$cience $ay$: Your $$$ Designer Handbag Helps You Keep a Man

I mean, it's SCIENCE!!!! It has to be true. If science can be wrong, all hope is lost. It means the terrorists will have won.
Publish date:
July 29, 2013
relationships, money, handbags, status

Who doesn’t love a scientific study, am I right? Especially when they come to groundbreaking conclusions like this group of University of Minnesota researchers did:

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (07/24/2013) — Purchasing designer handbags and shoes is a means for women to express their style, boost self-esteem, or even signal status. New University of Minnesota research suggests some women also seek these luxury items to prevent other women from stealing their man.

According to associate professor Vladas Griskevicius, one of the study's leaders: When a woman is flaunting designer products, it says to other women "back off my man."

Griskevicius’ colleague, PhD student Yajin Wang, explains even further: We found that a woman who is wearing luxury items and designer brands is perceived to have a more devoted partner -- and as a result, other women are less likely to flirt with him. Regardless of who actually purchased the items, other women inferred that the man had something to do with it and is thus more devoted to her.

Errrrrr, OK, dudes. If you say so. Never mind the fact that no man has ever purchased a designer purse for me -- with the exception of my dad, and even then all he did was allow me to use his credit card. When I see a woman walking down the street with her boyfriend while carrying a nice handbag, the fact that he had something to do with her owning said bag absolutely never enters my mind.

I might, might have bought what these researchers were selling until I got to this gem:

In another study, Griskevicius and Wang made participants feel jealous by having them imagine that another woman was flirting with their man. Shortly afterward, the women completed a seemingly unrelated task in which they drew a luxury brand logo on a handbag. The result? When women felt jealous, they drew designer logos that were twice the size of those in the other conditions.

Wang helpfully explains: The feeling that a relationship is being threatened by another woman automatically triggers women to want to flash Gucci, Chanel, and Fendi to other women. A designer handbag or a pair of expensive shoes seems to work like a shield, where wielding a Fendi handbag successfully fends off romantic rivals.

No way. I ain't buying it. No grown woman is furiously scribbling giant interlocking Chanel Cs on a piece of construction paper with crayons like a kindergartener just because she was totes jelly of bitches hitting on her man.

Of course the researchers chose handbags to hang their findings on -- they are such a loaded symbol. They get people all kinds of riled up. One of my very first posts here was a snark-filled diatribe about my habit of purposefully ruining $1000+ purses. People went ape shit, accusing me of being a 1%-er sub-prime billionaire and taking me to task about all the starving families in India my purses could have fed. Too bad that’s not how economics really work.

The purpose of the University of Minnesota study appears to have been for eventual publication in the Journal of Consumer Research, which is basically an entire coterie of scientists studying why we shop, when we do it, and what motivates us to spend money. The psychology of shopping is obviously big business -- did you know that women are most susceptible to status symbols when they are ovulating? Or that money really does buy happiness? That credit cards make you fat? Science says yes, yes, YES to all of the above.

Lots of peeps asked me in my trashed handbag post why I spent so much on the bags in the first place. I'm too lazy to find my responses in the 300+ comments but the reason is the same today as it was then: I am just a garden variety snotty bitch who loves fancy, expensive shit. I've bought into the fantasy that the haute couture is selling. Dresses eventually rip, tear and fall apart -- but a well-made handbag is forever. (Even if you beat it death.)

I'm a dedicated high/low fashionista -- and I love no look on earth more than slopping around in flip-flops and a giant T-shirt while carrying the biggest, tackiest, most expensive bag I own front and center in the crook of my arm. It's the rag-tag, homeless-chic Olsen twin effect at work, to be sure.

In Los Angeles, it's all about how casual you can possibly dress, and most of my clothes are pretty cheap -- but my fancy lady Texas roots run deep, so I always tend to offset the whole look with a ragingly $$$ purse. I'm also straight up swimming with sharks out here -- I can't count the times I've had a dismissive actress ask, "Is that your bag?" and proceed to treat me with a little more reverence afterwards. So gross, but 100% true.

Flashy bags are nothing new. Since ancient African times, when priests carried their essentials around in elaborate beaded pouches, humans have been decorating this most functional of objects. I doubt those priests were doing it to fend off "the CRAZY WOMENS." And yeah, a plastic grocery sack would obviously carry your stuff around just as efficiently, but where's the fun in that?

I straight up don't buy the theory that modern women are buying luxury goods for any other reason than the fact that they bring them happiness and act as a status symbol, however misguided that may be. And if a girl has designs on your man, a fancy handbag certainly isn't going to stop her. If anything, it might embolden her more -- If I poach this man, I'm gonna get me one of them designer handbags too!

We certainly aren't buying fancy purses and carrying them in an attempt to "protect our men." Hell, I don't even usually carry my own bag when I go out into the world. Make of that what you will, science!

I obviously have no research to back myself up with -- but let's get real. I'm arguing with a big fancy university about PURSES. It's so agonizingly stupid, I just win by default.

I'm on Twitter: @IveyAlison.