The Double Standard of the Security Purse Check

I was completely marginalized by the NFL.

Vanessa Torre
Dec 16, 2019 · 7 min read
Photo by Sai De Silva via Unsplash

The last time I went to an NFL game, the Arizona Cardinals were playing the New Orleans Saints at home when the Cards still lived at ASU’s Sun Devil Stadium. It was October 3rd, 2004. A lot has changed since then. I didn’t know.

Today, I went to my first NFL game in 15 years. I wasn’t prepared. I made the grave error of bringing a small purse.

After walking a mile from the car to the stadium entrance, I got up to the purse check only to be told I need to have a clear, plastic purse where the contents can be seen. It can be no bigger that 12" x 6" x 12".

I accept full responsibility for not checking the stadium’s bag policy. I carry a small, brown Coach purse. It’s about 6 inches tall and 9 inches wide. This is 25 square inches bigger than the maximum allowable size of 4.5" x 6.5". This standard seems totally arbitrary except for the fact that it is just big enough to hold any cell phone.

Interestingly, if cell phones get any bigger and the NFL doesn’t change their policy, women will not be allowed to safely carry certain phones into stadiums. In doing some research I should have done earlier, cell phones are already two inches longer than when the NFL first created the policy. The policy has always stayed the same. If phones get a quarter of an inch bigger, we have problems.

The man at the gate gave me three options: 1) Walk the two miles to the car and back to drop off my purse. 2) Dump the contents of my purse into the provided bag that looks as though I can wash it out and use it later to freeze soup. 3) Go home.

Let’s break down the choices.

Option #1 — Go back to the car and drop off the purse.

I could have easily left my purse at home and shoved whatever I needed into my pockets. Oh, wait. That’s not really a viable option. Have you ever compared women’s pockets to men’s?

Women have no way to carry a cell phone in their pocket without risk of loss or damage. Our phones do not fit in any of our pockets. I have an iPhone 8. A regular one, not the Plus. I can’t sit down with my phone in my back pocket without it falling out.

We are literally forced to carry purses. We have no choice. Otherwise, we become a pickpocket’s dream. Cash, debit cards and IDs can be easily swiped from our tiny, shallow pockets.

Photo by Zeny Rosalina via Unsplash

Option #2 — Dump the contents of my purse into the zip bag.

This is doable but I want to talk about this under the context of this as a necessity to begin with and why it pisses me off. We’ve already established that women have to carry a purse. Now we need a special purse because the ones we have won’t work.

I checked online. The cheap, plastic purse is the most cost effective option and it is going to cost me $10. If I’m going to throw this into my online shopping cart, I might as well buy the super secret, crafty tampon case. That’s another $5.

Let’s face it, the tampon case is necessary when we still live in a society where periods are stigmatized, blamed for women’s ill behaviors and for which many women are denied sex one week every month.

As a woman, due to the the size of my pockets and the NFL’s policy, it costs me $15 more to attend a football game than my male companions. This is another example of the high cost of existing as a woman.

Option #3 — Go home.

Lord, I contemplated this. Oh, how I contemplated this. It was an option provided with contempt. You don’t like our policy? Leave. It holds water as an option, it’s just not a logical one. It reeks of “my way or the highway” power exertion. It was not appreciated.


In the end, I chose Option #2. I dumped five pens, six lipsticks, three credit cards now in full view, four mints, a handful of change which included some pesos, into the zip bag. I stood there holding my purse not sure what to do now. This is where things went from bad to worse.

I was told I couldn’t roll up the empty, soft purse and stick it in my zip bag even though there was more than ample space. Nope. I had to walk the two miles to the car and back, hide the purse in some bushes and hope it’s there when I get back, or throw my purse into a donation bin.

Because, as a woman, I am way too damn nice and because I didn’t not want to ruin my friends’ or my kids’ afternoon, I donated my purse.

As we’re standing in line to get our tickets scanned, I see a man in front of me with a clear tote bag that is regulation size. It is filled to the brim with shirts and a very large, deflated football we thought perhaps might actually be a hat. So, if my purse had been made out of a deflated football, I could have shoved it in my zip bag and kept it. This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Photo by author. This is totally acceptable by the NFL’s standards

A dozen different men passed me wearing a wide array of ridiculous hats. It made me wonder if I could have kept the purse by sticking it on my head and insisting it was now a hat. I am actually upset I didn’t think of this at the time.

There was one thing, however, that I noticed that absolutely made me lose my mind. Men in cargo shorts. Everywhere.

According to the NFL website it notes, “To provide a safer environment for the public and significantly expedite fan entry into stadiums, NFL teams have implemented an NFL policy this year that limits the size and type of bags that may be brought into stadiums.”

Everything that could fit in my purse would fit in a man’s cargo shorts. For argument’s sake, I had friends go measure their pockets on their cargo shorts. 7" x 7". Roughly the same size as my purse. Five square inches smaller.

It is not the NFL’s policy to check the pockets of men going into stadiums wearing cargo shorts, as assumed by the fact that not a single man’s pockets were checked. I have emailed State Farm Stadium clarify this.

What could I possibly stick in my purse as an instrument of destruction that would require me to relinquish my purse, that couldn’t be put in the pocket of a man’s cargo shorts? Nothing.

Knowing that men are overwhelmingly more likely to commit public acts of violence, the NFL’s policy is nothing more than a prime example of the misogyny women endure every day. Men act violently, women need to change what they do.

Please stop wondering why women feel like they have drawn the short end of the stick. It’s because of this. It’s because I no longer own a purse. It’s because had I sewn it on the outside of my pants and called it a pocket, I’d still have it.

I can guarantee you, I’m not done with this. I’m not going to let this lie. Women have done that for far too long. I’ve had enough.


Fearless She Wrote

This is a space to empower differences, tell our stories, and share our lives together. We will not be silenced. We will be fearless. And we will write.

Vanessa Torre

Written by

Going through life like a flaming pinball. Nerd, music lover, horrible violin player. No, I won’t stop taking pictures of my drinks. vanessaltorre@gmail.com

Fearless She Wrote

This is a space to empower differences, tell our stories, and share our lives together. We will not be silenced. We will be fearless. And we will write.

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