Last Thursday, the NFL announced a policy change in which only clear plastic bags would be allowed into stadiums — one per person. Nothing they can’t see through. The league says that the change is meant to ensure safety while speeding up security checks and preventing gate backups, which sounds good enough at the outset.
In the handful of days since, this has largely been framed as an issue affecting women, who won’t be allowed to bring purses into the stadium anymore. Others have noted in online discussions that it might make it easier for stadiums to spot contraband food and booze, thus protecting one of the major revenue streams inside the facility.
And, of course, quite predictably, the NFL announced it would be selling official team-branded clear tote bags of exactly the kind and size that will pass under the policy. Handy! (Do they come in pink?)
No camera bags, no seat cushions, fanny packs … you get the idea.
It’s interesting that the league has chosen this moment to crack down considerably on fans. As we’ve discussed in this space before, it’s harder and harder for normal humans to even afford to attend NFL games. (If you care about this and still haven’t watched the documentary America’s Parking Lot, it’s available on demand and I do highly recommend it.) It doesn’t necessarily seem like creating echoes of airport security is likely to make people particularly enthusiastic, even fans who understand that everyone wants games to be safe.
We have a curious drive to make ourselves completely secure in large crowds, despite the fact that it’s awfully difficult to do. Within a secure perimeter (like a stadium), searches and checks of various kinds might make people feel safer, but something like an NFL game already presents tremendous opportunities for mischief if anyone was so inclined. And there are some situations like diaper bags that would indeed seem to present challenges.
But on the question of purses specifically, it seems rather quaint to suggest that women have substantially different needs to privately transport flotsam and jetsam into a football game (or in any other public space they’ll be in for a limited time) than men do. Women have raised the issue of feminine-specific products they might wish to carry with them, but the fact that small, hand-sized clutch bags are okay seems like it might take care of that part, given that football games last a few hours, not a week. And even if not, it might be socially advantageous to get past the idea that there is something untoward about a woman between 15 and 50 being seen with a product used perhaps 20 percent of the time by most women between 15 and 50. (Pardon me, you can come back now if you fainted right there.)
What many of us carry in our bags on a day-to-day basis — a wallet, a brush, a tiny hairspray, some crumpled receipts, somebody’s business card, half a roll of Life Savers, some gum, an umbrella, an extra pair of shoes, a shopping list, a paperback book (this is just my bag, understand) — we could certainly either leave at home or carry in a plastic bag. I’m not sure the need for women to retain a large and mysterious purse is about need as much as it is about not wanting anybody to see that there’s half a wrapped-up granola bar in one of the pockets and some earbuds we can’t figure out how to untangle in another one.
However you feel about security checks and safety and the ability of clear plastic bags to make you safer, we’re probably all equally entitled to drag stuff we don’t need all over the place because we don’t want to throw it out before we leave home. USA! USA!