July 11th, 2005

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07:24 pm - on masculinity vs. femininity through functional portable storage accessories...

Steph Glamour Shoot 4
Originally uploaded by chrismaverick.
I was in Phantom of the Attic, the other day talking to my friend, Wayne, and we happened upon one of those conversations that only occur in comic book shops or Kevin Smith movies. You know the ones, deep philosphical conversations that only occur when a couple of self-important assholes get together and start making meaningless observations about the world around them or when everyone is really really stoned.

Anyway, we were discussing the evolution of the handbag. Back when I was a kid, Real Men™, didn't carry hand bags. The only things a real man ever needed to have on his person was a dirty wad of cash, a swiss army pocket knife and maybe a hip flask of bourbon. If you couldn't fit all of that in your pockets, then your pants were too tight, sissy boy. Bags, or as we liked to call them, purses, were for women.

The notable exception would be if you had a briefcase. See, a briefcase was solid, angular, manly. But the briefcase wasn't really serving the same purpose. A briefcase was only to carry vitaly important business documents. You needed your briefcase, because if the Jenkins account was out of arms reach for more than 5 minutes, then the world just might end. You sure as hell didn't carry personal items in the case. You wouldn't be caught dead with a brush or comb in your briefcase, what are you a woman?

Women on the other hand were supposed to use bags. Moreover, they were supposed to have several bags. Differeng to match their outfit or the occasion. Huge pocketbooks that could hold 18 different types of sun tan lotion (there was no sunscreen back in the day, looking good was so much more important than skin cancer), 47 different makeup items, 2 changes of clothes, $43.67 in change and a pack of gum all for a 3 hour day at the beach down to a tiny elegant little beaded handbag that can fit either a tube of lipstick or a compact, but not both, for a night out on the town (it doesn't need to hold money, that's what men are for).

Somewhere along the way, it became fashionable for men to actually carry stuff. Mostly I think this is caused by school. You have books, an you certainly can't be bothered to go back to your locker between every class, so it becomes necessary to cart things around in an efficient manner. And so we arrived at the backpack. The backpack allowed a man to carry all of his random crap around without a feminine looking purse, and it was much easier to deal with and had a larger storage capacity than a briefcase. BONUS. And most importantly, it was manly. Backpacks. You know, like you use when you're camping. Two shoulders! MANLY! Grrrr!

But then somewhere along the line, women started carrying backpacks too. It's hard for me to get beststephi to go anywhere without hers (see, I had a reason to put that picture of her there for reasons other than her just being cute). In fact, I think in the nearly 7 years we've been together, she's only even had a purse (a singular, one!) for like the last year or so. How distinctly unfeminine!

Well, except...

Somewhere along the way things got kinda funny. As more and more women carried backpacks, men started differentiating themselves from women by not using both straps. Afterall, its a lot quicker to get the pack on and off if you sling it over one shoulder. And really, if a woman needs both shoulders, and you're a beefy strong man you should be able to carry the bag with one right?

Time went on, and backpacks became more and more curvy and feminine. They started becoming smaller and more purselike. The backpack was an item for women. And for men? well, since they only used one strap anyway, the second one begane to disappear. The messenger bag was born. Then the laptop bag. Then the satchel.

Now we're in a weird place. I have a laptop bag, which houses my computer, my car stereo, a book or two, some CDs, my comb, some aspirin, and just assorted other personal items. Its manly. When that's inconvenient men are known to carry smaller bags with just enough room for maybe a cellphone, a wallet and a checkbook. One strap, fits nicely around the hand. When I'm going to work out, I have huge gym bag that I carry that has gear, pads, tape, whatever.... I coordinate my bag with the occasion.

What I don't do, ever, is wear a bag with two starps. Because, you know... that would be womanly, right?

So here's the question. Men and women both. Do you carry a bag? How big? One or two straps? What do you carry in it? Do you change the bag per occasion. Do you consider it masculine or feminine to do so? Do you take it with you everywhere? Do you consider it part of accessorizing? Any other thoughts?

Note: Mav's history lesson ignores the fanny pack. We all had them, we all acknowledge it was a mistake. Let us never speak of them again. You know, unless you're gay. And even then, all the cool gay people are still going to beat you up.

(31 comments | Leave a comment)

on masculinity vs. femininity through functional portable storage accessories... - graffiti.maverick — LiveJournal

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From: zombiesrah Date: July 11th, 2005 - 04:47 pm (Link)
I don't carry a bag if I can avoid it. I generally try to get by with just a wallet, in the back pocket of my jeans or slacks (it's really frickin' hard to find dressy women's pants that include a back pocket, however, so occasionally I have to find something else). Failing that, I put my wallet in a jacket/coat pocket.

Failing that, I grudgingly carry a bag. I have one mini-backpack (olive drab and tan) that serves as a purse, and I have a "purse" that's also olive drab canvas and tan suede (and has a flap and is kinda miniature-messenger-bag-ish, so it doesn't feel too girly).

Plus I have my dance bag, which is occasionally my overnight bag when I have to take a 1-2 night trip and don't need my suitcase. It's a black canvas bag with a shoulder strap and shorter handles, and it's purely functional. Usually it's got zills, a veil, a couple of hipscarves, my dance makeup, and whatever costuming and music I need for a particular gig.

With all my bags, I use one strap over the shoulder (with the mini-backpack, the strap(s) can be zipped together into a single strap, or unzipped into two... I almost always use it in one-strap form).

I don't like "feminine" bags and purses and have tried to avoid them, but mine probably aren't masculine either, and they're definitely not accessories. They're just functional.
[User Picture]From: max1975 Date: July 11th, 2005 - 05:14 pm (Link)
Mostly I think this is caused by school. You have books, an you certainly can't be bothered to go back to your locker between every class, so it becomes necessary to cart things around in an efficient manner. And so we arrived at the backpack. The backpack allowed a man to carry all of his random crap around without a feminine looking purse, and it was much easier to deal with and had a larger storage capacity than a briefcase. BONUS. And most importantly, it was manly. Backpacks. You know, like you use when you're camping. Two shoulders! MANLY! Grrrr!

I think you're off-track on this point. Kids use backpacks in school because a)they have a lot of books to carry around, and b) their parents make them. I really don't think any fashion considerations enter into it from the kid's point of view. Most of the time, anyway. By the time they're fashion-conscious, they've already been lugging a backpack to school for a few years.

As far as what baggage I use these days, it's a one-strap, over the shoulder thing, and I use it because it's just damned inconvenient to lug around my sketchbook and various journals and pencils and literature and all that crap without it. It is still a burden, so I leave it in the car whenever I can.

I used to carry a backpack, a habit instilled from elementary school. I remember one reason you wanted it on only one shoulder was that if you had it on two, one of the big kids could just pick you up by it and hang you on something, and then you were pretty much screwed.

My decision to make the move away from a backpack was somewhat fashion-oriented, but not in a gendery sort of way. Mostly, I didn't want people mistaking me for a student.

Your post brings to mind the desperate need for a new sort of pants. I thought I was all set when I got hooked on painter's jeans with their dedicated cellphone pocket. But then I got iPod, which of course is my most important possession, and I find myself wearing long-sleeved flannel shirts in August just because they have a suitable pocket for iPod. So we need, like, painters jeans that acknowledge the painter's need for constant music. The iPod pocket should ideally have a button or a zipper, and be located somewhere it won't be crunched when you move around (this is what makes the "change pocket" unsuitable).

Note: Mav's history lesson ignores the fanny pack. We all had them,

No we didn't. I certainly didn't. You must be some sorta girly man.
[User Picture]From: mg4h Date: July 11th, 2005 - 05:27 pm (Link)
I have a backpack. It carries everything I want. Most of the time it's two-shoulder because one just keeps falling off when I turn. It's two-shoulder when I'm carrying my laptop or anything that weighs more than 5 lbs. It has all the stuff that doesn't fit in my pants pockets - my pilot, my glasses case, extra kleenex, antacids, random papers, hairbrush, comb, my dice bag, extra hair bands, pens, pencils, bills I have to deal with soon, and my laptop and stuff if it's with me that day.

And I never, ever, had a fanny pack. Ever. Ha.

[User Picture]From: damion Date: July 11th, 2005 - 05:29 pm (Link)
When at school I have a backpack. It carries my laptop, whatever books I need, and my satchel. It also has whatever small tools I've remembered to put in it.

I take the satchel out of my backpack when I'm in a situation where the backpack would be too bulky or heavy. It has one strap that I wear across my body. In it I keep a copy of the I Ching, a notebook, a pencil, an eraser, and a stapler. I also have bandaids and neosporin, and some change.

I consider neither bag to be masculine or feminine. Everyone calls my satchel a purse though.
[User Picture]From: limpingpigeon Date: July 11th, 2005 - 05:45 pm (Link)
I usually carry a bag of some sort with me. Mostly, I use one of two bags.

I have my purse, which is a plain, black canvas purse just large enough to hold my small sketchbooks, as well as money and the usual purse-items.

Sometimes I use my briefcase/laptop bag, in which I carry my laptop, or larger sketchbooks and art supplies. Often I still carry the purse with this bag. Sometimes I put it in the laptop bag.

I don't do backpacks anymore. But through high school and college, my backpack and I were inseperable. Two straps.
[User Picture]From: marmal8 Date: July 11th, 2005 - 07:32 pm (Link)
I nearly always have a bag. These can be divided into four distinct categories:
* Backpack. Used to carry crap to school (where school=work) and back. This started when I didn't have my own classroom and didn't want to have to wait for the elevator (some traveling teachers use wheeled carts). People sometimes say, "Oh, I thought you were a student for a moment" which I don't understand because I'm at least a foot taller than most of the students. And white.
* Tote bag. All teachers are issued a minimum of three tote bags at the beginning of their teaching career. I use these to haul art supplies, student work or groceries.
* Purse. Yes, I have them. Some look like baby backpacks. Others have monkeys attached. A few are even Purses That Look like Purses.
* Edwin.

For me, masculinity or femininity is determined by the size and constrution of the bag. Again, living in NYC is a factor here. People leave their houses for the day and need to have their crap with them, where crap includes but is not limited to a book to read on the subway, water bottle, snack, cosmetics, iPod, and/or PSP.

For all bags, I use all available straps at all times. I live in NYC, so I generally wear my purse across my body as opposed to over one shoulder. I nearly always have a bag of some sort with me unless I'm just going to move my car or get a cup of coffee. And even then, with only a wallet and keys, I still find it easier to take a bag of some sort. It's generally the same bag so it's not really an accessory unless there's a Dress-Up Function That Warrants A Matching Bag. I suppose Edwin is an Accessory in the sense that when he holds my stuff, I am Making a Statement and Wanting To Be Noticed.

I never intentionally owned a "bum bag" but I think I may have received one as a give-away item. I'm certain I never used it.

It seems you've left out what I call <a href="http://www.nikestar.co.kr/admin/product/bag6.jpg>the shoestring bag</a>, which is a nonfunctional canvas thing that students claim is a bookbag but, due to the thinness of the straps, can really only hold a sandwich before it begins to cut off circulation. I'm certain these things are in some way related to fashion, but they're so ugly that I can't figure it out.
[User Picture]From: marmal8 Date: July 11th, 2005 - 07:35 pm (Link)
My verbosity seems to have been curtailed. It was a rant about those useless shoestring bags the kids carry. Never mind.
[User Picture]From: theadana Date: July 11th, 2005 - 07:45 pm (Link)
The bag issue is one of serious concern to me. I -hate- carrying a bag. I tend to forget it, and it's just annoying. In the winter I carry everything in my coat pockets, and that solves that. Summer though... with its lack of clothing with pockets... with its lack of clothing in general, means I have to carry a bag for my wallet, phone and keys. Annoying. Also annoying though, is having bulky shit in my pants when I'm wearing pants.

I recently saw a woman wearing a detachable belt of sorts, with... like... attached pockets. NOT a fanny pack... like hanging detached pantspockets. I might consider that as an alternative. Or... redefine man-purse to mean "guy with big pockets."
[User Picture]From: max1975 Date: July 11th, 2005 - 07:52 pm (Link)
I recently saw a woman wearing a detachable belt of sorts, with... like... attached pockets. NOT a fanny pack... like hanging detached pantspockets. I might consider that as an alternative. Or... redefine man-purse to mean "guy with big pockets."

Ooh, like a utility belt?
I think utility belts must be very manly. Otherwise Batman and imperial stormtroopers wouldn't wear them.
From: theadana Date: July 11th, 2005 - 09:42 pm (Link)
From: max1975 Date: July 11th, 2005 - 10:57 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: July 12th, 2005 - 07:00 am (Link)
From: theadana Date: July 11th, 2005 - 08:35 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: July 12th, 2005 - 06:46 am (Link)
[User Picture]From: kenoubi Date: July 11th, 2005 - 07:46 pm (Link)
While in Pittsburgh I used both a backpack (specially designed for a laptop—the back compartment is cushioned) and a laptop bag, because I was bringing two laptops to work every day. (Both bags are black.) Now, I mostly just bring the laptop bag. I wear it with a shoulder strap, but on the same side, because I've discovered that's way more comfortable. I keep a laptop, power adaptor, diabetes equipment, smokes, important papers, pens, and my PDA in it, along with a few other odds and ends sometimes. I have a near-obsessive need to have a good amount of stuff with me (maybe not so obsessive in the case of diabetes equipment), so I'll often be the only person with a bag someplace, although I can get by with pockets if pressed or just going out for a few quick errands (I tend to stuff my pockets anyway). I don't think of the laptop bag as a fashion statement, though I did choose it because I think it looks good and I do use the laptop bag in preference to the backpack partly because of appearance.
From: djslim Date: July 11th, 2005 - 08:42 pm (Link)
I call mine a "man purse". It's a small one strap, but slung like a messenger bag. It's got stuff like pen, cell phone, ear phone, gba, gym gloves, sun glasses, emergency medicine (advil, benadryl) and crap like that. I don't like switching bags, so I try to cram everything I need into it. I do carry it everywhere. I dunno if it's really accessorizing, but I suppose it could be. If I wanted it to be, I would have bought something better looking, tho.

It's not particularly manly, but obtuse enough for real gay men to cringe at. The thing is I don't carry enough to warrant a full-sized bag. Now that I'm taking some courses at CMU again I might have to get a backpack. Backpacks with both straps for men came back towards the mid 90s (at least it did among the b-boy crowd that I hung out with in High school) I used to carry a messenger bag, but it became clear pretty quickly that it's a pain in the ass carrying heavy stuff in messenger bags.

Oh, and the whole "backpack with wheels" is something I've never seen outside of the U.S. Who carries those around??

In Corea I see so many guys with LV purses. Literally purses... AND Tote bags! They have their own rules over there that I just don't understand anymore.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: July 12th, 2005 - 06:40 am (Link)
In Corea I see so many guys with LV purses. Literally purses... AND Tote bags! They have their own rules over there that I just don't understand anymore.

So you've been like, assimilated by the man then?
From: monkey587 Date: July 11th, 2005 - 10:32 pm (Link)
I have two bags that I am commonly seen with.

One is an ordinary green backpack and I usually take it with me when I'm spending the night at someone's place or I have music gear (such as a pile of cables and my mini mixer) which will all fit into it.

The other is an over-the-shoulder big-flap bag of the "conference freebie" variety. It is black and has O'Reilly and ActiveState logos on it. In it, I carry my Manly Flute in its Manly Doskosport pistol case, three Manly Pennywhistles, business cards, and, oddly enough, Manly rail maps of Munich. To make the bag extra Manly, I let one of my cats barf on it, and I made only the lamest of attempts to clean it.
[User Picture]From: max1975 Date: July 11th, 2005 - 10:44 pm (Link)
I don't really think the words "Manly" and "Pennywhistle" belong together. In fact, "pennywhistle" might be the wussiest compound word in the Enlish language.

Nothing against the instrument, of course...
From: monkey587 Date: July 11th, 2005 - 10:46 pm (Link)
From: chrismaverick Date: July 12th, 2005 - 06:31 am (Link)
[User Picture]From: nemesisn4sa Date: July 12th, 2005 - 05:54 am (Link)
i have a friend who can be describes as very "manly". buff, in the army, looks like someone you don't want to fuck with. he has a fanny pack. he uses it to carry his gun. amongst other things.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: July 12th, 2005 - 06:21 am (Link)
its still gay... it just means that he has the wherewithall to shoot anyone who says it to his face.
[User Picture]From: jeremiahblatz Date: July 12th, 2005 - 07:53 am (Link)
I often carry a backpack: when going to temple, getting groceries, or going on a trip. Both shoulders, always. Those one-shoulder backpack fools can get stuffed. Call me girly and I'll laugh at you. Other occasions I have a laptop (messenger style) bag or a one-shoulder camera bag. Both carried across the body. I have a total bag fetish, though. I have 5 bags/backpacks that I use on a weekly basis, and a bunch or other that I use from time to time. By rights, I should be "girly" but people seem to have a SWAT/ninja impression more often. *shrug*

Oh, and to round out the questions, I choose my bag based on the expected contents, not on the outfit. Although I have one that I like more than the others, mostly for aesthetic reasons, and I use it if I think I can get away with it.

And for those folks with the bags with wheels, stop being such a wuss and pick up your damn bag. I'm sick of waiting for your lazy ass on the curb and at either end of every set of stairs. You don't need all that crap, it just gets in the way of life. You could probably use the exercise, anyway. (Does not apply if you're extremely frail.)
[User Picture]From: ouchfest Date: July 12th, 2005 - 09:03 am (Link)
Up to and including my time in Pittsburgh, I always carried my backpack with me. Everywhere. It had my notebooks in it, pens, some cryptogram magazines, paper, knives, floss, and junk. Pittsburgh was compact, though, and I walked everywhere I had to go.

Now I am in a place where I have to drive around. I also own a laptop now. So, I emptied out the bag that came with my Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children IV, made some padding for the inside out of cardboard and socks, and put my laptop in one pocket, my notebooks and such in another, and various cables, floss, deodorant, forks, and pills (headache, allergy) in another.

I guess it's like a purse because I have hygiene stuff in it, but hey, it's efficient. Depending on what classes I have, it can be quite cumbersome, but it usually rides shotgun in my car.

I don't think too much about the masculinity/femininity of it; just the efficiency.
[User Picture]From: katieboyd Date: July 12th, 2005 - 02:43 pm (Link)
I need a bag big enough to carry a book in. Sometimes if I am bored, or waiting for the bus, or something, I really want to pull out a book and read. The bag also gets such things between work and home.
Lately, I find that, because I only wear glasses now, no contacts, and need my perscription sunglasses when outdoors, I have to keep my bag with me even more than I would because the glasses case would never fit in my pockets.

If it weren't for the two above things, I way way prefer to just have a small wallet in my back pocket. (except that my current pants-that-fit-me have a lower pocket, causing the wallet to be uncomfortable to leave there while sitting, again causing me to have to make more use of the bag than otherwise)
I do find that when I have a bag, I do tend to let more and more things collect in it: pens, pencils, little notebooks, anything I find useful.

Also: It's a Bag, not a Purse. I do not carry purses. I don't like purses. My bags are over-the shoulder satchel-type things.
Purses are unmanly.
From: raia Date: July 12th, 2005 - 05:23 pm (Link)
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