How Airline Bag Restrictions Promote Gender Discrimination (and What to do About it)

Southwest Airlines currently occupies the latest news about airline trouble, but there is an even more insidious, perpetual problem that seems to fly under our radar (pardon the pun). That problem is the airline carry-on bag restrictions, which apply to all airlines. Most airlines have a two bag limit for carry-on luggage. Usually, that limit includes a roller suitcase and one personal item, which may be a purse or backpack.

I was recently waiting at the gate of one airport when the airline worker announced on the intercom that “fanny packs or crossbody bags count as your one personal item.” I saw a number of people at that point scramble to place their fanny packs inside another bag so their consolidated bag counted as their one personal item.

Of course, airlines are not alone in having bag restrictions. As I wrote in an earlier blog post, bag policies at various venues like sport stadiums, concert halls, theme parks, museums, or other crowded festivals may outright ban bags or at a minimum require a certain size bag or even a clear plastic bag. Who wants to carry their personal, essential items in a clear plastic bag? Not only might it feel like an invasion of privacy, but it also undermines personal security. Now everyone knows what you have in your bag that’s worth stealing!

The most troubling aspect of these bag policies, whether enforced by the airlines or other venues, is the disproportionate impact it has on women compared to men. Women are more likely than men to carry bags. I was unable to find any official statistics about the percent of women who carry a purse or other type of bag on a daily basis, but just through observation, I see the vast majority of women carrying a bag. Very few men carry a “man’s purse” on a daily basis, and when they travel, they store their essential items like phone, wallet, keys and identification cards in their pockets.

There’s the key word: “Pockets.” It is the consistent lack of pockets in women’s clothing that leads us to carry bags to store our essential items. And it is this custom of carrying bags on a daily basis whenever we go out that leads to the disproportionate, discriminatory effect of airline bag restrictions and other venue bag policies. In the legal world, we call this disproportionate effect a “disparate impact.” An otherwise neutral-looking policy or law (like a “no bag policy” or “two carry-on bags policy”) may have a greater impact on one gender than the other. And that impact is usually a negative impact, not a good one. People bring lawsuits based on disparate impact theories, but they don’t always win. You can learn more about gender discrimination lawsuits here.

Bag restrictions or limits impact women more adversely than men. Because of the history of women’s fashion (i.e., lack of pockets), women have come to rely on bags to store our essentials. As a result, various bag policies subject women to more privacy intrusions, longer lines, greater scrutiny, and more anxiety because of the uncertainty of whether our handbag will meet various guidelines.

Why do we put up with this? Why aren’t more of us ditching our purses and taking advantage of pockets like our male counterparts? Well, that’s a silly question. Because the fashion industry perpetuates the absence of pockets. Sure, more fashion brands are broadcasting that some of their products have pockets. But are they functional? Do you really feel safe stuffing your essentials in those pockets? I shake my head when I see women stuff their phone in their back pocket; most of the time the phone is sticking out, ready for someone else to easily remove it in a crowded space.

A better answer to these questions lies within Pocketwear by Pursesuitz. As the founder, I truly believe that our signature tank tops with front waist pockets solve the problem that women face any time they want to go out and pursue life’s adventures. With a Purseuitz Pocketwear Tank Top worn as an undergarment, you can stuff your pockets full of your essential items; wear a loose fitting shirt over the pocketwear tank and you now have stylishly concealed your essential items from view. No one will be the wiser that you have your phone, wallet, identification, keys and anything else (tampons, sanitary napkins, etc.) for the view or taking.

I urge women everywhere to stop being a slave to custom. It hurts us, physically and emotionally. Bags are heavy. They get in the way of our fun. Be a rebel and wear a Pursesuitz Pocketwear tank with pride. Buy yours today at https://pursesuitz.com/.