Oct 03 2005

Belly Bag?

What the heck is a "belly bag"? This term showed up in the comments on the tiny handbag post, and the idea both intrigues and grosses me out exceedingly.

Meanwhile, I gotta clarify somthin. When I complain about things like tiny handbags, or BDSM, or strip clubs, the intent is not to cast aspersions on those of you who sport around town with tiny handbags and leather masks and G-strings. My purpose is to make the case for the existence of a male-dominant paradigm that controls, often invisibly, all aspects of our culture. In other words, it’s the patriarchy I blame, not individual women.

Anyway, thanks again to all my well-wishers. I’m off to my surgical biopsy, and may be out of commission for a day or so (they won’t let me take my laptop into the OR, the fucking pigs!). Hold the fort till I get back.


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  1. WookieMonster

    The belly bag, AKA the fanny pack, was a horrible late 80s (this was when I got my first, but my dad brought it back from a business trip to Japan, so I’m not sure they were a hit here then) or early 90s phenomenon.

    Dear Dog this is kind of disturbing, but it’s the first picture I came across, and is fairly representitive of the belly bag genre. (Apologies to belly bag fans, but I think they’re about the grossest purse alternative out there.)

  2. Erin

    Best of luck, Twisty! Good thoughts are coming your way from Pennsylvania (please don’t confuse good thoughts with a positive mental attitude — I don’t have one of those to send).

  3. yankee transplant

    Sending a positive, patriarchy-blaming vibe your way, Twisty!

  4. Summer

    Holding you in the light…

  5. BitingBeaver

    Heh, I actually use a fanny pack (i.e. belly bag) and, I gotta say, mine doesn’t resemble the ones in the link in any way other than shape. Mine is a plain black leather pouch. It has a strap, similar to a purse strap, with one of those snap buckles. You fasten it around your waist and it rests at your belly.

    Do they look beautiful and stylish? *shrug* probably not but they leave both of my hands free at all times and they keep my wallet, money, credit cards and other junk right in front where it’s not prone to being stolen or ripped from my shoulder.

    I got my first one years ago when I left my damn purse in a restaurant one time too many. I’ve been a devoted fan ever since. They come with a zipper pouch in the front which carries my checkbook, sunglasses, chapstick and even a small paperback. In addition there is a smaller zippered pouch at the very front which fits credit cards, insurance cards and drivers liscense’s too.

    I suppose that the fashion industry doesn’t find them to be an example of Haute Coutre but quite frankly I think they’re wonderful. Finally I have something I can carry all my miscellaneous crap in without sacrificing an arm for a purse or carrying a metric ton of junk on my shoulder.

    I love em Twisty maybe I’ll post a pic of mine up on my blog later today, just to show you that they’re not all hideous, shiny things *grin*

  6. mskate

    A buddy of mine, a (now retired) flight attendant, once told me a story about these things on a transatlantic flight.

    Coming into Heathrow, the airline provided a little “belly bag” or “fanny pack” of toiletries to freshen up before deplaning (deplane boss, deplane!). A flight attendent who had never been to the UK took the intercom:

    “the flight attendants will be passing out fanny packs …”

    An audible gasp … the cabin temperature instantly lowers five degrees …

    As my friend put it “fanny” to the Brits is “the front part”, not a cute term for your rear end. Vulgar or profane …

    From then on out they were instructed to refer to “waist packs to freshen up”.

  7. Carol

    Wow, sheds a whole new light on that classic of British literature “Fanny Hill.” And thanks for mentioning the chalk-on-blackboard made-upism: “deplane.” Now I’m going to delog from the computer and predefecate my lunch.

  8. Ledasmom

    I have a fanny pack (I cannot reasonably call it a belly bag, as I always wear it at the back, resting on my butt, which is placed appropriately to support it), but as it is from REI it is utilitarian and sturdy and has a buckle the size of Rhode Island. It carries a cell phone, a Nalgene bottle and a snack comfortably, and I am sure I look like a doofus wearing it. However, anyone who knows me knows that trying not to look like a doofus is a losing battle for me.
    Best of luck with the biopsy, Twisty. Are you allowed to keep what they take out, with cancer surgery, or is that just for wisdom teeth and such?

  9. kathy a

    i call it a belt-pack, not wishing to call attention to body parts fore and aft…. i wear it for hiking, camping, excursions, picnics — anyplace i don’t want to shlep my real bag, which holds all the essentials and has a long strap.

    mine is an understated black nylon, about the size of those idiot mini-purses [or smaller], and with careful packing it holds: credit card, atm card, driver’s license, medical card, cash and some change, kleenex packet, tiny sunscreen, lip stuff, comb, bandaids, couple safety pins, tampons, sticky notepad, pen, gum, platic grocery bag just-in-case, sunglasses, tiny camera, tiny cell phone. [some items are optional, depending on circumstances.]

    as you can see, fashion is my life. everyone who has seen this wonder-bag has not thought much of it, until they needed something in it.

  10. Josef K

    In the UK, fanny packs are called bum bags, although no British person has worn one since the Eighties ended. If you see someone wearing one in this country, they’re always an American tourist.

  11. Hissy Cat

    If you see someone wearing one in this country, they’re always an American tourist.

    I grew up in New York, and I’ll ditto that. “Fanny pack” was totally snarky shorthand for the kind of tourists that went to see Cats! and stayed at the hotels in the Dineyfied New Times Square.

  12. WookieMonster

    I just don’t see an advantage in it being straped around your waist vs. a bag with a long strap across your chest. The major difference is that there is the massive ugliness and akwardness to contend with with the fanny pack. I dunno, maybe it’s just the childhood 90s trauma, I just can’t get behind the fanny pack.

  13. SF Knitter

    Joggers still wear them, in somewhat modified form, with holders for water bottles, “Gu”, etc. I hate them. I do own one and used it with great embarrassment for a while, until it dawned on me that I could run for hours and not require anything I can’t get at any of the 17 zillion corner stores anywhere on any of the routes I run. Not to mention that I could stand to run a few miles without any kind of ‘refueling’.

  14. mskate


    “belt packs” et al have one big advantage over bags … they work for people who have serious neck/back/shoulder problems, like my husband’s cousin. She simply cannot use a regular purse, so she finds the fanny packs to be liberating. Being stylish, she uses nice leather ones and not too big.

  15. larkspur

    OMG, Carol – “predefecate my lunch”!

    When I had my surgical biopsy, the nurses were all terrific.

    One took me to my room, told me where to put my clothes, gave me the gown, and instructed me that when I was ready, I should “crawl under the covers” and she’d come in for the IV. Her brisk but kind tone, her cozy reference to crawling under the covers – it was very comforting without being condescending.

    The last thing I remember in the surgical suite was a roomful of friendly, efficient people and we talked about football until all of a sudden zippety do dah, I was back in my room, bandaged. The nurse came by and got some morphine ready. “Tell me if you need more,” she said. “There’s no reason for you to be in pain.” A little while later she came back and gave me the rest of the dose. She obviously had no fear that I was going to turn into an addict, and no inclination toward subjecting me to any character-building pain. It was as if – yowie! – she didn’t think a narcotic, euphoric high was an inappropriate way to feel immediately after scary surgery.

    I liked my surgical team. This might have a lot to do with the fact that the mass they removed turned out to be benign, and I haven’t had to see them ever again. Damn, twisty. It sounds like they’re certain of your diagnosis (maybe you had a needle biopsy?) but if there’s any remote chance, I’m wishing for a pleasant surprise. “Yo, lumpoid mass? Yes. Malignant lumpoid mass? No!”

    And fanny packs, waist packs, belly bags…so very useful, but I won’t wear them. It’s so stupid. I really don’t care about fashion, but I’m afraid if I wore one, I’d automatically start walking like a duck, my voice would get really loud and abrasive, I’d say stuff like “what in tarnation” or “that’s malarkey”, and I’d start wanting my supper (“this tastes funny, and such small portions!”) at 4:30 p.m. sharp.

  16. Steph

    Good luck with the biopsy and remember to maintain your PBA (Patriarchy Blaming Attitude) in case Nurse Ratchet appears again.

  17. WookieMonster

    Not to be argumentative or anything, but if you put the amount of stuff in a purse strapped across your chest that you put in a belly bag, I’m pretty sure it would have no effect on even the most screwed up back. Yeah, people with screwed up backs can’t carry the “everything but the kitchen sink” kind of purse, but you can’t carry everything but the kitchen sink in a belly bag either.

  18. Kyra

    To me it seems less burdensome to have weight carried around my hips instead of on my shoulders. Maybe ’cause if it’s up top, it’s pressing down on more of me, or maybe there’s some subconscious feeling of upper-body restriction that a purse gives me, or maybe purses and backpacks don’t distribute weight evenly, which is more bothersome at the shoulders than it is at the hips, which usually distribute weight asymetrically anyway. But pants pockets or hanging stuff from my belt is the way to go.

    Belly bags make me feel pregnant, when I wear them in front, and big-butted, when I wear them in back. Like it’s something vaugely body-part-ish getting in the way.

  19. Kyra

    By the way, Twisty, thanks for clarifying your critiques on BDSM, fashion, etc. Glad you separate the positive aspects from the patriarchal ones.

    Good luck with your biopsy.

  20. Quod She (TF)

    Twisty, sending good thoughts (and no belly bags!) your way. I also emailed you an article (mentioned in a previous comment) by a friend of mine. Thought you might like it — it’s all about hating pink and the “PMA” cheerleading that you mentioned in your earlier post.

  21. Ron O.

    I have a waist (waste) pack made for running/hiking. Like the poster above, I realized I didn’t need it running in a big city. Even in the dead of winter, I can plan my runs going from park to park, so I’m never more than a mile or so away from the next warming station/water fountain.

    Besides, they look dorky. I cringe when looking at pictures from the 80s where I’m wearing one.

  22. caroline

    What Larkspur, said, woman. Sending you all good vibes for healing with miniimum anguish, impact, and any further unpleasant urgent necessities. send guest bloggers to tell us how you’re doing, mmmK?
    BIG matriarchal hug,

  23. ehj2

    Dear Twisty,

    I haven’t said yet today how much I love you.

    More than the diameter of the universe.


  24. d.e.i.x.i.s.

    Ugh, bumbags. Those things are a nightmare and a half. Kudos to anyone who has the balls to wear that shit. I acknowledge their practical uses, but the sight of one is enough to make me flashback to my silver lamé childhood. Trauma to the max.

    Let me know if you want me to kick your lump’s ass, Twisty. Someone mentioned the line to making out with you extending to Massachusetts. Considering I’m IN Massachusetts, I guess that puts me at the end of the line :-( But if ever given the chance to make out with you, I would totally take it.

  25. bitchphd

    Agreed with DEIXIS re. the so-called fanny pack.

    “Belly bags,” however, are what happen to you after you have a cesarean section. Allow me to explain, as I know this will only add fuel to Twisty’s theory that we must abolish reproduction. In a c-section, of course, they make a horizontal incision, right above the pubic hairline (unless it’s an absolute emergency, like a ruptured uterus, in which case they may still do an old-fashioned vertical cut, which is faster). If your doc knew what she was doing, once you heal up, the scar is virtually invisible, which is nice.

    However. I don’t know why–cutting of nerves? Of muscle tissue?–but the skin immediate above the scar doesn’t shrink back the way the rest of the skin does. Oh, believe me, the rest of the skin on my belly is pretty soft and wrinkly in a way it never was, pre-baby, but at least it more or less approximates the actual shape and size of what’s currently inside (i.e., my guts). Except for the skin right above that scar, which hangs down like–I shit you not–an empty scrotum, or a wattle, or one of the wrinkles on Clem’s upper arms. (You remember Clem, the wrinkly demon in Buffy, right?) It’s pretty yukko, and every woman I know who’s had a c-section has one. The only saving grace is that it’s low enough to be covered up by all but the most low-cut waistbands, even in a swimsuit.

    I’m pretty sure that’s what the term “belly bag” should be reserved for.

  26. Martha Garvey

    I sport a belly pack. I know how superuncool they are. I began wearing one after my bag was snatched on the subway in NYC…ah, the late 80s. Now, I use one when I walk the dog, who, while not dominated by the patriarchy, does require a poop bag, a few treats, and, when it is hot, a portable water bowl. The rest of the time, I lug a big Kenneth Cole bag that is pink and black and fun. Or nothing at all. My response to the patriarchy is to wear jeans with big pockets, spacious enough to jam the wallet, the phone, and my keys in. Ha ha!

  27. Nancy M

    Belly bag?

    Report from the other side of fifty:
    I wear a belly bag all the time.
    I fought the Law and the Law won.
    The Law of Gravity.
    That’s not my own work but also not a common t-shirt.
    Why not? Maybe having belly bags is a generally disgusting idea, Twisty lass?

    Unless you’ve never stored any fat nor been parasitised, the combination of age and the inescapable mammalian condition of needing fresh elastin ligaments to contain meat means that you will develop a more or less distinct belly flap. Caesar or no.
    Tits etc. get the same downcasting.
    It’s The Law.

    In this country, deliverers of multi-parasites in one serve now get a free belly plasty.
    In the same country nobody gets free basic dental care.

    In locus Twisty, I blame The Patriarchy.

  28. Dim Undercellar

    I’m going to slightly mangle a quote from a heavily misogynistic video game (Silent Hill 3) to express my feelings:

    “Well, I could wear a belt pack… it would keep me from having to worry about pickpockets, purse snatchers, the immobilization of an entire limb, and it would still carry all the stuff I need… but it looks kind of geeky.”

    (The original quote involved hard hats – the point was the same. “It’s amazingly useful in my current situation and solves many of the problems my current fashion sense either ignores or actively causes… but I’m such a slave to the patriarchy that I couldn’t fathom not presenting myself appropriately for the male gaze.”)

  29. Orange

    Fanny packs? Oy!

    I’ve been contemplating buying a teeny handheld purse for…I don’t know what outings, exactly. The rare girls’ night out? Twisty, you have given me the courage to Just Say No. I will continue to schlep my crapload of stuff in my too-big shoulder bag (complete with pockets! every bag must have pockets!) and keep my hands free for mayhem and other uses.

  30. deja pseu

    Hey, bitchphd, glad to hear I’m not the only one who has that post-c-section feature! My scar still itches sometimes, even 8 years later.

  31. larkspur

    Okay, I admit I don’t have a post-c quasi-scrotal belly bag…but damn it, despite my hard work, I’ve got a persistent older-woman belly bag…and I have no Pseudonymous Kid to show for it! I can see myself in the locker room with y’all…wait! I’ll paint on a c-scar! You’ll never know.

    And oh, Clem! I never loved him so much as when he wondered at Spike’s attraction to Buffy. “But her skin…it’s so tight!”

  32. M

    I third the bum bag = US tourist. Therefore, actually makes you more of a target for crime where I live :)

    In Scotland:
    Person wearing shorts: English tourist
    Person wearing shorts and bum bag: US tourist
    (they will of course both have blue knees, having not realised that Summer in Scotland is a purely theoretical concept)

  33. larkspur

    “…(they will of course both have blue knees, having not realised that Summer in Scotland is a purely theoretical concept)…”

    Hee. I live near San Francisco. We also get blue-kneed tourists all summer long. (But then September and October come, with the inevitable heat wave or three, and the poor dear tourists are too bundled up. It’s all about the layers.)

  34. d.e.i.x.i.s.

    In Boston, tourists are identified by the way they mispronounce EVERYTHING. That or they’re taking a goddamn DUCK tour. Motherfuckers . . . . .

  35. Kyra

    My mother wears a belly bag. She takes it off to get buckled up when she gets in the car, and I have no clue how she manages to not forget it.

  36. NancyP

    I love the things, particularly for travelling, or visiting federal buildings, or the courthouse, when I need to de-metal myself for the security scanner. Unbuckle, fling on conveyor belt, walk through scanner, grab. So what if they’re ugly? And I end up using them in other situations when the clothing doesn’t have ample enough pockets.

    But then again, I have been using these things since 1969 or so, when you got them from sporting goods stores, as a place to stash a PBJ sandwich and a waterbottle for a day hike, or for all the annoying wax for old-time wooden crosscountry skis.

  37. Sam

    “I fought the Law and the Law won
    The Law of Gravity”

    Is that a Nancy M original? I think it’s very funny and I have no memory of seeing it in any of the women’s bumper sticker catalogs.

  38. mcmc

    That or they’re taking a goddamn DUCK tour.

    Hey, it keeps them off the streets. Though it’s annoying when they quack at you.

    Twisty, wishing you well!

  39. Sara

    Hi, Twisty! I have nothing to say about fanny/belly bags since the hard plastic buckle on my favorite, most perfect one ever broke (probably due to strain; we will speak no more about this). I’m just here to say I hope that by now you’re as drugged as you want to be, feeling no pain, and yet blaming the patriarchy and all its annoying little minions for any discomfort you may happen to feel anyway. I also hope that by now it has been discovered that it was just a big, yucky cyst, and you can go home and forget about it. And if not, well, I still hope for the best for you.


  40. Ledasmom

    Whenever we happen to be in Boston and one of those tours passes us, I point them out to the rest of the family and say “LOOK! TOURISTS!”. Loudly. But I never get any pictures of them because they disappear before I can get the camera out, damn it.

  41. MsKate

    Hmmm … so much patriarchy, so little time.

    Who cares if you have a belly bag or wear one. Who cares if it comes from repeat parasitization or neovirginal nonreproductive purity plus gravity and age, or if it looks dorky either way.

    Look how you are. Wear what you want. Do what is comfortable, or do what is fashionable. And always remember: women picking at each other over appearance and accessories and women hating themselves or desiring surgery because of their appearance make the patriarchy smile contentedly.

    Cheers to Twisty, she of the big picture, hopefully also smiling the contented smile of morphine dreams by now … while some patriarchal pathologist gets to spend his days looking at boob loogies.

  42. Nadia

    You don’t blame the individual women!?!?

    That’s right — blame the ideology of men because women are too stupid to think for themselves. All they really need is men to make them a better ideal of femininity for their convenience.

  43. liz

    Hmm, c-section? Check. C-section scar? Check. Hanging scrotal sack of flesh above said scar? Sorry, but no. It’s pretty much exactly the same as it’s always been. (And no, the lack of sag is not due to youth or exercise.)

  44. Denise

    My horror at fanny packs continues to this day with a certain coworker. He wears this thing everywhere. He wears a fanny pack around town (kind of reasonable, since as a foreigner he needs to carry his documents), while performing reactions at his lab bench (unadvisable: he is 10 feet from his desk, and we do some potentially dangerous reactions), while sitting at his desk (sounds uncomfortable to me), while macking on his girlfriend (in our place of employ, of course), and he has nearly forgotten to remove it for department-level presentations in suit and tie. That one presentation is the only time I’ve seen him without it. My coworkers and I have wondered if he takes it off for sleeping. I am willing to forgive dorkiness, but that he never seems to take it off is just creepy.

  45. MsKate

    I have a coworker, a slightly built female, who always wears one under a t-shirt or blouse, even for presentations.

    It contains her insulin pump. Works for her I guess.

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