Twisty has penned a great post about the ulterior meaning behind the existence of teeny handbags. You’ve seen them. These purses are about the size of an eyeglass case, and they can hold only a birth-control pill, a few dollars and some change, and some pocket mace. My friends and I call them “hooker purses.” I’ve seen them at the mall, in particular, in one accessory shop for teenaged girls. Some of them are plastic, with zippers with holes in the top so you can attach keyrings, feathers, little flashlights whose batteries last for about five minutes, and other useless gack that you will never use. Some have cutesy little flowers embossed on them, while others sport Hello Kitty. The most amazing ones to me are clear. Not only would you carry around a teeny handbag, but everyone around you can see your birth-control pill, your money, and your pocket mace. What kind of message does that send?
I own a couple of old-fashioned teeny handbags that look like someone cut a letter-envelope-sized chunk out of a Persian rug and attached a zipper to it. These bags smell like old ladies. They come with a chain that can barely make it around my wrist. Even though next to nothing can fit in these bags, that didn’t stop me from using them when I went through my Big Hair phase in the 1980s. One commenter at Twisty’s mentioned that ladies’ wallets are often the size of horsefeed bags (she didn’t use those words, but the image stuck in my mind). You cannot fit a ladies’ wallet into one of these teeny handbags. All I could fit into it was a few dollars, some change, a lipstick, my driver’s license, and my medical insurance card in case I broke my neck while tripping around on stiletto heels – another tool of the patriarchy.
One reason that women must carry handbags is that their clothing traditionally comes without pockets. Plus, many women feel they must carry around an arsenal of personal items, such as a comb, brush, lipstick, tampons, wallet, pocket mace, cell phone, mirror, notepad, calendar, address book, sneakers (when they aren’t wearing stilettos), stilettos (when they either are wearing sneakers or their feet hurt too much from the stilettos), extra pairs of panty hose, shampoo, conditioner, and toothbrush (in case they meet the man of their dreams while staring down a martini in a hotel bar), hairspray, glasses, sunglasses, an iPod, CDs, cassette tapes, 8-track tapes (if you own these, your age is showing), headphones, car keys, cigarettes, a lighter, a cigarette case, a paperback book, and a bottle of water. And those are only the necessities.
So, considering all that swag too many women carry around, why on earth would they use a purse the size of a candy box? Why do women need to carry all that stuff around at all? We’re too encumbered with junk that won’t fit in our teeny purses. Maybe that’s the whole idea. Keep women so concerned about what it is their purses – and what they forgot – that they can’t think about important things. That’s how those teeny hooker purses are tools of the patriarchy.
I no longer use teeny handbags. I decided that if I was going to be a tool for the patriarchy, I was going to wear a black leather backpack rather than tote around a teeny handbag. That patriarchal bit of pixelated boobage designed to turn on 16-year-old boys, Lara Croft, wore a brown leather backpack in all the Tomb Raider video games. So I wear a black leather backpack with my black clothes. I can be a tool for the patriarchy and look like I’d kick your scrawny ass at the same time. Works for me.