An act of reading, resistance, rebellion and resolution
By Caitlin McGrane
It’s a fair guess that most women who date men will have at some point come across a man who enjoys the company, time and emotional labour of women without investing any of his own energies in them and generally being an entitled fuck. These men are known in African American Vernacular English as ‘fuckbois’; and I’m pleased to report that although the title of this show made me uneasy about the potential for cultural appropriation, the performers of Love Letters to Fuckbois and Other Woes of Wayward Women, Melina Wightman and Lia Stark, acknowledged the origins of the term and their place within its increased colloquial use by white people.
The show does exactly what it says in the title – it’s a show written by two young feminist women about their sexual and emotional experiences dealing with ‘fuckbois’, slut-shaming, and navigating and carving out their own sexual identities. Like it or not, sex is a huge part of the lives of young people and has been since time immemorial (even my nan said it was a good idea to ‘try before you buy’, a statement I have never been able to unhear). The beauty of this show is it sets the ground-rules from the beginning, explicitly stating from the outset that this will not be a place for discrimination or shame, and in my opinion there’s just not enough of those spaces for young people of any gender identification.
The show entails the two women reading and responding to letters they have written to people in their lives, including but not limited to ‘fuckbois’, mothers, aunties, ex-boyfriends, and then finally a beautiful, raw and searing heartfelt letter to themselves. I was impressed with how expressive and honest the two performers were, and how they confidently and bravely took ownership of the show, the space and the subject matter. The way they have structured the show means each night will be subtly different depending on the letters they choose at random from a fishbowl.
For me the only thing that let the show down was that title; as much as I appreciate that ‘fuckboi’ succinctly conveys the type of person they’re speaking about, it would have been better if they had chosen a different word that didn’t immediately evoke such problematic appropriation. As far as I know the word ‘fuckhead’ is still up for grabs and is basically the Australian equivalent. But I’m also super aware of my own place in this debate, as a white woman trying to write a review about a show written and performed by two other white women that includes a potentially problematic word in the title, maybe this isn’t my debate to even enter into, but I still think it’s worth mentioning.
Love Letters to Fuckbois helped to remind me that being single as fuck in your 20s is a rite of passage, and feeling rejected and unlovable is common as people attempt to navigate choppy emotional waters. That’s not an excuse however for treating women like sex vending machines where if you put enough kindness coins in they eventually dish out blow jobs. I’m glad Mel and Lia have written and performed this show because too often women get shamed for having a) sex, and b) emotions. Standing up to say ‘This is not ok’ sends a powerful cultural message, and for my money its one that is definitely worth repeating.
Love Letters to Fuckbois and Other Woes of Wayward Women is now playing at Wick Studios in Brunswick until Tuesday 20 September at least twice a day; I strongly recommend you see it. For more information, visit: https://melbournefringe.com.au/program?event/love-letters-to-fuckbois/ee98be93-bbda-4fe4-ac04-210d90324304