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can be attributed to Twitter and other social media.
Compared to other obscene slurs predating the Internet, “douchebag” enjoys much more frequency and vehemence. It’s fun and satisfying for the mouth to shape that sweet soft bosomy French word for “shower” then clamp it down in an anglo-saxon vise.
It is interesting to note that, though it is literally a piece of feminine hygiene equipment, “douchebag” is almost never leveled against women.
One must parse the difference between “douchebag” and “dick,” or the latter’s slightly more damning synonym, “prick,” implying a certain intelligence concentrated in the glans penis, as well as the difference between “douchebag” and “asshole,” where “asshole,” though mostly applied to men, can in certain situations be applied to women.
It will also be necessary to get literal first so that the metonymical and/or metaphorical workings can be laid bare. Let’s begin there, with a simple literal definition and description: a douchebag is a bag full of water and cleansing agents that are flushed into a vagina then flushed back out, a sort of argument with the uterus from outside, like an irate neighbor shouting through the open front door about your making too much noise during sex, or not taking care of your lawn, or his driveway being blocked because you parked the car in a hurry to rush in to change a tampon because seriously you were flooding and the clots were the size of plums, or some other incursive complaint.
A simple assumption: One who is likely to call a woman a “cunt” during an argument is in effect so focused on her genital essence that, through an act of verbal justice, he ought to be sentenced to swishing that essence around in his expansive mouth. Although douching is not healthy for a woman, as it disrupts the vaginal ecosystem, it is nonetheless possible that a woman might want to douche because (a) she can’t believe in what she can’t see, or (b) because of menstrual mess or sperm, which most agree has an irksome odor the longer it remains. Some have reported douching to deal with a yeast infection, but douching is actually a cause of yeast infections, so that is just sad.
At the same time that a douche is an ostensibly phallic incursion of generally unnecessary external measures into an internal environment, calling a man a “douchebag” is an effort to emasculate him insofar as a bag is both vaginal and uterine in form; a douchebag even has a sort of cervix! Thus a douchebag is the beta to the dick or prick’s alpha, a dick being alpha in some but not all dimensions, a prick being alpha in both action and intention. In this sense, a “douche move” implies some sneakiness, whereas a “dick move” is all about the “Front-Stabs.” In literature, for example, Hamlet’s Polonius is a douchebag, while Claudius is a dick—not completely a prick since poison in the ear is pretty stealth. Hamlet is just a young white man-in-process, a sort of Bernie bro for his particular moment. He is not without fault, though I would not call him an asshole. Oddly, I would only call him an asshole for the way he acted with Ophelia, but not for the murders, probably because they were rooted in righteous revenge and he didn’t exactly get away with anything.
We can all be assholes in the way that Warhol said we can all have at least 15 minutes of fame. “Asshole” is a floating ring, a moral or interpersonal lasso, that we can always summon down to our heads like the worst sort of halo. If I cut someone off at an intersection by making a turn when they have the right of way, I’m an asshole, no ifs ands or buts. But it goes away, this inverse halo, unless a pattern becomes so strong that the halo stays, the lasso nooses. Don’t wear the asshole lasso if you can help it. Neither in real life nor on the Internet.
Why? Because we can be so much more than synecdoche. Don’t believe me? Imagine a dinner party completely populated by douchebags, pricks, dicks, and assholes. OK, let’s throw a cunt or two in there, though we have yet to investigate its meaning with a full awareness of the role historical transcultural misogyny plays in its use as an epithet. I understand that, in certain romance languages, its use can less shocking and abusive than in English, and that British English applies it to both men and women. But the dinner party. It’s noisy. Nobody is listening to anybody else. The douchebag is listening but only to spew back what he heard in his own sudsy, spore-killing words. The asshole brought nothing for the host, and the dick starts every other sentence with “Here’s what you need to know.” OK, the cunt keeps rolling her eyes and texting under the table about what dicks and pricks and assholes and douches and other cunts she is stuck with. Let’s wish them well and hope that, when dessert comes, Jesus or Mary or David or Buddha or even just Barack Obama jumps out of the cake full-bodied: They have the synecdochic parts but they are whole in a way that wakes the party up. Everybody dances.
Just like that, they stop dismembering each other, start remembering themselves. If it please God to bless America, they say, instead of grunting U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A!
 A subject for another day: Is being an asshole a right to which feminists should aspire, or should we just continue to reclaim “cunt” and run with it?
 Only a “dick” or “prick” calls another man a “cuck” unironically.
Copyright 2018 Ellen McGrath Smith