Monday, October 6, 2008

The Day I Changed My Handbag: a feminist critique

This feminist discourse on women's choice of handbag explores the corollaries of body, space and gender, utilising the subtext of the subjective and objective to illustrate the connection between genital dismorphic perceptions and worn accessories in the study of the female psyche.

I hate the brick wall that academia constructs to keep us mere rabble out. Let's start again. I was at Alice's Shed Party the other night, when a little brown boy burnt his hand on the gas heater.
"Has anyone got some Paw Paw ointment?" Came the mother's plaintive cry.
"Ask Sarah Toa to look in her hand bag," Alice the housetruck genius said. "She's an old witch from way back." He is faultless in his ability to insult me and grease me up at the same time. I never know how he does it.

Of course I had a whole jar of the stuff, along with a very sharp pocket knife, some bolt cutters, rego papers, two mandarins, a half full bottle of wine, a lock of hair, some sea shells crushed to pearlescent dust, Henry Miller's Plexus, an empty wallet, two cigarette lighters, a defunct floppy disc, a proper hand forged butcher's hook, ... you get the picture.

Jude leaned over and shouted to me over the music, "You know the theory about women's handbags representing the state of their vaginas." She was half way through labouring this point at the top of her voice, when the band stopped playing and everyone looked at my hand bag in shocked silence - my great big green, miner's tool bag with paint all over it and the pair of bolt cutters sticking out the top.
"That's why you can't find a boyfriend," Alice gave me a verbal brotherly pat with a simultaneous knee in the guts. "Even though you are very beautiful - on the inside at least - your hand bag does not reflect that. You need to resolve this hand bag issue, sister."
I went home and took my violin with me.

I decided to downsize to something prettier, all the while cursing Jude's amazing voice projection and Alice's double psyche major. It's useful to find scapegoats in these moments of of Cuntesian doubt.
Something cute, furry and kind of pouchy that I can tuck under my arm? Too Thatcher Youth. Okay, how about Brazilian leather? No. Black patent vinyl with silver studs? Mmm. Too Vagina dentata.

In the end I settled for beautiful blood red. (Oh please, can I write about my periods on my blog? Please? It's my blog dammit. James Joyce has, with all his mutterings about the tides and the wine dark sea and everyone still thinks he's hot.)
Really, this hand bag is a fave. It still smells of patchouli from the last essential oil incident. It is faithful and beautiful and kind of shiny. It can sit on a sun bleached jetty and a chair at the most expensive restaurant in the same day and still be stylish and fresh. It carries baggage - but not too much.
At the next Shed Party, I might mention to Alice something about big toes and penises, then sit back and watch him covertly check out his own feet. Meanwhile, as Alice is otherwise preoccupied and not doing my head in, Jude and I can discuss our periods, the state of our hand bags and corollaries of body, space and gender in peace.


  1. I was thinking it's a sad day when a true indervidual gets swept away on materialistic discourse.. But you managed to come through with what you liked.

    I'm sure it doesn't really look like a well used tool bag. :S

  2. Ha ha . . .but bolt cutters still look like bolt cutters!