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May. 3 2010 - 8:31 am | 1,194 views | 0 recommendations | 18 comments

In defense of the Man Purse

I just bought a Man Purse. Apparently. Not on purpose, mind you, but clearly I was not guarding carefully enough against it when I went bag shopping. Because the reaction I got from my friends last night was without question the one you receive when you walk into a bar with a Man Purse. Laughter, hooting, and marvelously crafted “skirt” and “panty” jokes were all in abundance. They had that look in their eyes, the dizzying glare men get when they’ve discovered a new weakness they can mock their friend over. Someone even ordered a round of Shirley Temples, which did seem a bit far to go for a “you’re a pansy” joke, but hey, it was Saturday night. We all had a laugh, I defended my purchase, and oh, how the women swooned. (Correction: women did not swoon.) I went to bed not thinking much of it, until…

Today, I was watching playoff basketball – a thoroughly masculine pursuit – and I saw this from the good people at Miller Lite.

Outrageous! I care how beer tastes! I mean, I don’t, because I’m allergic to gluten so if I drank beer I would get horribly sick for days on end which is why I usually stick to white wine, but…(that didn’t help, did it?)…why can’t a guy carry a bag?! If an item is not distinctly backpack or briefcase it is therefor purse and can only be carried by women or little girls? That doesn’t seem right.  We have things we have to carry. Masculine things! Switch blades. The keys to our four-wheel-drive trucks. Hardcore pornography…all intensely male accessories that I can’t possibly leave the house without. What am I supposed to carry them in, a saddle bag? How about a hallowed-out skull? Would that be brutish enough for everyone?

Tom Brady is a Super Bowl MVP for crying out loud!

The thing is, women know. They know full well how great purses are. They carry them all the time. No one ever says anything to a woman about carrying her purse, do they? They can buy seven, eight, night purses and no one bats an eye. What happened to equality? Isn’t a woman supposed to do the same things that a man can? Well how about carrying a backpack then, for goodness sakes? Equal pay for equal work…how about equal bag for equal purse?! Alright, the slogan needs work. But women have the power to change this. They could stand up for the Man Purse. They could say “everyone should have am arm bag like this…not too big, not too small…they’re great for walking around! Who cares what sex you are?!” But they don’t do that. No, no. They mock. They point and they laugh and they mock. Just like the bartender in the commercial. Heartbreaking.

Well, I am here to say, “No more!” When I go out for the evening I want to carry a book, a bottle of water, some cigarettes, and a couple of tampons in case I get my period – and I will not feel ashamed! I will use a small, discreet bag that I will hang over my shoulder just so, and you will accept me as one of you. Calling it a purse because it’s not in my hand or over my back is arbitrary at best. We are reformed, intelligent beings; we have moved beyond gender roles and identity politics. We must reflect this in our handbags, in our satchels and our knapsacks and our carry-alls. The Man Purse is gone, in its place: the Person Purse. For one and all.

Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?


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  1. collapse expand

    No biggie. The French actually carry small leather things that really do look like a purse — a sacoche. What you have bought is a “messenger bag” so that works. Or, if you prefer, perhaps a diplomatic pouch.

    Men who mock you for this have very small…problems they’re deeply worried about and they’re projecting this anxiety onto you.

    You’ll win plenty of points when you offer to carry crap for your girlfriend. Some of us actually hate carrying a purse of any kind.

  2. collapse expand

    An American man is always free to carry a man-bag without fear of mockery- provided it looks like a piece of East German Army surplus, perhaps an ammo or gas-mask carrier. Black patent leather, or a North Face logo, not so much. And, for the love of God, don’t call it “un sacoche”.

    Amused by the Ralph Ellison reference.

  3. collapse expand

    Messenger bags are very common here in San Francisco–straight, gay, men, women: they all carry them. Super practical. I’ve got a custom-ordered Timbuktu bag I use to schlep my books and computer now that I’m a full-time student again and can’t justify the expense of a fancy purse. And I bought my husband a leather messenger bag for Xmas a couple of years ago. He likes it because the shoulder strap frees his hands to carry other stuff, like his gym bag.

    As for the beer commercial, when have those companies EVER reflected anything other than hyper-masculinity or blatant sexism in their advertising? I wouldn’t sweat it, my friend.

  4. collapse expand

    “Its where I keep all my things, I get a lot of compliments on this. Plus its not a man purse, its called a satchel – Indiana Jones wears one”

  5. collapse expand

    Brian, I hate carrying a purse. Now that you have one, can I put all my stuff in yours?

    Oh, and I have a pink one that’s just not working for me, if you’d like a spare.

  6. collapse expand

    Man purses are big in Europe.

    Then again, so are effeminate men who use hairspray and eyeliner and paint their nails before they put on a three-sizes-too-tight pair of jeans and rush off to class or work.

    When I first got there, I just assumed everybody was carrying around laptops. It was about six months into my stay that I started noticing that nobody had laptops in their bags, just papers and books and hairspray and such. For the rest of my two years there, I took careful note of how the “men” (term used loosely) were largely feminized – carrying purses filled with beauty products, how some would daintily glide down the sidewalks rather than just walk…

    If this is the future you see for yourself, then good for you. Don’t expect the rest of the manly American Public to play along, though.

  7. collapse expand

    Zut alors! Such jingoistic attacks on les francais. One reason European men are fine with carrying a “man purse” or whatever it’s called is — wait for it – they care about style! American men aren’t world-renowned for their sartorial choices: baggy khakis, pleat-front, cuffed pants/khakis, square-toed shoes, etc. When you have chosen to dress well and your clothes fit your beautifully, you don’t want to ruin their cut and shape by loading up your pockets with a big fat wallet and/or PDA and/or phone.

    The coolest thing any man can wear is a genuine, low-key sense of confidence, not a $3,000 suit. Hey, if you bought North Face, that’s your only problem — too mass. imho has it right with Timbuktu, with its cool colors and custom designs. My sweetie has one in (Buddhist colors of) saffron and burgundy — that matches the cotton muffler he bought in Paris (where every man wears one.)

  8. collapse expand

    Just moved to the city from a small country town and as I traded in my car for public transit, I have found that it nigh impossible to live without a “Man Bag”. Bye the way we prefer to call them Messenger Bags.

  9. collapse expand

    Mr. Donovan,

    You are a total pansy (or another noun that also begins “p” and ends with “sy”, not for carrying a “man purse” but for giving a shit what anyone else thinks about it. If you want one, screw ‘em all and get one. That is the manly attitude. I wear a fanny-pack just about everywhere. It drives my wife and daughter crazy but it is simply too practical and I simply do not give a shit what others think (Notably, while they detest it from a fashion perspective, they are never too embarrassed to benefit from its many useful contents or to say “Can you put this in your bag”).

    So “man-up”, carry your man-purse like a man or don’t carry it all. If anyone doesn’t like and you still flaunt it, that makes you the man. They can get my fanny pack away from me when they pry it from my cold still fingers.

  10. collapse expand

    I would like to speak to this messenger back/man purse controversy. Yes, messenger bags are manly and fully acceptable, but those aren’t the same as a man purse. Man purse is small and distinctly more feminine, messenger bag is large and hardy. You could not use a man purse for any sort of messenger activities, unless you were delivering tubes of lipstick. I have both kinds of bags, and am ridiculed only for the one.

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    About Me

    Twitter: @b_donovan

    I am a writer, actor, and North Korean Dictator. Over the years though I've written for everything from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to Fox News to Chapelle's Show, and can be seen frequently on Vh1 making snide remarks at the expense of others. Recently I was the Head Writer of "Fair Game", a news and comedy show from Public Radio International. My interests range from news to sports to entertainment, so this blog should read kinda like the evening news, except funnier and with less Brian Williams. Fuck Brian Williams.

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