My bag of choice was never my choice. The bags I own were either hand-me-downs or a gift. The recent thing I’m carrying now is a backpack that initially belonged to my husband. He thought I should use his because it looked nicer than the Jansports I was carrying. And it was indeed a nicer backpack, with smart compartments and all these cute little hidden pockets, and a firm rectangular shape. More importantly, it didn’t give me the droopy beer-belly back like the Jansports.
From all the bags handed down to me, the backpack is probably the one that sticks with me the longest. The problem with adult women carrying backpacks, however, is that they’re somehow valued less than women who carry a handbag. Every time I pass security at the mall, I have to unload the thing off my back for the mandatory x-ray machine check.
Women with a, let’s say, Céline casually carried around their wrists often get a free pass and walk through, or they’re offered one of those leather boxes to place their bag for extra protection. Of course I am never offered one of those boxes for the protection of my backpack!
Also, women with backpack hardly ever get photographed at events. Have you ever seen Harper’s Bazaar or Indonesia Tatler displaying women carrying a rucksack? I don’t think so. At the rare occasion of me accidentally ending up at a Roberto Cavalli event, a photographer who initially wanted to take a picture of me instantly got hushed away by the PR team who spotted the sack on my back.
Then there is the occasional bullying from my group of adult women friends who tote some serious names. They like to sneer at my backpack with an exaggerated simulation of myself: “Oooh, look at meee, I don’t do bags like other women: I don’t do mainstream. I am anti-establishment. I carry ugly bags that make me look grassroots and poor and yada, yada .”
Now I don’t know what looking “grassroots” is like, but it goes to show that not only is the backpack considered less, it is also labeled as ugly! And as much as this goes as bantering amongst friends, a lot of it seems true. To a lot of people, bag-indifferent women who carry backpacks come across as less sophisticated compared to girls with branded bags.
I call my group of women friends a bunch of “bagcists” because they judge people based on their bags. Of course these ladies don’t take offense to my name-calling, because all our mean talk is just a façade and a way of displaying love for one another. One of my friends surprisingly even pointed out some plus points of being a victim of “bagcism” and here are some of them:
- No one approach you to tout credit cards or apartment pre-sales in malls, because these salesmen are hardcore bagcists and women with backpacks are automatically categorized as broke-ass or tourists. Why waste time on poor people or non-residents?
- You also don’t get approached by sales people at fancy boutiques, because, well, can we say Pretty Woman and Julia Roberts? For bagcist SPGs (sales promotional girls), women carrying backpacks are the equivalent of Julia pre-makeover. Only the SPGs here are much nicer and won’t bully me out of the store. Also, I’m not Julia Roberts, so everyone in the store will steer clear from me and mind their own business, so I can browse the store unbothered with offers of last-season collection or store membership.
- You’ll never be a target for thieves or pickpockets, because criminals are bagcists too. Plus backpacks are harder to snatch, especially mine with its many hidden pockets and smart compartments.
I am enjoying the perks of not having anyone chase after me for a credit card pitch in the lobby of a mall. I also love how taxi drivers call me mbak (Miss) or dik (young lady), when I carry my pack, which instantly turns intu a ‘bu (Madam) if I carried a, let’s say, Vuitton. Not to mention that private pleasure of being the only one who knows that I’m wearing limited edition United Nudes because everyone else is focused on bags.
It’s not all fair and sunshine for backpack carriers, though. Because nothing ruins a white silk shirt more than backpack backsweat stains, and if you aren’t at the gym, massive back sweat stains on adult women do look kind of unsophisticated.
Misty Diansharira dreamed of growing old as a spinster with a handful of lovers in a kibbutz slash dogshelter in Tuscany. In reality, she is a mother of two and a fervent advocate of #dontshopadopt in Jakarta. She is currently planning life after 40, which include setting up a start-up with a friend and deadlifting 100kg.