Shit Men Have Said, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Patriarchy

The premise of Shit Men Have Said revolves around a group that calls itself P.A.T.R.I.A.R.C.H.Y. holding a community outreach program to reinforce the “rules” of traditional gender roles. The audience takes part in this forum from the very beginni

click to enlarge 'Shit Men Have Said'
'Shit Men Have Said'

It should be noted that this show is a fairly interactive performance. If you plan to attend, you might want to go in without reading the details in this review so you can experience the show the way I did — with twists intact. This review might spoil some of the show’s surprises. The premise of Shit Men Have Said revolves around a group that calls itself P.A.T.R.I.A.R.C.H.Y. holding a community outreach program to reinforce the “rules” of traditional gender roles. The audience takes part in this forum from the very beginning, being “randomly assigned” nametags (labeled to include your gender) and being ushered into gender-divided areas of play. The display on one half of the room includes pink and frilly playthings: Barbie dolls and dress-up wedding veils. The opposing display includes “boy games” such as Nerf guns. (While I did not completely understand what I was to have learned from these displays, I did enjoy an interaction with a cast member wearing a lab coat and carrying a clipboard who asked if I was married and congratulated me on “getting that ring.” When I let her know I did not wear a wedding ring, she was flummoxed and asked how other people would know I’d “succeeded.” I assured her I’d reconsider, and she cheered.) Once the audience is seated, they are then led through a presentation on acceptable gender roles. For instance, we are reminded that a woman’s breasts are sexy in a swimsuit while obscene when breastfeeding, and that a wedding is the “end-all, be-all of a woman’s existence.” Before the presentation concludes, however, it is interrupted by Agent X, a rogue operative who hopes to subvert P.A.T.R.I.A.R.C.H.Y.’s teachings and show us a better way. I will always applaud a group using its stage to examine gender inequality, but this performance does not land for me. In the show’s program notes, director Carly Bodnar says she hopes to “spark social discourse surrounding the issues of gender, race and sexual orientation.” The show’s ambition is broad, but it never delves beyond the surface of these issues. There are easy laughs but few moments of poignancy or new perspective. Shit Men Have Said points its fingers at catcalling, date rape, body-shaming and more. But it fails to offer any solution. How can we change the conversation? How can we find gender balance and equality? What action should we take, now that our eyes are opened and our fists are clenched?

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