The term “douchebag” originated from a feminine hygiene product. More recently, however, it has turned into an all-encompassing descriptor for that obnoxious guy at the bar. You know him. Douchebagery has found new life in the Jersey Shore era, bringing shame to tight Affliction t-shirts and perfectly coifed dos on gentlemen. What’s the big deal? Vanity is not limited to women. We (postmoderners, feminists, etc.) strive for equality on many fronts, so boys can be pretty while they fist-pump, right? The show is popular I think for many reasons. The most common reason I believe is that it’s entertaining to watch someone knock themselves out head-butting a concrete wall. I also think however, that there are those who idolize Jersey Shore characters. I think I get that to some extent. They are making a lot of money to look pretty, drink, and have lots of sex. Or at least, that is how their lives appear. So, my question is…Is it more problematic to label a douchebag or idolize one?
The article “Body Projects and the Regulation of Normative Masculinity” concludes that men view the body as a means to express individuality which is I think where part of the annoyance of Jersey Shore-types comes from–lack of individuality. The author’s found that tools for discussing the male bodily experience are confined within the frame of individuality. Within the limited discourse, there are further confines regulating appropriate masculinity. For example, men should not conform and they should reject vanity. According to the study’s participants, for a man to obsess over his body, to proudly GTL everyday, is not acceptable. The authors say, “despite the emphasis on individual freedom and autonomy, the men rigorously disciplined and policed their own and other men’s bodies and identities” (60). In other words, to avoid conforming to popular Jersey Shore standards, men should return to being more like rapper Oh Snap! who seems to me like every other guy you see at the bar. Paradoxical much?
Oh Snap! is certainly policing and confining the douchebag body, but he is also reacting to more than individuality that is tied to vanity. He says they “smell of bad decisions and lots of cologne…All they do is fist pump.” When Oh Snap! tries to leave the club with his girl they want to fight (possibly because he called them douchebags?). It seems that the term “douchebag” has, for both Oh Snap! and the rest of the pop culture world, developed into a discourse about obnoxious attitudes (i.e. fighting and womanizing) that are at times associated with specific types of vanity. I think the obvious problem with labeling someone a douchebag based on a tribal tattoo or an Affliction t-shirt is that not all pretty fist-pumpers are womanizers, fighters, or even obnoxious. The issue for those who idolize Jersey Shorers is similar. In order to fit into the mold, certain attitudes must accompany the look. Whether labeling or idolizing, there is a loss of individuality. The lived body and its experiences and attitudes, those things that make it original and non-confirming, are minimized or ignored.