Friday, May 31, 2013

Warning: Rant Ahead

I have something to say...obviously.

Our local paper prints a weekly column by nationally syndicated humor columnist Tom Purcell.  I admit, I usually don't read it at all, and I really don't know why I read it yesterday...but I did.  It's an older article, originally printed in 2006 I believe.

Mr. Purcell (in 2006) has a are starting to carry "man bags" and he fears the imminent destruction of masculinity and all it stands for.

"The Man Bag is a high-style satchel – a purse, though its creators hate when you call it that. It’s designed to hold the modern man’s wallet, keys, sunglasses, iPod, cell phone, body spray, hair goop, diary and whatever other junk he totes around these days...

...Modern fellows don’t want to be like their dads – masculine fellows who defined themselves by their actions, not their high style. Fellows like my father.

My father has long known that if a thing doesn’t fit into a man’s pockets he shouldn’t be carrying it. He carries his keys in his right front pocket. He carries his change in both pockets, so he can dangle it with both hands while shooting the bull with the butcher, the mechanic and anybody else he encounters in daily life.

My father’s wallet is what a real man’s wallet should be – thick, fat and worn. It holds only the basic items a man needs to get through life: license, money and a yellowed photo of my mother from 1953. He keeps his wallet in his right rear pocket.

Nobody taught my dad to carry his keys, change and wallet this way. Nobody taught me, either. It’s hard-wired into male DNA. It is what men have always done because it is what we’re supposed to do."

I'm sorry to hear, Mr. Purcell, that your masculinity is such a fragile thing that it can be threatened by a few men carrying sorry as I am to hear that your knowledge of history seems to be limited to the last century.

Long before the most manly wallet as we know it was carried their money in purses.

"The governor on this asked him if he had any money in silver about him; he said he had about twenty ducats in a leather purse in his bosom."  -Miguel Cervantes, Don Quixote
"I took a gold watch, with a silk purse of gold, his fine full-bottom periwig and silver-fringed gloves, his sword and fine snuff-box, and gently opening the coach door, stood ready to jump out while the coach was going on; but the coach stopped in the narrow street beyond Temple Bar to let another coach pass, I got softly out, fastened the door again, and gave my gentleman and the coach the slip both together, and never heard more of them."  -Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders
"Then Robin Hood plucked the purse from his girdle, and quoth he, "Here in this purse are six marks."  -Howard Pyle, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
"With that he put his money into his purse, and set out, roaming over hill and valley."  -The Brothers Grimm, The Miser in the Bush

I doubt if Mr. Purcell would be comforted by the knowledge that Robin Hood wore a girdle.

Also, this illustration clearly depicts an Egyptian man, carrying...a purse.

My point in all this carrying bags is not a new thing, not a phenomenon, and certainly not the knell of doom for masculinity.  When history books are written about our time, I very much doubt that there will be even a paragraph dedicated to the, "sudden and inexplicable epidemic of the man-bag."

Mr. Purcell's closing argument begins as follows:

"I’m not certain how the American male has evolved to such a sissified state, but I have a hunch. The reason dates back 40 years or more, when the feminist movement kicked into high gear."

Yes, ladies, our secret is out.  Who cares about equal pay and an end to centuries of being objectified as sex toys?  We've convinced a few men to carry bags.  Success is ours.

"Yes, feminism brought us many good things. Women deserved equal opportunity and they’re doing well. But some feminists weren’t content with just that. They wanted to destroy the enemy – the American male."

I like men.  I do.  I cannot speak for all women, only for myself, but for me, destruction of masculinity has nothing to do with it.  Of course, I also don't think masculinity is defined by accessories or the lack thereof.  Masculinity, as femininity, is inward...and I heartily detest all stereotypes concerning the outward appearance of either.

I can change a tire.  I split firewood.  I cheer for the Yankees...and sometimes I wear a tutu while barefoot in the kitchen.

My husband washes the dishes and appreciates ballet.  He also likes using power tools and watching baseball.

The other day, I was walking down Main St. in Chewelah, and I saw a grey-bearded mountain man in one of the beauty shops getting a manicure.  The juxtaposition had me smiling for hours.

May I also point out that in the 16th century, when women were still married for money and treated as property, King Henry VIII wore this...
...and showed off his legs to the Venetian ambassador.  Male vanity has been around since there have been men, and in the same way that some women's fashion trends are clearly worn to impress other women, so Henry's elaborate and highly padded codpiece existed to impress and intimidate the men around him.

To Mr. Purcell: what weakens masculinity (or femininity for that matter) is the perception that something so trivial as a bag can bring down an entire gender.  We are who we are, not what we wear or what we carry.  We will always be defined by our actions, purse or no purse.  Henry dressed like that ^.  He was, at the time, the pinnacle of masculinity, and he cut off the heads of two of his wives.

Be a your own definition.  I'll be a woman by mine.

1 comment:

  1. Nice Rant! I too skip most of the local paper's right-wing homophobic conservative rhetoric. It does make me shake my head from time and chuckle. We do live in the Appalachia of the Northwest.
    I used to wear a fanny pack when touring. Just more comfortable having a purse around my mid-drift than making my pockets bulge. There, I admit it. I am jealous of women for all the things they can wear/accessories and not be labeled or ridiculed. Well, usually so.