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Hacktreks 2

First Chapters

WORLD TRAVEL- Sexism on the road

The Backpack Theory of Ugliness
Colin Todhunter in India

Soren, from Denmark, had been imparting the benefits of his entertaining "backpack theory of gender". Luckily there were no women around to hear him. Simone De Beauvoir, Germaine Greer and a whole host of sociologists, psychiatrists and commentators have tried to pinpoint and explain gender differences down the years, but not from the perspective of the backpack.

Anyone who has travelled in India for some time may often notice a huge difference between the size of foreign men’s and women’s backpacks. Soren asked why is it that, in general, men’s backpacks are manageable and are usually half the size of a woman’s? A woman’s backpack is usually a towering hulk; a skyscraper. The wearer is hunched over unable to lift her head and with eyes glued to the ground. I had some empathy with Soren's view. I had often noted the same thing - women struggling on buses, trains and along the street under the strain of an oversized pack. And every-time I enter a woman’s hotel room, the place is strewn with clothes, toiletries and everything except the kitchen sink. If the backpack looked gigantic from the outside then the contents when spread out are mind-boggling.

Soren had a theory for this phenomenon. “A woman’s backpack is magical. It is a kind space-time-warp thing whereby it is able to contain ten times the volume it appears it can hold from the outside.” I could understand this. It reminded me of an old television programme from the UK called Dr Who. The Doctor travelled through space in a police box. From the outside the thing was barely big enough to hold one person. But as soon as you got inside the thing was cavernous, holding computers and all other essential equipment for the serious time traveller. The name of the thing was the Tardis. Soren was providing me with the benefit of the Tardis explanation of the backpack.

But what is in the backpack that requires it to be so big in the first place? Well Soren began to explain - "It is all to do with toiletries and anti-ugly cream." According to his warped view a woman's backpack is stuffed full of lipstick, shampoo, conditioner, hair remover, nail varnish and...anti-ugly cream." Anti-ugly cream? What was he on about?
He continued - "The uglier the girl, then the bigger the backpack".

I think that anti-ugly cream in Soren's view was the variety of creams that women use to put on their faces, probably ranging from moisturisers to anti-aging types of oil. So this was why they travel India while buried under mountainous backpacks! According to Soren, there is a direct correlation between how beautiful or ugly a girl is and the amount of anti-ugly cream needed - and therefore the size of the pack. The ugliest girls have the biggest packs, and the strain makes them wrinkle their face thereby making them uglier and necessitating the need for ever increasing amounts of anti-ugly cream and bigger backpacks. The more they backpack around India, the uglier they become. A no-win situation.

Sure, Soren was being sexist, and he knew it, but didn't care. Anyway, he should know what he was talking about - he was one of the ugliest men I have ever seen. A day later he checked out of the hotel. I watched him stagger under the size and weight of his towering backpack, no doubt stuffed with the male equivalent of anti-ugly cream.

© Colin Todhunter in India

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