Cornell Alum Rejects GQ's Charge of 'Douchiness'

A Cornell Alum shows how (or how not to) shrug off the pesky term

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Players: Tony Manfred, an intern at Business Insider and a 2011 graduate of Cornell; Peter Littleton, Ph.D, contributor to GQ and co-author of The Roger's & Littleton Guide to America's Douchiest Colleges.

The Opening ServeGQ released their "10 Douchiest Colleges in America"  feature last week--an exclusive excerpt from Littleton's Book. Colleges like Stanford, Penn State and Yale made the rankings, but Cornell took the top spot.  Charges ran from tell-tale behavior...

Douchey Affectations: Wearing a forced smile that fades with each step up the frozen, wind-howling slope to classes all winter (October to May) while wondering if this is all worth it for an Ivy League degree lots of people don't even realize is Ivy League. the campus mentality:

If You Could Read the Thought Bubble Over Campus: You know what I'm sick of hearing? That Cornell isn't really Ivy League! What the fuck! I paid my $160K! Don't treat me like I went to the University of Michigan. Honestly, is it because no presidents went here? Well, choke on this, you pretentious eating-club ass wipes: Janet Reno! Paul Wolfowitz! Alan mutha-fuzzin' Keyes (transferred to Harvard, '70)! Is it because all anyone ever talks about is how people go to Cornell and then kill themselves? It's a myth! Check the numbers! Or maybe you can't because you weren't required to take any math classes at Brown! Is it because there's a part of the school that's actually a state school, where you can get three faux–Ivy League credits for taking Maple Syrup Production and Beekeeping...

The magazine goes on to name alums (including fictional ones) from the school which contribute to the school's douchiness: Andy from The Office,  Keith Olbermann, Ann Coulter, Adolph Coors, Jr. and Lauren Weisberger. 

The Return Volley:  'Douche,' the amorphous catch-all of a word, rubbed Tony Manfred, a Cornell alum, the wrong way. He wrote a response to GQ on the Business Insider Lifestyle blog. "As the undisputed douchiest men’s magazine in the men’s magazine section of the newsstand (just kidding, Maxim takes it in a blowout)," he writes, "It’s surprising that GQ doesn’t have a better handle on what douchiness is." Manfred goes on to say that he "could almost accept this list if the magazine did its homework, laid out a coherent methodology, and paid a psychologist or two to lay out the parameters of douchiness."
Manfred even takes a stab at pinning down what the word means: "Douchiness is bred by uniformity," he writes, pointing to how homogenous societies can't monitor their own levels of douchiness. "There are a bunch of individual douches at Cornell, but the nature school itself--its desire to be a place where 'any person can find instruction in any study'--represents the antithesis of the douche."
Manfred even went on Twitter: "This is what happens when your company is littered with cornellians: my rebuttal to the GQ 'douchiest list,'" he wrote linking to his article. "'Cornell is the douchiest school in America,' says the magazine with the motto 'Look Sharp, Live Smart.'"
Here is Littleton's official statement (sent to us by e-mail):

You’re right that we didn’t do our homework when we wrote our book, America’s Douchiest Colleges. Unless by homework you mean seeing how many Funyons [sic] you can fit in your mouth while looking at Facebook. And, Tony, we admire your extreme seriousness when it comes to defining the term “douche.” It’s almost like you’re too serious, like you study too hard, like you’re an overachiever who is sweating organic chemistry too hard and really worried that people won’t think your school is Ivy enough. It’s almost like you’re a Cornell douche! Anyway, our point was to have some fun with people who take the college experience a little too seriously. And then to piss everyone off with the rankings. We, in fact, know several people who went to Cornell, and they aren’t really any douchier than we are. Though after reading your sober response, we think our rankings might have accidentally been right!
Peter Littleton, Ph.D
Manfred sent his response to us as well:

I don't understand why they're so sensitive. If the goal of the list was to "piss everyone off," then they should be happy when they read responses like mine. They can write whatever overly provocative, half-baked nonsense they want. But they shouldn't get so worked up when people criticize them for it.

What They Say They're Fighting About: Cornell's alleged douchiness factor and if GQ has any taste-making influence. GQ says the douchiness factor is obvious. The alumni, fashion choices, and campus mentality garnered the Ivy League school GQ's top ranking. Manfred thinks the ranking is unwarranted and, pointing to his undergraduate experience, says it Cornell is the "antithesis" of douche. He also believes that there's a disconnect between GQ and the judgments it dispenses.
What They're Really Fighting About: What "douche" (as it refers to a person) and its permutations mean as well as the power of the word. Of course there is a hygiene product from where the slur was born, but the word's amorphous nature is really what is stirring this fight. Manfred calls it a byproduct of uniformity, suspects it runs rampant when unchecked and believes that individuality is how to avoid it. GQ believes it lives in Ann Coulter, the woman who wrote Devil Wears Prada, and a chip-on-the-shoulder attitude, and can be ascertained by eating bags of Funyuns while staring at social media.
Who's Winning: Both? Depending on the way you read Manfred's article, it could be seen as a brilliantly constructed self-aware satire or...a complete confirmation of Littleton's claims. He also may have a point about GQ, though, again, much depends on your definition of "douchey." Littleton, on the other hand, is happily selling a book and making a career of lobbing insults at the student bodies of America's universities--and he must be even happier when someone takes the bait on Business Insider.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.