What is it about? 

Women carry versions of their femininity in their handbags. These bags form the baggage of our gender identity, yet their contents are almost always invisible to the outside world. This documentary series explores the contents of three women’s handbags, examining the way that their items reflect their version of femininity.

What is the background? 

Tricia Bowen and Petra Harstang discuss in their Discourse of Handbags that the handbag is a “tangible symbol of femininity”. Handbags are predominantly marketed for and used by women. They have a rich history of being fashionable and functional utensils, yet there is little gender theory examining the way in which they carry gender identity.

What are your goals or objectives?

In the short term, this platform and documentary can be used to relay women’s narratives and experiences through the literal unpacking of their handbag. Ideally, there will be the possibility for women outside of the project to contribute through social media. They can post images or descriptions detailing what is in their own handbags, and why? This will start a critical conversation around a utensil most women own but rarely think about.

In the long term, I hope this documentary generates interest into handbags as a symbol of femininity, and stirs up discourse around the purpose of such gendered yet “mundane” objects. If this can get both scholars and average women asking the question, why is the handbag a gendered utensil, then I feel like it will have achieved its purpose.

What does it do? How does it function? How and where will users interact with it?

This documentary will be a desktop and laptop experience that utilises widescreen graphics and audio/visuals that require headphones. It will be designed for desktop use because much of the story is mouse-directed, clickable content. The interactive interface follows a semi-linear, audio-interview structure. The user will move from handbag to handbag, exploring what is within and listening to the owner respond to questions through an audio interview.

Who is the primary target audience? 

By and large, the documentary targets adult women who carry handbags. Not only are they the main subjects of the documentary due to the three interviewees, but they are also the participatory audience who has the option to generate their own content.


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