Michael — This is wonderful, and very useful. I’ll use it when teaching at Smith college this fall. I think there’s just one part of this I’d quibble with (that I think my Smith students will jump on, too):
You claim that the connection between “douchebag” and wealthy white men is that they are both engaged in sexist, misogynist action: “Douching is not only an anti-feminist practice pushed by male corporations on women using shame and insecurity as a weapon, but it is almost certainly dangerous to a woman’s health. And therein we find the link between the medical appliance, the outdated practice of feminine hygiene, and the men we recognize today as “douchebags.” They are both, it bears repeating, useless, sexist tools.”
I think, though, that that’s a misreading. I think that the power of “douchebag” comes from our culture’s (misogynist) ick factor about vaginas and menstruation. I think there’s also the usual ignorance about what douchebag literally is/was and how it would be used — ignorance largely fed by our cultural imperative that menstruation and women’s health be hidden from view. So: I think that when you call someone a douchebag, what you’re saying is something like “you’re a bag full of gross female vaginal emissions” (even though the literal douchebag would never actually hold that stuff — rather, it would be full of water or Lysol (ugh)). The ignorance about how the device works simply means that the device is rolled together with everything our culture finds disgusting about women. It feels visceral, when you call someone that name — literally visceral.
So THAT means that this is quite a lot like calling a man “sissy.” It’s a word that’s tied to femininity, and the force of it is in saying “you, a MAN, are so weak and ineffectual that you might as well be — gasp — a woman.” The force of douchebag is similarly tied to deeply-help misogynist beliefs.
But I still like it. I just want the misogyny to go away.