We’ve come a long way from when men were terrified to carry a bag, which might be mistaken for a handbag, which is what women wear, and therefore bad. But we have one important step left: Stop juggling names for your satchel, your “bag”, your man-bag, your murse. Just call it a handbag.
Photo by Garry Knight
Two reasons this matters. First, the only reason you’re not calling it a handbag is a tacit cultural agreement that things associated with women are bad. You’re not calling it a satchel because of its shape. Women have satchels, and clutches, and totes, and purses. And they — or at least you, manly man — call them all handbags.
So while you might hate to admit it, it’s a tiny bit misogynist and/or homophobic that you’re afraid to call your handbag a handbag. You’re acting like a character on Friends, which is generally a bad sign.
Second, once you realise you have a handbag, you can start to really use it like one. My bag used to carry just a paperback, notebook and headphones. But as soon as I realised my summer tote was actually just a handbag, I immediately thought of all I could carry in it: Lip balm, wet wipes, aspirin, Purell, a cardigan. You know, handbag things. None of this felt very manly but, well, who gives a damn?
You don’t have to go crazy. Keep your wallet, phone and keys in your pockets. Not because that’s manly but because everyone with pockets should do that, so when their handbag gets stolen it isn’t such a hassle. But if you do throw your keys in your handbag, add a Tile Bluetooth fob so you can track them from your phone.
And no one’s asking you to get a pink handbag or a jewelled clutch. Just get something that matches most of your outfits. Most branded tote bags are pretty gender-neutral. Or, you know, if you want something girly and flowery, go for it, dude. Who looks dumber, you or someone who gives a damn what colour bag you put your iPad in?
Calling it a handbag will seem silly and performative at first. But as our culture gradually gets over its centuries-long panic over gender roles, the word will sound normal. Because, after all, it is.