in all sorts of macho cultures -- sports, military and now bad-ass language in the media. In fact, in the Wyatt article, those TV writers peppering their scripts with douche and douche bag refer to the fact that Andy Sipowicz on NYPD Blue used the term.
I'm all for gritty realism, and maybe Sipowicz was just the right character to throw the term around, but is that a reason to justify the present usage? I know I'm veering near the free-speech area and artistic freedom. The "what's wrong with just letting guys be guys" crowd may not like this. But I'm sorry, the prevalent use of "douche" does not represent artistic progress nor the expansion free expression.
I'm not for censoring dirty words. I'm only pointing out that the growing use of douche and douche bag is just another little thing -- unlike the stupid Stupak amendment, which is a big thing -- that shows our culture has contempt for women.
I hate the term douche bag (and also never use the word cunt as a derogatory directed toward other men.) Maybe this makes me a wimp. Clearly, I'm no Andy Sipowicz. But in my defense, I'm not a prude. I feel free to use the term "scum bag" from time to time, mostly referring the bankers and corporations.
What's interesting is that scum bag -- which refers to a used condom -- is essentially a masculine word. Scum bag is probably as close to an analog to douche bag as we are going to get. But "scum bag" doesn't get any attention. No one's writing about it in the New York Times.
In the Urban Dictionary, the most popular definition of scum bag -- a low-life human being who is as worthless as a used rubber -- has only 144 up votes, while a douche bag -- "somebody who you think is a complete retard and doesn't know anything about what they're talking about" has 3,867 up votes.OK, not a scientific analysis, but you get the drift.