Fire vs. Tacky Fire

Always keeping up with the hot topics of thirty years ago, Canadian icon/embarrassment Don Cherry made news this week when he declared that a men’s locker room was no place for female reporters. You might think that these journalists are just harmlessly doing their job, but apparently they’re bringing grave shame to coaches and players.

A curmudgeon to the core, no one would expect Cherry to have particularly progressive views on, well, anything. Sure, we settled this ladies-in-the-locker-room thing decades ago, but can we really be that hard on Cherry? His objection is really quite saintly:

“I don’t feel women are equal. I feel they’re above us. I think they’re on a pedestal and they should not be walking in when naked guys are walking in. And some guys take advantage of it and I don’t think (they) should be.”

Cherry may not understand this, but claiming to think more of women than of men, especially when your preferences would give them lesser status, is just a whole other layer of misogyny. In either situation, you are treating them as something other than what they are, just people.

Naturally, Cherry is getting some well-deserved ridicule (if not a well-deserved termination). Unfortunately, a new meme has popped up on Facebook that is, arguably, just as misogynist.

This joke isn’t actually funny:

250110_10152205415485288_1512807716_nHa ha, get it? We want to make fun of an opposing team so we’ll just call them women! We’re chiding Grapes and denigrating our foes. What fun. And the reason it’s funny is because it’s a huge insult to be called a woman. Because women aren’t as good as men. Get it? Montreal is a team of losers because they’re women!

We see this type of garbage consistently. Anytime we call someone a douchebag, we’re denigrating women. Any time we call someone a bitch, we’re denigrating women. No matter how you try to gussy it up, no matter how much you say you put women on pedestals, these kinds of statements just indicate a degree of sexism that persists in many of us.

It’s quite difficult to change our habits. Many of us grew up using “girly” or “gay” or “retard” as pejoratives, never once thinking of the implications. It’s tough to get out of that habit, but it’s really easy to not share a discreetly misogynist picture on Facebook. I mean, it’s really easy. You don’t really have to do anything. In fact, doing nothing is all that’s required.

know that I’m risking being called a stick in the mud. It’s just supposed to be some meaningless trash-talking. But words mean things, and we shouldn’t be so quick to slag half the population just to get a dig in at a silly sports team.

Jonathan McLeod

Jonathan McLeod is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario. (That means Canada.) He spends too much time following local politics and writing about zoning issues. Follow him on Twitter.


  1. Another great piece, JM (and nice to see you on the FP). I have little to add since I think you made the point clearly and succinctly.

    But I must ask… why is “douchebag” denigrating to women? I recognize that douches are used exclusively by women, but assume the use of the phrase as an insult was predicated on the fact that a douchebag is something rather unpleasant because, well, cleaning bodily orifices is generally unpleasant. It’s like calling someone an enema. Then again… we use DB which is exclusive to women and not enema, which is gender neutral so… maybe there is something gendered about it. But I really don’t know… I’m curious to be enlightened.

    • Do you ever hear anyone called “Soap”?

      You hit the nail clear on the head. By deciding to use a word associated exclusively with the uncleanliness of women, we’re just reinforcing how the supposed uncleanliness of women is something real and something to be reviled. It’s the ick factor of those “lady parts”. Once enema tube or something similar that is used exclusively by men takes off as a slur, I’ll be willing to re-visit the use of d-bag.

      [Edited the second sentence because I forgot to finish my thought, J.M.]

      • Thanks. I hadn’t thought of it that way. And it is a term I use almost exclusively with men. Fascinating. Thankfully, it is one I can pretty easily scrub from my vocab (given some time) and replace with the always fun “ass hat”.

        Now, if you tell me that women once walked around wearing asses for hats… well, I just give up.

        • Now, if you tell me that women once walked around wearing asses for hats

          Most still do. But in that they cannot be distinguished from most men.

        • I’m a big fan of the term ass-hattery. Like, “That was some epic ass-hattery on Cherry’s part.”

        • Isn’t using the term DB exclusively for men sexist?

      • I know of many feminists who use the term douchebag. Their argument is that douching is actually unnecessary and in some cases even harmful to women. Rather than being a legitimate women’s hygiene product, a douchebag is worse than useless and itself symbolic of the ways women are expected to be ashamed of their bodies.

      • I disagree strongly on the use of ‘douchebag’ being insulting to women. I read it as an insult for a very specific form of distasteful male-chauvinistic persona.

        Both the object, and the person denigrated by association with it:

        – are reminders of misogyny in our culture, gradually becoming less horrifyingly antiquated and more laughably antiquated
        – are totally unnecessary to women
        – if inserted into a vagina, will produce no good of any sort, and only bad outcomes with respect to physical, mental, and financial well-being
        – despite the above, have as their sole purpose in existence, achieving said insertion

    • Generally speaking, vaginas aren’t inherently dirty, but are in fact self-maintaining, all other things being equal. The use and abuse of the term posits women’s sexual organs as inherently offensive, thus that which is used to clean it is inherently offensive. Misogyny is always at its best when it shames women for our anatomy, something inherent and unchangeable. Think about most anglophone profanities, and you’ll find that most, at their core, are pretty laced with misogyny. At least Quebecois profanities misuse the words belonging to the church: everyone’s bread’s getting buttered the same way then.

  2. “Douchebag” (at least in my neck of the woods) started as a pejorative that women called men. It picked up its current urban-dictionary style connotation and became a general pejorative.

    Do women find “douchebag” reflective of misogyny, because of the particular body part involved?

    • I know some women that do.

      And we can’t assume that just because an action is taken by women that there can’t be any elements of sexism to it (I know you’re not saying that, but that’s where someone could go with that sort of thing).

      • Hmmm. This is totally speculative on the etymology of “douchebag” as name-calling, but my take on it was that it was an attempt to further denigrate a man (as an insult, it’s almost always directed at men, isn’t it?), by implying that there was not even one theoretically-enjoyably masculine thing about him.

        That is, calling a man a “dick” would imply that there is at least one potentially-enjoyable thing to be had from him; whereas a douchebag is just a tool; to be used (and disposed of) at best. “Dildo” is IMO used in a similar fashion as a pejorative – “you’re not EVEN the real thing, just a pale imitation, honey.”

        So if there’s misogyny, it seems like there’s equal-opportunity misandry in there.

        To the “cleanliness” point, people get called all kinds of names that have to do with the perceived “uncleanness” of bodily functions (s**thead; a**hole; d**kcheese; dingleberry) etc. I don’t know that “douchebag” deserves to be singled out for special attention.

        • Glyph, sure, there may be some misandry in there, as well. Sexism tends to cut both ways, but none of the bodily functions you’ve mentioned (except dickcheese, which doesn’t seem as widespread as dbag or the others) is exclusively a male thing. Douchebag is exclusively a female thing, even when applied pejoratively to men. And it still gets at the supposed uncleanliness of women – the others don’t have that kind of baggage.

          And, again, using female things (for lack of a better term) to slag men is far more sexist against women than men.

          • Pretty sure calling someone “d*ck” and the zillion variants thereof is at least as widespread as using “dbag”.

            To me, we’re moving pretty far afield when we start to worry too much about second- and third-order insults. “Retarded”, as an insult, is offensive because some people are, or love, people who have developmental disabilities. OK, makes sense; that’s cruel; no reason to hurt people’s feelings unnecessarily.

            Something like “d*ck” or “c*nt”, you can make a case for sexism, as you have here; the words relate to the (mostly) immutable physical characteristics of people. I’m still with you at least in principle, though it probably won’t stop my wife from calling me a d*ckhead, when next she feels it’s warranted (my money’s on Thursday; Friday at the latest).

            But IMO, calling someone “douchebag” is really just a different way of calling them, say, “toilet paper”, just catchier. It has more to do with the childish satisfaction and inherent comedy of making the “oosh” sound – and fascination with/repulsion by bodily functions – than society’s inherent sexism.

            A douchebag is an inanimate object unconnected to any person, and it has no feelings. It’s not a polite word, and shouldn’t be used in polite company (insults are insulting); but I’m not sure there is any deeper meaning to be derived from it than that – it’s not clear to me that there is appreciable denigration or cruelty being directed to anyone other than the insultee, which is sort of the point of an insult.

            Possibly analogous – it’s my understanding that “scumbag” arose from a condom euphemism. Once again, it’s an insult generally directed at men. Who will strike a blow for us? 😉

      • It’s gender neutral, you can say it in front of children, and, indeed, there’s nothing bathroomy about it at all.

        I think it’s the euphemism we have all been waiting for.

        • it mostly sounds like “selling hash” to my ears. you’d be all “hey man jerry is totally slingin’ hash today” and i go over and say “hey jerry what’s up i heard you got some stuff to move” and then it turns out jerry’s brother is a cop and things are awkward as hell.

      • He is REALLY REALLY trying to make it stick. He’s used it on me like 50 times in the last week. “Well, you’re the only Canadian I live with.”

    • You’re really set on making this a thing aren’t you?

      • Oh man, lost by a minute. That’s streets behind.

  3. Personally, I’d have been fine if the solution was to outlaw all reporters from the locker room and let the players shower and dress in peace. No one is really harmed if we have to wait 10 minutes to hear “Yeah, they got a good ballclub, but we wanted it more.”

  4. We did kind of resolve the men’s locker room debate in the politically correct way, by allowing women in the locker rooms, and then making them into not locker rooms. Ridiculous.

  5. I will say this for the guy, though… he can wear the shit out of that jacket.

    • ITYM the “hash” out of that jacket.

  6. I’m just amazed anyone heard his words over the noise generated from his clothes.

  7. I guess I’m really paleo on this whole thing because I don’t want men or women in the locker room, especially if I’m the guy who’s the athlete. The locker room is where I shower and change, not give interviews. That’s what the frickin’ post game press conference is for. Any reporter who tried to asked me quesitons would be met with “leave me the hell alone in here, you…..” with the appropriate gender specific pejorative.

    The whole point of these insults is to insult, so of course it’s offensive to someone to call them a douche, or a bitch, or a dick, or whatever. If the receiver thinks its misogynistic, or whatever, isn’t that a bonus?

    • There are separate showers and dressing rooms if you want them for most sports, as I understand it. And they don’t open the locker rooms right away for the press, so players can get a chance to get cleaned up (or at least not have anything dangling when the press arrives). So like way too many things, the real purpose of the locker room is lost, and it’s become a prop.

  8. Are male reporters allowed in WNBA or women’s college basketball players’ locker rooms?

    • They are in the WNBA. See my comment to Damon.

      • Correction: the WNBA allows locker room interviews with male and female reporters immediately after the game, then closes the doors to the reporters for changing and showering.

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