Purse Politics

I couldn’t help but laugh when I read this article in the New York Times about women legislators and their “purse boys.”

When Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican, represented Texas in the Senate, she had her purse trotted through the Capitol by a rotating cadre of young male aides, to some raised eyebrows.       

But now some version of the so-called “purse boy” is almost commonplace.       

On the first day of this session, a young male aide to Representative Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat and House minority leader, juggled the coats of female members as he tried to snap a group photo. And on the night of President Obama’s State of the Union address, Representative Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, was trailed through Statuary Hall by a male staff member holding her bag.       

After expertly picking her way through the crowd, Ms. Sinema turned to her aide and asked, “Do you have all of my stuff?”       

He did.

Speaking from experience, I loved having a “purse boy.”  My former assistant used to joke that he was a “walking, talking purse.”  It’s just a fact that men’s suits have more pockets than women’s business wear.  Also, by having him hold my stuff (and purse), it minimizes snarky comments like “How can you even find anything in there?”

The rest of the article posits that the purse women legislators decide to carry is wrought with pros and cons.  For instance, while women in big cities might be able to get away with designer bags, women in the Midwest who represent “grassroots” constituents might not.  Both however have to choose something “appropriately modest.”  In other words, no one can get away with the five-figure Birkin.  Also, no clutches in an era of multiple smartphones and makeup so one is already TV or photo ready.

So, what’s the male equivalent of the purse discussion?  Can male legislators wear Rolexes or drive Bentleys without criticism?  If so, I don’t see a problem with a woman carrying a Birkin if she can afford it.  Unlike the New York Times, I’m less concerned about how politicians spend their own money and more concerned about how they spend mine.

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