Dude, Where’s My…Purse?

Ever wanted to know about my neighbourhood?  Well, then I have just the thing for you.  You can click here to head on over and read an expat interview/guest post I did for the lovely Edna.  She’s an American girl who is currently living in Paris, but has managed to get herself the kind of lifestyle we all kind of wish we could have – working jobs she loves and is passionate about in amazing locations around the world (just in the last year or so, she has worked in not only Paris, but Singapore, Shanghai, and Australia too).  I’d hate her if she wasn’t so darned nice!

Now, since I really have no witty way to segue into my post for the week, I’ll channel Jerry Seinfeld and ask, “So, what’s with the man purses?”

This is where I keep all my things. I get a lot of compliments on this. Plus, it's not a man purse; it's called a satchel. Indiana Jones wears one.


On any given day, I can walk down the street and be guaranteed that nearly half of the men I encounter will be carrying purses of some variety, whether their girlfriend’s or (shudder!) their own.  There are specialized market stalls that sell man purses.  There are multiple styles, for heaven’s sake (clutches, shoulder bags, fannypacks…)!

Man purse!

I’ve heard men of various Asian backgrounds lament the fact that they have troubles with the ladies and that women, especially Western women, don’t take them seriously.  I’ve heard them talk about how they think women perceive them as being more feminine than men of other ethnic backgrounds.

Well, here’s just my own two cents on the subject:  A good place to start would be the purses.

First of all, stop carrying your girlfriend’s handbag.  I don’t mean cut back and only carry it when she’s really tired.  I mean never ever carry it.  It’s her bag and she needs to be responsible for it.  If her bag is too heavy for her to carry, then that’s her problem that she needs to deal with by taking some of the junk out or lifting more weights at the gym.  Don’t enable her by offering to carry it for her.  If she has a lot of other things to carry, then offer to help carry those, but leave her to carry her own purse, dammit!

Let me introduce you to the term ‘whipped’.  It’s used to refer to a man who will do anything his wife or girlfriend tells him to do, and it’s not positive at all – in fact I’d say it’s on the opposite side of the spectrum from ‘manly’.  While there are lots of things you can do as a husband or boyfriend that are lovely gestures and are very helpful (chopping wood, hunting for meat for dinner, buying her jewellery), you need to draw the line somewhere.  Carrying her purse should definitely fall on the “don’t do this” side of the line.

You’re wondering why I’m stressing this first point so much?  Well, because it’s a slippery slope, folks.  A guy thinks he’s being nice by offering to carry his girlfriend’s purse while they are out for a walk one day.  Soon, he’s carrying it more often than she is.  After that, he’s thinking to himself, “You know, this bag isn’t really that bad.  Maybe I should get one of my own.”  Then he’s out checking out the man purses at the local market and thinking that the colour selection just isn’t what he was looking for and he ends up buying and carrying a women’s purse as his own.  Which I’ve seen.

And then you end up looking like this.

Through foreign eyes, it’s pretty disturbing to see a man carrying around a women’s purse, but even more so when there is no woman accompanying him.  It leads to all sorts of questions and speculations.

My husband and I saw a man ride past us on his bicycle one day, with a bright blue women’s handbag slung over his shoulder.  I gaped, mouth open, and said, “That man is carrying a purse, but there is no wife around.”  Without hesitation, my husband’s response was, “Maybe she’s IN the purse.”

Do you want to avoid being thought of as a murdering, dismembering maniac?  Then stop carrying women’s bags.

Second, start laughing at your friends who are carrying bags.  It doesn’t matter if it’s their wife’s (fake) Gucci or their own, make fun of it.  Laugh and point.  Say “Whu-chaaa” and act out a little air whip gesture.  Ask if you can borrow some lipstick.  Nothing alters behaviour better than peer pressure!

And finally guys, stop carrying bags of your own.  What could you possibly have to carry around that you need a whole bag for?!  We women, well, we have makeup and chapstick and hand cream and tissues and nail files and hair elastics that we need to carry around ‘just in case’.  But men?

Man purse, on the left!

Now, I may be a little biased, because I grew up around rough and tumble cowboy folk; the sort of men who wouldn’t be caught dead carrying a purse.  They stuffed their wallet in one back pocket and proudly sported worn circles of denim on the other from habitually carrying a little tin of chewing tobacco.  Sure, they wore shiny belt buckles the size of dinner plates but there was no mistaking them for being feminine because of it.

Wait!  But that was before everyone and their dog carried cell phones around, you plead.

Maybe.  But I’m pretty sure that even today, those cowboys, and most other men in North America, have managed to find a spare pocket to contain their phone.

So yes, Asian men (or any man, for that matter), if you are carrying a bag around, I am assuming that in it you have, in addition to a wallet, keys, and a cell phone, makeup and chapstick and hand cream and tissues and nail files and hair elastics.  And that stuff does indeed make you a bit feminine.

If you absolutely must insist on carrying a bag of your own, make it a proper messenger bag, a briefcase, or a sporty backpack, whatever suits your style.  Just please stop with the man purses.

And also stop with the 'fannypacks as purses' - actually, stop with the fannypacks altogether.

My husband, being into hip hop, carries a backpack when he feels the need to haul around anything more than his wallet, keys, and cell phone.  Though, apparently there was a close call.

After watching a recent episode of The Big Bang Theory, in which an Indian character mentions his man purse, my husband commented, “All Asian men like those.”  I went on to say how glad I was that he didn’t have one.  He told me that his mother had tried to give him one once but he had politely declined.

However, he continued to reminisce and wax poetic on the details of it – the leather was so soft and it was really well-made, then he could carry his money and his phone together…  I asked if it had a shoulder strap.  “No, it had a wrist strap instead,” he replied dreamily.

Lord help me – maybe we’re not out of the woods yet.

This entry was posted in Things My Husband Says, Things Other People Do and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to Dude, Where’s My…Purse?

  1. stilishbabe says:

    my philosophy teacher has an old dirty bad quality little purse he carries for ages! :)) If it looks nice I don’t think is a bad thing..we borrowed so many things from men’s wardrobe!

    • kjsandor says:

      I maintain that real men don’t carry purses, no matter how “nice” they might look. A backpack, briefcase, or maybe a messenger bag make the cut, but anything else just doesn’t work for me. And I know we’ve borrowed things from men’s clothing, but I really don’t think it goes the other way – would you really like to see men in corsets, or pantyhose?! ;)

      • stilishbabe says:

        that would be so funny! Yea, you’re right! I don’t think I would go for a man which wears purses.Also,everytime I see a guy perfectly accessorised my gay radar goes nuts… :))

      • kjsandor says:

        I’m sure it’s a personal thing and depends a bit on where you were raised (maybe Europeans feel differently than I do about the man purse thing), but where I come from, men shove their stuff in their pockets – they don’t carry that much stuff anyway! :)

      • stilishbabe says:

        I’m European :D They do the same here…No purses quite yet :))

      • kjsandor says:

        Well I hope this doesn’t spread to where you are then! You can find yourself a good “manly” man who doesn’t carry a purse!!

      • stilishbabe says:

        let’s hope so!oh,i can threaten to leave him :d LOL!

  2. idollove says:

    Wow so much is wrong with this post I don’t even know where to start. SMH at you for be so close minded and obsessed with gender roles.

    Why exactly should guys not be able to carry around things in one place? Wouldn’t that be better than having your pockets full and having stuff fall out? It makes sense to me.

    You expect to wear a purse to have a nice place to store your stuff but then a guy can’t do it? Wow that is some bullshit. Why don’t you try to walk around with all of your stuff in your pockets?  You don’t need any of the stuff you listed either. Oh wait you probably believe women have to be pretty at all times for men to look at.

    Like seriously I can’t get over you. You are making fun of men for finding a solution that makes their life easier. It’s like getting mad at people for using a stove instead of an open fire and only because of their gender. It’s disgusting.

    What is a real man anyway? I didn’t realize there were fake men roaming around my whole life. I only see men and women. Just as I don’t expect all women to have a huge ass and giant perky tits with a small waist. And if they do that suddenly doesn’t make them real and skinny girls fake. It’s ridiculous and you sound like you are 12 years old.

    I also don’t see what’s wrong with them holding their girl’s purse. It is a sweet gesture. It seems like the only reason you object is because you have given an inanimate item a gender which is stupid and the world will explode if a guy carries his girl’s bag because that’s so unbelievably wrong.

    And omg what exactly is the difference between a backpack and a purse? Strap positioning. It does the same fucking thing yet one makes you into a pathetic feminine loser. Wow I can’t. There is nothing wrong with being a woman. You saying that makes women seem inferior. You are saying men are losers when they wear a purse because it makes them more like a female and therefore females are bad because you don’t want men to be like them. Way to bring down men and women at the same time. Good job.

    You shouldn’t be berating men for defying YOUR gender roles, you should be upset with yourself and your parents for making you into a close minded idiot. You sound like they are going around murdering people when they are just holding an item. A fucking item. There are worst things they could be doing. Grow up.

    • kjsandor says:

      Thank you for your comment – I appreciate you taking the time to write and explain your thoughts. I had intended for this to be a light-hearted post, but you have made several valid points here.

  3. lostnchina says:

    Oh gawd, men carrying purses is my pet peeve in China too! There is just something inherently wrong about a slovenly schlub of a man carrying his wife’s/gf’s LV purse. If the woman can’t carry her own purse, then get something smaller – or get a monkey butler – but don’t use your bf/husband!

    “My husband and I saw a man ride past us on his bicycle one day, with a bright blue women’s handbag slung over his shoulder. I gaped, mouth open, and said, “That man is carrying a purse, but there is no wife around.” Without hesitation, my husband’s response was, “Maybe she’s IN the purse.”
    – Your husband is a rock star. Hilarious!

    • kjsandor says:

      Perhaps I have a bit of a twisted take on feminism, but I think women should carry their own bag – especially since it belongs to them and they are the ones choosing to bring it along. Is it really that hard to do?!

      As for my husband, he is pretty darn awesome. I love the fact that he makes all these little quips in English – he obviously has a good grasp of the language (better than he thinks)!

  4. This reminds me of one time when I was teaching at a university in Japan and I had some American students come to talk to my students. My Japanese students were planning to study in America, so they were asking lots of questions about life and college in the States. One of the American girls kept on telling the guys over and over again, “Ditch the purses. Do not carry a purse when you’re in the States.” My students were so mystified and were like, “But, what? Where will I put all my stuff?”

  5. Priya says:

    I hate carrying things! sometimes I just leave the house with my keys and credit card in my pocket. However, if I must carry a purse, I carry it on my own without any help! Thank you very much.

    • kjsandor says:

      I do carry a purse all the time, and I always insist on carrying it myself too. The way I figure it is that it’s my bag and I’ve chosen to bring it along, so I should be the one to carry it. My husband has even offered or tried to carry it at times and I’ve refused. There are many sweet things a guy can do for his girl, and I know that the gesture is nice, but I think women can manage to carry their own purse! ;)

  6. Chivalry is fine but carrying a woman’s hand bag for her is not quite, except in some circumstances when you may have to. Like you put it, it’s her bag why can’t she hold it herself? Isn’t a woman’s hand bag meant to be her fashion statement/accessory also? Wouldn’t having the bf or hubby
    carrying the bag for her defeat the very purpose? Personally for me, it is to each his or her own but however you want to justify a man carrying his own purse as his right (of course, it is his right) at this point in time the picture to me is still a feminine one. I hope this won’t raise the hackles of some readers who may be wont to come for my jugular. It is still just my personal opinion, rightly or wrongly. Here in Malaysia everyone it seems is carrying a sling bag/packback nowadays and I often wonder what they keep inside. But to stuff all your things in the back pocket like your country men do is not an option here. You will likely as not have your pocket picked lah!

    • kjsandor says:

      I agree. As you said, if the woman chooses to bring it with her, then it’s her responsibility to carry it!

      Haha, now I’ve got the picture in my head of a big, tough cowboy walking around a place like Bangkok and feeling all bewildered and getting pickpocketed! You have a very good point there!! ;)

  7. It would have been lighthearted if it wasn’t filled with offensive comments. “REal men don’t carry purses?” “Men who carry purses are feminine?” even connecting this to an issue as to why asian men may be finding difficulty in getting a girlfriend? And also giving the wrong perception that you are speaking on the behalf of all foreign women which you clearly are not. These bags don’t seem “disturbing” to all foreign folk, and I would think my sexy asian man is manly and sexy regardless if he carries a pouch or not, and I sure as hell do not wish to see any man stop carrying their girlfriends purses IF they should like/ want that. I personally I am pretty comfortable to carry my own bag and like help if my bags are too heavy, however I would not judgemental and offensive post about others who do not do as I. Clearly, in China the masculinity standards are measured by other factors unlike your cowboy background. This post cannot be lighthearted taking into consideration you are brining highly sensitive issues into context her such as sexism, gender roles, cultural differences and other sensitive topics such as how wrongly people are compared by other bullshit standards to live up to some type of bullshit stereotype so they wont be judged, pointed at and hell even get a girffriend. Any smart girl will open her eyes and date any guy who is asian regardless of what he may wear or any stereotype he might not fit in. Go go Asian men.

  8. Jack says:

    LMAO. I am not sure if all your examples are correct though. The very definition of “purse” is a small handbag to hold personal items such as wallet/coins, keys. etc.

    When I google “purse” – this is what I get :

    And when I google “handbag” – this is what I get :

    Notice they all have very small short straps? Not quite enough to slung over the shoulder, but barely enough to put on one shoulder, but really its meant to be carry by hand. I think that’s what purse is. Anything else is NOT a purse! So its all A-OKAY! :D

    Because if you start going down that road defining any bag with handle as purse it’s a slippery slope!! Where does it end? Is a laptop bag a purse too? How about a messenger bag?! SOON, PEOPLE WILL START CALLING A SUITCASE A PURSE TOO! WHEN DOES THE MADNESS END !!!! :D

    • kjsandor says:

      Oh Jack and his online research are back, people! Hold onto your hats!! :)

      I’m glad you can have a sense of humour and get a chuckle out of it. I am 100% sure that no one is going to change their behaviour because they read my post – I mean, come on, who takes me seriously anyway?! Those who carry bags will continue to do so – as long as they know that I will probably always continue to give them a bit of a strange look when they do.

  9. Edna says:

    Aw, you’re too kind! You make me sound a lot cooler than I am, haha.

    I love your husband’s quip about the purse! My boyfriend’s been in Asia too long I think — he has no qualms about holding my purse for extended periods of time, and even offers sometimes. I mean there’s English chivalry, but I don’t think it extends this far, haha!

    • kjsandor says:

      Oh, you’re very cool! :)

      My husband offers to hold my bag sometimes too, but I turn him down every time. I have arms and am perfectly capable of carrying my own bag!

      • Edna says:

        Haha agreed. I only take him up on it in situations where it’s absolutely necessary — i.e. small restrooms, big bag.

  10. Marcus says:

    LOL! Your too hard on the man purse thing…Its like a mini business bag and it get pretty difficult to log around a full size business bag so that’s why you see businessmen wearing these man purses. I got a Tumi messenger bag (that’s what they call it here in the America) and its pretty handy when I want to carry my Ipad and other larger stuffs that don’t fit in my pockets.

    Your right on the guy holding the woman’s purse/bag. I think that’s just stupid. Its like your girlfriend holding your wallet for you? Why? Its the woman’s personal item so only she should be allowed to hold it.

    • kjsandor says:

      I’m glad you can have a sense of humour about it. I am hard on it, because I think it’s silly (especially when the bag is smaller than my purse!), but I don’t really expect to change anyone’s behaviour by writing this. Those who carry one will continue to, I’m sure.

      Out of curiousity, what makes it so difficult to carry a full-sized messenger bag? Why is the slightly smaller one more preferable?

      I’m glad you’re with me on the holding of purses though. I just don’t see that as necessary at all!

  11. Marcus says:

    Full size bags get in the way too much I guess. These messenger bags are stylish too especially with a name brand ones like Gucci, Prada or Coach. I know that if you want to be a respectable businessman in China, these are a must. Its kinda of like a statues thing!

  12. Jack says:

    I think another aspect of it why some men (obviously not limit to asian men) that carries a “man-purse” is because of the culture of carrying GADGETS (camcorder, batteries, tapes, digital camera, PSP…etc) around. I think its probably convenient to put all those gadgets into a handbag than carrying them individually. I myself is a minimalist so I don’t take anything with me besides my wallet (sometimes not even that, just the credit card! Cos I hate carrying my big fat wallet!) and my camera phone.

    But as you know, the camera phone’s cameras are getting better and better (iPhone 4S for example – shoots 1080p video!), and widespread adoption of NFC (Near field communication – basically contactless payment system with your mobile) standard in mobile phone soon, and the explosive growth in iPhone gaming…..we may very soon be rid of this man-purse curse!! There will be no need to even carry a bag since everything you need is your mobile phone!

    • kjsandor says:

      You might be right, but I don’t see why a smaller sized “purse” would be more useful than a larger sized backpack or messenger bag – wouldn’t you be able to fit more stuff in the larger bag (isn’t this the same logic some women use?! ;) )??

      It will be interesting to see whether the trend starts dying as the number of multifunctional devices grows (though a lot of people here seem to not view the iPhone as the only thing they need – they still also think they have to carry an iPad and iPod to be “cool”).

  13. Claire says:

    I completely agree with you about men carrying their girlfriend’s/wife’s handbag and their shopping! Maybe that’s why couples wear matching outfits so it doesn’t matter who’s carrying the bag…

    My boyfriend is a complete victim when it comes to the ‘must haves’ in China, he carries what looks like a laptop bag around with him haha. I have never even thought to ask him what is in it, I will have to do some investigating.

    It’s a good job your husband met you otherwise who knows what he would be carrying around with him! :p

    • kjsandor says:

      Haha, I never thought about that being the reason for the matching T-shirts! Hmmm…

      As for my husband, I believe that exchange with his mom happened before he met me, so I don’t think I can take credit for it. I try really hard not to tell him what to do/wear/etc.! I am not sure what I would do if he showed up at home with a man purse though…

  14. James says:

    Good post, I chuckled.
    I always wondered what they needed to carry that wouldn’t fit in their pockets.

    I fit everything I need in my two front pockets.
    Wallet in one, keys in the other.
    Phone on belt, right side (or jacket pocket) – and Leatherman tool on belt left side.

    If I really need a tube of chapstick, it fits in with the keys.
    What else would I possibly need to carry?

    Well… If I was in China, toilet paper – but then I’d be carrying a backpack.

    • kjsandor says:

      I am really baffled by what they can possibly be carrying that can’t fit in a pocket, too. Maybe I’ll start stopping men on the street and asking them what they carry in their man purse – for research purposes!

      • Panso says:

        I really liked your posted and the first time in Asia I was also like: “What the fuck?”

        @ James: I am sorry to say so but to carry the cell on the belt is not better then a men purse! ;)

      • kjsandor says:

        I think a lot of us foreigners think it is strange. Obviously I don’t expect to actually change anyone’s behaviour here – just having a little fun. :) Thanks for your comment!

  15. sarahinguangzhou says:

    Well said. I really, really REALLY detest men carrying their girlfriend’s bag around; it’s like they think she’s too delicate to carry it herself? If she finds her own purse too heavy then she should take some stuff out of it. But I suspect it’s less that women want their bags carried and more that many Asian men think they’re being chivalrous.

    • kjsandor says:

      I actually think the opposite as you – that it’s often the girlfriend expecting her guy to carry her bag because that’s what he “should” do if he’s a “good” boyfriend. The same as he “should” pay for things and follow her around like a puppy. But I’m sure there is an element of thinking it’s chivalry too.

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  17. Matthew says:

    Just to put in my two cents: I’m a guy and I carry a woman’s purse. I like the convenience, but beyond that I enjoy style and design. I love bright colors. Yes, I’m a man. No, I’m not gay. No, I’m not a crossdresser. I just enjoy purses. Yes, it may be a little feminine. I have my masculine side in most every other area. Is it really that wrong?

  18. Nick says:

    The luxury “murse” market anyway is a billion dollar a year market nowadays with a lot of the profits and growth occurring in the far eastern markets in particular.

    I think it’s a status thing amongst business men especially the designer label bag to openly display their wealth to whomever can recognise designer handbags or cares and to other businessmen they’re dealing with.Hmm kinda like the expensive suit in the US maybe!

    Chinese currency notes don’t go up that high in monetary value so maybe the expensive murses and fanny pack are somewhere to hide the cash!

    Cool article anyways detailing how fashion differs still in our increasiling globalised world.;)

    • kjsandor says:

      I’ve really given up trying to understand this. I will say that during Spring Festival a couple of weeks ago, my husband’s parents tried to send him home with a man purse – to his credit, he repeatedly, but politely, turned it down. :)

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