I'll tell you a secret: Shit Men Have Said, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Patriarchy, as it is currently being performed in the 2016 Cincinnati Fringe Festival, didn't actually exist at the beginning of the year.
Shit Men Have Said started life as Stirring the Pot: An Examination of the So-Called War on Women in 2012 as a collaboration between me and director Carly Bodnar. As you may recall, this was around the time conservative legislators were starting to introduce and pass bills restricting abortion and birth control access more and more frequently, and Rush Limbaugh was on his radio show calling Sandra Fluke a slut. Carly and I were watching this happen, and we were not happy, so we decided to collaborate on a two-person show made up mostly of monologues that addressed these issues, and presented the piece during the 2012 SoLow Festival.
In 2015, Carly took the piece, dusted it off, rewrote it for six actors (including men), and rechristened it Shit Men Have Said to Me: Tales of How Men and Women Communicate. Version 2.0 was presented as part of Mz. Fest, and expanded beyond addressing reproductive rights to include cat-calling, slut-shaming, body image issues and other topics that can have negative effects on women.
Following the Mz. Fest production, we began to realize that, while the issues discussed in both pieces were important to us and needed to be addressed, they are only symptoms of a larger societal problem - that we live within a structure designed to separate and control us based on arbitrary stereotypes of gender, sexual orientation, race and class. And we realized that these stereotypes hurt men and those who are gender-nonconforming as well. As we embarked on revising the piece for the third time, we knew we wanted to broaden the scope and not just address small pieces of a larger problem.
But how to do that? It was also important to us to make the piece immersive, an experience that would encourage our audience to take an active role in grappling with these stereotypes and how to break them down. Carly and I spent many a wintry Philadelphia night in my apartment, with Erin on speakerphone, doing the proverbial "throw shit at the wall and see what sticks" brain-storming. After many attempts to devise a structure and content that would deliver the message we wanted in the way we wanted, and many, many rewrites (I will plant a grove of trees one day to make up for all the paper I've used doing rewrites, I promise), we threw out an idea that stuck. If the show was about dismantling the system, why not make the show about dismantling the system? So simple and yet so perfect.
So what exactly does Version 3.0 look like? You have two more chances to find out, at our Monday and Wednesday performances of Shit Men Have Said, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Patriarchy in the Cincinnati Fringe Festival!
- Kristen Scatton