The Purse: Blessing or Curse?

I recently read an Op-Ed piece in our local newspaper (not linkable online) which was a feminist call to arms to women to ditch the purse. They cause back problems, and can be a terrible hassle. And, the author pointed out, men don't use them. Only we women allow ourselves to be burdened so.

I could see where she was coming from, but I don't think that's quite the case. The first thing that occurred to me was, a lot of men obviously WISH they could carry purses. Instead, they do the next most socially acceptable thing, which is to tote around a bag which our society considers acceptable for men.

This list includes laptop bags, briefcases, backpacks, book bags, Boy Scouts canvas totes, and fanny packs (kind of). I would also have to include cargo pants and those safari vests with a million pockets. Although I don't think people would find it acceptable for women to wear these items, I only ever see them on men.

Obviously, the need to carry a lot of stuff is a gender-neutral trait. Just look at all the "Everyday Carry" groups and "Show us what's in your pockets" photo blogs.

The call to action against purses also overlooks the obvious, which is that many women require portable storage for feminine hygiene products. I can imagine pulling my wallet out of my jacket pocket in the grocery line, only to accidentally pull out a handful of tampons and Always Infinity pads. I don't embarrass easily when it comes to feminine hygiene products (it's just biology, baby) but even so, I do have my limits. Also, I'm not sure I would feel that the plastic wrap around a Tampax Pearl would be sufficient to completely protect against the Safeway Floor Cooties, you know?

(I realize that by stating a preference, I have alerted the Internet Diva Cup Patrol to my existence. Let's not get sidetracked with that discussion right now, and just say that "Everyone likes something different, and isn't it great that we have so many options?" and let it be.)

But there is one area where the Purse Wars and my own feminist outrage overlap, and that is at the topic of Pockets in Women's Clothing: Lack Thereof. If you are a woman who wears anything other than jeans and sweats (which personally I used to be, but not anymore, praise the Lord and pass me my slippers)  you will have noticed that women's clothing has no pockets. Slacks: pocket-free. Dresses: totally pocket-free. Business jackets: almost always pocket-free.

The argument I've heard is that "pockets spoil the line of the clothing, darling." But what about men's clothes? Apparently men's slacks and jackets aren't being spoiled by including functional pockets.

Even worse is when women's clothing includes a fake pocket. I was once driven nearly around the bend when I discovered that my business jacket's pocket was FAKE. Of all the insults! Why would they do such a thing?

The most likely answer is that it's because pockets cost more money, and women's clothing is made as cheaply as possible. But it's hard not to feel that your clothes are made as non-functional as you yourself are presumed to be. And thus, one carries a purse because where else will one keep one's keys?

Photo credit: Flickr/Blondie5000


These are issues of (some) importance and significance, and believe me, I mean no disrespect; but this is one of those moments I have to look heavenwards and say, with all sincerity, "Thank you God for making me male."


Honestly, no, I don't think I've ever wished for one. All the important stuff I need is in my wallet, and I do carry a backpack with me - primarily to hold my bottle of water, camcorder and book/s and/or magazines.  

To be fair, the backpack also carries breathmints and emergency toiletries, as well as writing material. I imagine it would also be useful for storing and transporting condoms, should the need arise. I'll probably send the backpack to the Smithsonian if that ever happens. 


Yep, backpack - there ya go! The problem is that for some reason, we all have to carry SO MUCH STUFF around with us, be it in a purse, a backpack, or a pair of cargo shorts. I do it too - I have a purse with a wallet, gum, Swiss army knife, notepad, whatever knitting I'm working on, digital camera, pens... the list is endless.


i actually think about the purse alot, but i didn't grow up as a purse-toting gal, but now that the phones are bigger, i need a place to put my phone. you'd be amazed how much "free" advice about purses i get from the women around me who are a little more into purses than i am.


Jackie Gorman's picture

Jackie Gorman

Last week, I went to...of all things... an event put on by the Feminist Majority in Los Angeles.. met so many amazing women.. heroes of my youth.. Ellie Smeal, who started MS magazine, Mavis Leno, who champions the human rights of Afghan women...and then, I fall down a flight of steps upon leaving the event.. in a dark parking garage.. I split my head open, broke three ribs, and would have been in even worse shape if a homeless guy had not found me and flagged down help.. the point of all this is that I decided to change purses.. from my regular big one to a small "writstlet" ... ditched my regular purse, with my cell phone, and my wallet, and my id and took my cute little, fashionable, smaller purse to the event.. with only 20 dollars to buy drinks and my car keys...

I had no way to call for help, and I had no ID to show the paramedics, police, and firemen who came after the homeless hero got help for me.. had to send the fireman to get my real purse...

This is so humiliating.. but is a moral tale as well.. how far we have come as women and yet we still.. or I still... do incredibly stupid things.. dangerous be "in fashion"....

Just thought I would add this to the Purse Diaries.....