Why men should carry purses

My Man PurseI have a beef to pick with Western culture. I’m tired of carrying cargo in my pockets like Tom Sawyer in the 21st century. Rather than kite string, marbles, coins, and bits of trash, I have a money clip, business cards, credit cards, cash, cell phone, pen, pad, knife, keys, receipts and my to-do list housed in the leather Bosca 3″x5″ Note Minder that I’ve used since high school.

Yet, if I ascribe to certain social constructs of masculinity, I must endure keys sticking my leg and change jingling. When I sit down, I must either empty my pockets onto the table or resign myself to the discomfort of pants hiked up around my thighs and the constant inconvenience of that hem in the crotch. Storing this paraphernalia uses all the excess fabric in my pants, which is what made them comfortable in the first place. I might as well have worn a denim leotard.

These constructs of masculinity have no rhyme or reason. The gender-specific weight that we hang on specific colors or objects is arbitrary. Saying that the color pink is effeminate is like saying that chirping crickets are less masculine than roaring lions. If my friend Will delivered lumber, not cut flowers, would he be more of a man? How can the length of a man’s hair be intrinsically masculine or feminine? What about poor hygiene? Or caring for children, cooking, mowing the lawn, or building skyscrapers? Show me God’s file folder labeled, “For Men” and “For Women.” Arguments against the color pink and long hair lack logic and devolve into stereotypes, vague sentiment, and blind subservience to the status quo.

Even those people who believe that God created distinct genders to image unique aspects of His character fall prey to generalizations and gross oversimplification. David gained a reputation as an excellent musician and poet long before he slew Goliath. He later seduced a married woman and sent her husband, a long-time comrade in arms, to his death. In other words, David defied stereotypes. He brought beauty and lyre song into the world, and he betrayed his friends.

His Old Testament counterpart Jael gave Sisera a glass of milk to make him sleepy before she hammered a tent peg through his temple? She offers no picture of tenderness, nurture, and hospitality.

Jesus disrupts cultural stereotypes in a similar way. He shows kindness and preference to children. He speaks to outcasts and prostitutes. He shares meals with dishonest businessmen and rebukes the religious elite. Troublesome rebels and saints populate the Judeo-Christian scriptures. Constructs of masculinity and assumptions about propriety break against real men and women like waves against cliffs.

Armed with this realization, I plan to carry a purse.

I could, of course, call it by all sorts of names to appease the dullards hollering about toughness: messenger bag, and satchel, attaché; European carryall, man bag, and briefcase.

Wearing the strap diagonally across my chest or holding it by my side rather than on one shoulder changes nothing. Men dislike the idea of carrying a purse as though, by definition, a “purse” contains tampons and mascara; as though owning a “purse” obligates them to order a grilled chicken salad with raspberry vinaigrette and a Diet Coke at lunch. Whether my purse carries business cards, a Sigg 9mm, and a Leatherman multi-tool or fruit snacks, Midol, and strawberry-flavored Lip Smackers, it still serves the same basic function—holding and carrying my stuff.

Whether the material is leather, canvas, or ultra-lightweight plain weave nylon with aluminum components, men are secretly relieved to have somewhere else to carry the two inches of leather, plastic, and paper that masculinity requires us to keep in our back pockets.

I’d rather swagger with a purse now than have lower back problems in twenty years. I bought mine at a street market in Florence. The man and I haggled about prize—getting a good deal, 5 Masculinity Points—which we both enjoyed. I paid $75. It was probably the best purchase I made in eleven different countries. Both men and women compliment it all the time.

Eight years and two repairs later—repairing rather than replacing, 3 Masculinity Points—the satchel-purse is as good as new. It has two large compartments inside, both the perfect size for my Macbook—snobby electronics, 2 Masculinity Points. An assortment of books normally occupies the other pocket. For example, right now, I am carrying around the latest issue of Poets & Writers, the Bible, a notebook for business notes, my Postalco journal, which is my all-time favorite; Matt Donovan’s collection of poems entitled Vellum; The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald; and the most recent issue of Cave Wall, a literary journal. What carry in the satchel is directly related to how I make a living—having a job, 10 Masculinity Points—which is freelance marketing and copywriting jobs.

It also holds several pens and pencils, rewetting drops for when I wear my loathsome contacts, business cards, gum, ear plugs, and four empty .270 Winchester cartridges. Being prepared and knowing how to shoot a rifle represent another 75 Masculinity Points.

“Be prepared” is the motto of the Boy Scouts of America and signifies a major contradiction in constructs of masculinity in Western culture. Are we supposed to travel lightly and be “low maintenance” or to always be prepared? Male resourcefulness may necessitate killing food or cooking a nutritious meal for one’s children, and perhaps masculinity at its best means making the best decision for the most people in favorable and hostile environments. For me, that includes having a book to read while I wait in line.

I officially endorse men carrying purses. Men who disagree can schedule appointments with their orthopedic surgeons to discuss herniated discs, deformed spines, and painful surgeries. How manly!

Comments Closed

13 Comments

  1. Posted June 1, 2010 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    Not to contradict you, but I’ve wondered if I’ll have some sort of shoulder problem one day from carrying a purse. Just switch sides occasionally. :)

  2. Austin L. Church
    Posted June 7, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    That’s an excellent point: men should be taking cues from women on purse-carrying strategies to avoid. Thank you, Lauren.

  3. Burton
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    Upon visiting the chiropractor a few years ago, he immediately diagnosed me as being a rear pocket wallet wearer, since one of my hips was several inches higher than the other on the X-ray. Granted, it didn’t help that my core muscles had withered away into Oblivion since high school.

    Speaking of bags, I still have your camera bag you let me borrow way back when. I need to get that back to you, perhaps when you went shooting with me this weekend. (Yes, I just drug this comment out and made it entirely inappropriate for public viewing).

  4. Cordelia
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    This is hilarious! Recently, my dad asked me if he should carry a man-purse…I didn’t really have an opinion and that’s how I stumbled upon your blog. To be honest, I used to think that’s too metrosexual but then again, I’m a girly girl who doesn’t wear skirt often because it’s just not practical so why can’t a manly guy carry a purse?

  5. Austin L. Church
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Cordelia, I’m glad you enjoyed the read. I understand your reservations about your dad’s potential man-purse. You might be thinking, “What’s next? High heels? Mascara? Chicken salad sandwiches with the girls? Have no fear. If anything, a murse enables a man like your dad to be a grown-up Boy Scout. You need some nail clippers to cut that loose thread? Got them right here in my murse. Your blood sugar is plummeting and you need glucose stat? I’ve got a Snickers and a granola bar. Your stalker crossed the line for the last time? Here, take my Kimber 9mm, and teach him a lesson. “Why can’t a manly guy carry a purse?” Excellent question. He can, with pride.

  6. Cordelia
    Posted June 28, 2010 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Guess what, I went and got one (not as nice as yours though) for him this weekend! And maybe one day I’ll carry concealed firearm too instead of just a can of mace. Even though I usually (and unfortunately) only read women magazines, I find your blog very entertaining. I’ll check back often.

  7. Austin L. Church
    Posted June 28, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    A fine choice. May you never need the mace or the firearm! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the blog. Keep an eye out for the extreme blog makeover in early August (which is kind of like women’s magazines, right?).

  8. Cordelia
    Posted June 29, 2010 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately, women’s magazines cannot nourish my soul like biblical truths….Can I quote some of your writings from Shades under a Magnolia (with proper referencing, of course)? I’m running out of things to write on those anniversary cards (for my sisters next month) after all these years. Thanks.

  9. Austin L. Church
    Posted July 1, 2010 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Quote away. When I wrote that for a friend’s wedding, I had no idea that I was on my way to greeting card stardom. Biblical truths: Have I ever met anyone who regretted living by them? No. But I have met people who have regretted a Whirling Dervish kind of life.

  10. sunofsam
    Posted December 1, 2010 at 2:08 am | Permalink

    If I were a thief (which inspired my quasi-crazy user name), I’d now consider a way to snatch purses of men… Then again 9mm??!!!

    Anywho I’m not (a thief) and happen to date a guy who SWWWWWWWWWWEARS by his ‘wallet’–how the ENTIRE BAG can be a “wallet” beats me, I just do NOT like the idea and was going to give him an alligator breastpocket wallet until he said ‘Oh yeah, that’ll fit into my bag [“wallet”] really nicely. -UGH!

  11. Austin L. Church
    Posted December 13, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Aspiring thief, might I recommend a Kimber 9mm? Less cliche than a Glock and comparable to a Sigg. In response to your man calling his purse a wallet, well, he’s in denial. If you’re a man and you want to carry a purse, at least own it, like leather pants, white shoes, or waxing your eyebrows. You’d better be confident, unashamed, and certainly not in denial. This is not an exercise in semantics. This is a man purse. The denial, not the purse, is what should worry you. Pretty soon, he’ll start believing that appletinis are like a sweeter Scotch on the rocks or that Maxim magazine has good content.

  12. dee_klare
    Posted January 30, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    I was just filling my purse and wondered if I should include an extra pair of pantyhose?

  13. Posted January 31, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    I certainly don’t think it can hurt. I’d also pack some pepper spray and a hunting knife.

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  1. By Don't make your pony out to be a Clydesdale on June 8, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    […] afternoon, I saw something that made me happy. Obviously, someone at Delta read my diatribe, “Why men should carry purses,” recognized the good sense of what I was saying, and changed the verbiage on all the corporate […]