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  • Debbie Dougherty

Don't be a Jerk: Words to Live By in 2024

Yoda the hairless cat sitting in a window
Yoda can be a real jerk!

It all started with my cat. Yoda is one of those hairless cats and he is not very nice. Oh, he is nice to me. As I write, he is snuggled up on my lap with his chin on my arm, making my writing more of a challenge then it should be. He follows me around and loves me as only a cat can love. But, he is an absolute jerk when it comes to the other creatures in the house. One day last summer, for no particular reason other than he is a jerk, Yoda reached out and hooked our dog Ace with his claw. Ace yelped. Yoda looked proud. I sternly told him “Don’t be a jerk.”

Don’t be a Jerk

Last year my phrase of the year was "let's do this thing." That was a good one for me, as it reminded me to try new things. I wrote my blog, I created a new class focused on organizational culture and sexual harassment, and did several speaking engagements. It was fun.

There are lots of possible guiding phrases that I could have chosen for 2024. My son, Finnian, suggested the phrase “dig deep,” which seems like an excellent choice for a society that is committed to alternative facts and thin thinking. “Deep contemplation” was also on the table after the surface level, knee jerk response to the war in Gaza. So why don’t be a jerk? There are plenty of reasons, but number one is that we, collectively, need to remember to, at minimum stop being mean and aggressive. In the USA we are in the middle of the selection process for the next President. It is a time when we seek out enemies from within and hate on people who disagree with us. So yeah, don’t be a jerk seems appropriate.

What is a Jerk?

a: an annoyingly stupid or foolish person                                                                                  

b: an unlikable person                                                    

especially: one who is cruel, rude, or small-minded                                                                      

Some common synonyms include bastard, blighter cretin, dirtbag, louse, scumbag, etc.

See what I am saying? At minimum, we out to be able to handle the expectation that we not be jerks. Right?

Sometimes I am a Jerk

Sometimes we are all jerks, although we don’t like to own it. It is what the kids call “OPP”, or other people’s problem (here is a song called O.P.P. by Chuuwee. It is a good song). I wrote a blog post about the unique person syndrome last year where I demonstrated the ways we think we are somehow exempt from a particular social phenomenon, which makes the problem worse. “I’m not a jerk, you’re a jerk” illustrates this type of implicit bias.

So you see, to avoid the unique person syndrome, I need to own it. Sometimes I am a jerk. For example, I was stressed, so I yelled at Freya, my youngest. Reasonably enough, she said,

“Why are you yelling at me?”

"Because I am a jerk?"

"Don’t be a jerk."

"Right. I’m sorry."

Sometimes we need people to tell us when we are being jerks. We need to own our behavior and then knock it off—meaning, don't be a jerk. Oh yeah, and then apologize. We really do need to learn how to do that better!

Jerks in the Middle East

Is it appropriate to call the leaders of other countries jerks, especially when they wage war by raping, killing, and mutilating women and children? Is the language strong enough? I don’t know, but I will say that when Hamas attacked the women and children in Israel, and then when Israel attacked the women and children in Gaza and the West Bank I kept calling them unmitigated jerks. How dare these male leaders make women and children vulnerable through their rules and laws and then cash in on that vulnerability by making these women and children pawns in their never-ending wars. If anyone needs to stop being jerks, its is the leaders waging war with the bodies of the most vulnerable in their cultures. Unmitigated jerks. May they rot in hell.

We Have our Share of Jerks in the United States

An Ex president/presidential contender who is taking a page from the Nazis in his recent speeches. A current president who is supporting a war waged through the bodies of vulnerable people. Legislators who are more into grandstanding then they are into governing. Gun violence is over the top and, again, the victims are the most vulnerable among us. And a few days before Thanksgiving, someone either stole or killed my precious dog, Pinky. So yes, in the U.S. there are lots of people who need to stop being jerks. Right now. Please.

This Year and this Blog

Last year I wrote 30 plus blog posts. I was hoping for one a week, but I got sad. When I get sad, I turn inward and go silent. It is just how I process things. You may have noticed that the last blog was October 30th.  I will find my way out of this sadness trench that I have been lying in recently. Despite the grim nature of my work, I am generally an upbeat person, so I trust that happier days are in store for me.

Yoda the hairless cat, wearing a sweater, looking into the camera
Yoda is a jerk, but he is cute!

In the meantime, I am going to blog routinely again, maybe not every week, but consistently. This year I am teaching a class on gender and communication. There is strong evidence that gender is the central organizing construct across cultures. We will deal with issues such as gender binaries, gender and violence, the gendered power of gossip, the body as political, gender and politics, gender and the patriarchy, femininity, masculinity, gender and the family, gender and health care, gender and aging, gendered race, gender and disability, gender and leadership. I should have plenty to say as I work through this new class with my students.


I am thankful to you for supporting my blog. You inspire me and make me think deeply. You do not realize how many imagined conversations I have had with you as I go about my chores on the farm or as I think about my blog. You have been my blessings this past year. For that, I thank you.

Freya Clark is a gifted child artist who raises rabbits and plays sports.

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Jan 03
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

"Don't be a jerk" is an excellent motto for 2024! Thanks for sharing and inspiring.

Debbie Dougherty
Debbie Dougherty
Feb 17
Replying to

Thank you. Let’s see if it works!


Carrie Ann Johnson
Carrie Ann Johnson
Jan 02
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

One of the people I interviewed about whisper networks talked about how much she loved her current job because the company took the "no a**hole" policy seriously. It sounds genius to me! I am glad to be reading your blog again, and I completely understand turning inward. What a good example of self-care!

Debbie Dougherty
Debbie Dougherty
Feb 17
Replying to

Thank you. I am feeling much better so I am more emotionally available now!

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