Jan 10 2007

Wales Watch ’07: From Godbags to Handbags


If my newsbot is to be trusted — and why shouldn’t it be; it’s dudely software maintained by a big-ass conglomerate — I calculate that a new survey is perpetrated on “3000 people” somewhere in the world about every 13 seconds.

Lard love a survey. How else would big-ass conglomerates, or people whose empty souls ache to absorb aggregated blobs of sterile information, unlock the mysteries of the human psyche? Mysteries such as which women in Britain have amassed the greatest fortune in handbags?

If you said “Welsh women,” you win the onion! The pointless survey focusing on the sex-role specific encumbrance known as “handbags” says Welsh women have the most expensive ones in the UK. Not only are the bags themselves très cher, their contents are deluxe, too. Women apparently fill them up with gold doubloons and stock certificates before they leave the house.

Wales! First it’s that self-congratulatory “woman godbags are OK after all” bishop dude, and now it’s handbag-lovin’ Welsh women. Wales is taking over the internet, maybe the world. Dydw i ddim even kidding. So it’s All Wales Week at I Blame the Patriarchy.

Anyway, I allude to this Welsh-handbag-craze story because it ends with, what else, a cautionary admonishment to ditzy bag-luggin’ females by an authoritative dude. The authoritative dude, his brilliant mind gleaming in the winter sun, pulsating with the secrets of the ages, condescends to impart the astonishing information that “having your bag stolen can be extremely stressful,” so women should “take sensible precautions to minimise the risk of theft,” particularly at restaurants and bars.

Restaurants and bars! Ground zero for female stupidity leading to crimes perpetrated against stupid females! Everyone knows that we can’t be trusted in public or around alcohol. We all just fell off the turnip truck yesterday.

Furthermore, the authoritative dude cautions, women should “try not to carry around important documents.”

Imagine, for a small guffaw, an authoritative dude pronouncing to an audience of men that their handbags* should not contain important documents, and that they should be extra-specially careful in restaurants and bars because losing a briefcase can be so stressful.



*Men’s handbags, in order to prevent the indignity of feminization, are called “briefcases,” “messenger bags,” “backpacks” (“rucksacks” in the UK; what is a “ruck,” anyway?), or, my personal favorite, “man-bags.”


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  1. Jodie

    Mostly my purse is full of pens, IDs, keys, and paper that requires something be done with it (bills, letters, etc).

    My work requires me to have a red pen, a black pen, a Sharpie, and a highlighter. Since they tend to be hard to find at one of my jobs, that means when I see one of any of those, I pick it up, put it in a pocket and later dump my pockets into my purse.

    I can’t tell you the number of times that some man friend asked me, “Would you carry this (chapstick, lotion, passport, chewing gum, purchase, etc.) in your purse for me?” Even once, a fold up umbrella.

    Obviously, they would need purses too if we weren’t packin’ stuff for them.

  2. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    I always think of ’em as man-purses. They are very popular with the dudely dudes here at your government-funded space agency. Mostly, I’ve observed they are used for transporting such “important documents” as an apple, a baloney samwidge and the local rag.

  3. Dr. Free-Ride

    When I was a wee child growing up in the Garden State, handbags actually provided one of those moments of clarity wherein the patriarchy became startlingly visible. My mother decried (loudly and frequently) that women’s clothes were made without adequate pockets, making a purse necessary if one wanted to carry things like keys or currency. Yet, while New Jersey imposed no tax on clothing (prompting veritable swarms of New Yorkers in our malls every Saturday and making even the godless staunch defenders of our Sunday blue laws), handbags were taxed. “Discrimination!” cried Mom.

    Little did I know then that it was only the tip of the iceberg.

  4. CafeSiren

    What kind of “important documents” are we supposed to be carrying around with us? Our birth certificates? A list of all our e-mail and atm passwords? A map to the lost treasure of the Aztecs?

    By the way, Twisty, a “ruck” is a back, in German, and “rucksack” is, literally, “backpack.” Why the brits, who fought the Germans in several wars, would want to use the German word, is another question entirely.

  5. Nicole

    Since it’s delurking week, I will comment. I LOVE this blog. I blame the patriarchy too, but I’m a novice radical feminist.

    I refuse to buy pants without pockets. A couple times I was foolish enough not to check (when ordering online), but I’m getting better. I also refuse to wear shoes that hurt my feet. This alone makes me a radical feminist and suspected lesbian among my age group. I like to feel superior because I will never have bunions.

  6. brainiac9

    I should mention how amusing it was to watch the boyfriend comment on the contents of my purse, and then compare them with the contents of his own “purse” (a.k.a. backpack). His expression went from “Freudian slip” embarassment at having used such an overtly feminine term to describe his own means of carrying around extra stuff, to “oh God she’s going to say something about feminism again, and she’s totally right” when he realized his own reaction. He’s learning so fast!

  7. Suzie

    Why the brits, who fought the Germans in several wars, would want to use the German word, is another question entirely.

    Eh, we’ve spent far more time hating on the French, and plenty of their language has made its way into ours.

  8. Nick

    I’d say that we should call the man-purse a “murse”, but then what would misogynists call male nurses?

  9. speedbudget

    I used to never carry a purse. Then I got a tiny one because I found it was easier to carry money and not lose it in a bag. My purses have steadily gotten larger over the years. It’s like an evil addiction. Nobody talks about the tiny handbags as being a gateway purse, either. Wish I had been warned…

  10. A.

    If you don’t know what a ruck is, you’ve never had anything to do with Wales, or anywhere rugby playing :) Not that it has anything to do with rucksacks ….

  11. Twisty

    The next time some dude wants you to put something of his in your “purse,” say, “sure, as long as you carry the purse.”

  12. Bitey

    My husband *loves* to carry my bag! If I hand it to him and then don’t ask for it back, he will carry it happily for hours.

    He also loves it when someone calls him “ma’am.”

    He also does all the dishes and all the laundry.


  13. Spinning Liz

    My purses have steadily gotten larger over the years.

    Yeah, I’ve gotten to that wonderful stage where my truck is my purse.

  14. Sara

    Seen this?

    “Not What I Should Have Been Writing”

    (More hilarity from the indomitable Miss (Dr.) Laetitia Prism, of the, in this instance, most aptly named blog “A Somewhat Old, But Capacious Handbag.”)

  15. Ron Sullivan

    … what would misogynists call male nurses?


    As in, “Sir, I’d appreciate my pain meds now.” Or, “Sir, if you please, would you warm that enema first?” Or, “Sir, I believe I’ve been shot in the head.”

  16. Ron Sullivan


    Yes. The RAV4 works well enough, but it won’t tote a yard of drainrock and I wish I had a couple of those now. Sometimes I miss my faithful ex-truck.

  17. scratchy888

    Geesh! When I went to the hen’s day of a certain sister in law, recently, I did encounter this same phenomenon of female handbags. It appears that this fully bloated thing is very common in the female world — although I had been under the impression that those had atrophied into merely ‘clutch bags’. And lo, I did not have a handbag of which to guess the weight, as I had mrely a travel bag.

    And lo and behold, we did play a game of guessing the contents of a handbag. And it was fathomed by me that the soon bride possessed within her bag: pieces of granite, automatic weapons, empty boxes, various pieces of string. All of which were incorrect, as I am not equipped to judge these things.

  18. smelly

    I’ve got a courier bag. Before that I had a wallet. At other times, I’ve just used my pockets. Purses remind me too much of the queen, and the ubiquitous pastel handbag hanging off her arm. And if you do carry one, you end up having to lug everyone else’s sunglasses, keys, seashells, bits of string, and other junk.

  19. rainie

    I normally do not carry a purse. I have a zippered pouch that is just large enough to carry my ID, bank card, insurance card and a bit of cash. I keep that in the left front pocket of my jeans. My keys go in the right front pocket.

    Some events require wearing something other than jeans. For those rare events, i stuff my pouch and keys into the single purse that I own, a small slightly shiny black cloth bag. Then I spend the whole time feeling very uneasy about having my keys and the keys to my finances apart from my person. I clutch it awkwardly or sit with it draped on my knee.

    Years and years ago…. I was on a family vacation and had carried a rather large cloth shoulderbag. It seemed to make sense. I started with very little in it and had it draped across my chest. It was there if I needed to carry something, like a camera, or some brochures. By the end of the vacation the purse was filled with all of the odds and ends that the rest of the family did not want to carry. It bulged against my hip and the strap cut into my shoulder. It would have made me walk unevenly except that I had a two year old balanced on the other hip.

    I think that that trip was the end of my purse carrying days.

  20. sabotabby

    I don’t see how people, be they women or of the dudely persuasion, get by without handbags. Even with reasonably sized pockets, I could not accomodate a wallet swollen with Canuckistani currency, let alone carry around a book. And I can’t be without a book, ever. My boyfriend is always losing his keys, bank card, and other sundry items. Handbags are annoying, but I hardly ever lose stuff.

  21. jezebella

    scratchy, just what in the hell is a “hen’s day”??

    it sounds dreadful if it involves games of this sort.

    I can just see the next dispatch from Wales:

    This just in: Women! Have! Heads!

    A survey of 3000 human beings in Dynwiddblarghgggggghhhu concluded that female humans ALL HAVE HEADS. Yes! It’s true! Ladies, don’t misplace your heads! They’re very important! Best not to keep anything too valuable inside of those heads though, just in case! Head replacement can be costly and tends to sting a bit.

    Captain Bleedin Obvious, PhD

  22. scratchy888


    Hen’s night (or, I presume, day) is an opportunity for a bride to be to wallow nostalgically in all sorts of sexual stereotypes, in order to purge her sense of superego regarding her future sexual role in life, whilst reinforcing her sense of feminine difference vis-a-vis her husband, who has his corresponding Cocks’ Night Out. The idea is to reach towards the bottom of the barrel of society’s traditional gender sterotypes, and see what you can come up with. At the afternoon tea that I attended, 50s etiquette was fondly revived, with muffled giggles accompanying imagined “Honey, I’m home!” scenarios, and general chicken solidarity. This might help:

  23. hk-reader

    Purse, handbag, whatever.

    I started to carry one in university because I had to start carrying a wallet w/ IDs and a set of keys. Then came the smokes & the the lighters (just quit after 20 years!!!) and the paperback & the address book & the planner. My jeans could not accommodate it all.

    In fact, I became a 2-bag woman. The back-pack held the text books, extra readings, novels notebooks, & snacks. The purse held the non-academic life-essentials. Sometimes the back-pack might hold the purse if I was bicycling or something.

    I like having my purse. My stuff is always there so I don’t have to do the searching of jeans or jacket pockets to find keys or other important items.

    However, I am picky about my purses & usually like them midsize and able to be draped across my chest for ease of protection.

    One day years ago I was walking to the bus w/ a German acquaintance of mine. Even though HK is a very safe place (little street crime) I still had my purse draped and my hand lightly grasping it as we strode down the hill. He turned to me and said “You carry your bag like an Italian woman” (ready to prevent dudes on motorcycles w/ razors from grabbing my bag, I suppose).

    I guess that’s what years of carrying a purse around on subways and busses in busy US cities on will do.

    There must be something about handbags in the air
    According to http://daisann.com/
    In HK, there’s a place to rent handbags.

    Daisann wrote it in this posting:

  24. Sylvanite

    That sounds horrible! But then, I’ve always hated it when women are called “hens.” It’s pretty derogatory, and it seems to be used primarily by men. Or is this one of those “make the insult your own, thus defanging it” kinds of things?

  25. Frigga's Own

    I have to carry a small pharmacy worth of OTC medicines around with me for a long day out, plus hand lotion and lip balm, a hairbrush, a paperback (or two), one or more lists of things I need to get, and a small knitting project. Any time I plan on being out for more than two hours I take so much junk, I feel like I could go camping. Besides those times, and when I plan on sneaking my on concession stand into the movies, I don’t usually bother with a purse anymore. Through high school and college I never went anywhere without a backpack strapped to me. That lasted a few years after college, then I learned to get by with just my wallet and my knife, for the most part.

    I will say, I don’t understand the deal behind designer handbags. It’s an encumberance and it has to be fashionable? This trend usually follows buying the designer pants that have no pockets in them. Never understood the compulsion to wear impractical clothing that screams “I have more money than sense.” To be fair, I also don’t understand diamonds as jewelry or toy dogs as accessories.

  26. jezebella

    I’m pretty sure anyone throwing a “hen’s party” is not reclaiming the term in retaliatory fuck-you fashion.

    We call these bachelorette parties in the US, and I had no idea they could be made even more offensive, but sure enough: call a bachelorette party a “hen’s night” and it’s even more vile.

  27. Stranger

    As a child and teenager, I wore cargo pants. The type that I could fit a CD player in one pocket, a wallet in another, a small book or notepad/pen in yet another, and a pocketknife and what-have-you in the fourth (I didn’t use the back pockets; my ass is and has always been big enough as it is).

    For most of my college career, I’ve used my jeans pockets and put anything larger in my backpack, which is my constant and faithful companion*. One of the few things this CA girl has liked about PA winters is the fact that coats offer an entire new degree of carrying capacity. One of my coats had a solid lining but a big hole in the pocket, so I could stuff things into the hole and reclaim them later. Like, large amounts of diet coke cans for my caffiene addiction.

    This past winter break, my mother and I went on vacation to Europe. I had my backpack, but it was stuffed full of things that would be annoying to unpack and have strewn about the cabin. Plus, I may be bowing to patriachal fashion concerns here, but something about walking into a Viennese cafe with stylish clothes and a school backpack seemed kinda… unnifty.

    So I bought my first-ever tote bag. Twenty bucks from H&M, and I gotta say, the damn things convenient. I could carry a book and CD player (my old iPod’s hard drive crashed, but I got a new one after this trip. Yay!) to the lounge, to the bar, to dinner, to the aforementioned cafe, and have it right at hand and still look, well, not cargo-pantsy. I’m nowhere near tempted to go “Omigod the new Louis Vutton $$$$$ bag”, and I STILL swear to never go near Vera Bradley, but I have forsaken my vow to never take up this constant accessory of ‘girly-girls’… because it’s really damn convenient.

    *The backpack is almost TOO constant and faithful, and when I stumble over to work at the tech desk at 8 am on Monday, my brainmeats might not be awake enough to remember that I had cleared out my school stuff to make room for other things. So it came to pass that I went off to class to discover that I was carrying neither notebook nor pencil, but some shot glasses, my collection of Magic: The Gathering cards, and a half-full bottle of 100-proof Stoli vodka. That… was a fun weekend.

  28. Pony

    Sir. Very good, but in my experience, misogynists call male nurses Doctor.

  29. Sylvanite

    Ah, yes, bachelorette parties. When I had mine (despite my objections – I didn’t really want one), I insisted that we not go to a male strip club that caters to women. Because, holy hell, those places are boring. Instead, we went to an Irish-style pub and everyone tried to get me drunk. Didn’t work.

  30. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Is a bachelorette/hen party any less demeaning than a bridal shower? Because of my sad always a bridesmaid, never a bride spinster aunt status (ha!), I’ve never attended such an event as the guest of honor. Some traditions are even more toxic than others.

  31. CafeSiren

    I’m just astounded by how much some women are willing to pay for the privilege of carrying around some butt-ugly bag that they won’t be caught dead with next year. Seriously: upwards of $1,000 for a purse. And many women have entire collections of these things.

    Although, I guess that would eliminate concerns about having too many valuables in your purse — once you’ve bought a dozen 1K bags (with tragically fashionable shoes to match, one assumes), the only thing you’ll be able to afford to put in your purse is a couple of buttons and some lint.

  32. FemiMom

    I carry colorful bags because I wear head-to-toe black almost all the time. It makes it look like I am making a nod toward “fashion” or a strike against, as Stranger put it, the “un-nifty”.
    Here’s a question to the group: Is nifty patriarchal? My answer is no.

  33. cycles

    Speaking of hen vs. bachelorette, apparently, to those of the UK persuasion, a “fanny” is a vagina. Which makes the “fanny pack” concept something to titter about on a whole new and exciting level.

  34. Urban

    I have to carry a bag. It comes from not being able to survive in the urban environment without a book, an ipod, a pack of tissues, keys, wallet, umbrella, (sun)glasses, diary, and phone. And it must have a zip which does up from left to right, a flap, multiple compartments, and a long strap.

    I too have the over-the-shoulder approach, since I have known too many women who have had their bags snatched. It’s called my fuck-off bag-holding anti-theft posture. The strap goes over my shoulder, and my hand gets clamped down over the bag, which is placed slightly in front of my right hip.

    One of the bag issues that most bothers me too is price. What possible justification is there for spending thousands on a bag? The most disturbing event of my bag-life was when I was sitting in a seminar on world poverty and human rights, and the girl next to me showed me her brand new hermes bag she had clearly just bought from Selfridges. I think those things come in at about £3,000. She then told me she had another three hermes bags at home and she just loves them. I was struck dumb.

    However, I am sadly in the class of those who are completely unable to convince her partner to carry a bag himself. Occasionally he will carry a plastic super-market bag, and if we’re going for a walk out comes the rucksack. But that’s it, and it drives me spare.

  35. Magpie

    I don’t know about this “have to” formulation. Seems to equal “I like to carry stuff.” Nothing wrong with that, and no reason to disavow it, neither. Now, I *have* to carry a purse because I have to carry an Epi-Pen. Pre this “food can kill me” issue, I chose pockets all the way. But I don’t like to carry stuff.

  36. Ron Sullivan

    … £3,000. She then told me she had another three hermes bags at home and she just loves them.

    For that kind of money, one hopes at least they love her back.

  37. Sylvanite

    Eh, the bridal shower was okay. I didn’t feel demeaned as during the bachelorette party. My maid-of-honor’s mom really knocked herself out with the food, which was terrific. They did make me wear a hat made of the bows from the gifts, but that’s not bad compared to the “Suck for a Buck” t-shirt I ended up wearing at the bachelorette party (it was covered with Life Savers and guys were supposed to pay me a dollar to remove one with their teeth). I’m happy to say it was an utter failure, and I was able to remove it within minutes. I still have it, and really need to remove the candy so I can burn it. Or use it as a rag for staining furniture.

  38. Ron Sullivan

    Hey, Sylvanite, burn it with the candy still stuck on. It’s bound to be more interesting. YouTube awaits!

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