The Fringe and The Other F Word

by Analyn Revilla

The Fringe Festival is in full swing.  I’ve seen three shows of different genres and flavors, all of which proved to be fresh, fitting and funny.  The Fringe is about all these and more, which are reasons for attending a performance and more to tickle your senses and blow your imagination.  A stage and players with powerful stories to share is a lever to enlighten our minds, elevate our spirits and encircle the range of humanity in our hearts.

In writing about the the Fringe plays I’ve seen.  The question in my mind is, “How is today unlike any other day?”

In Alyson Mead’s play, “The Other F Word”, today is unlike any other day for four women invited to a focus group about a pen designed for women, and it is PINK!  The women are racially, socially and economically different.  Carol is Asian and is married with children.  She is shy and demure.  Roxanne is black, a lawyer and single.  She exudes power in her Armani suit and accoutrements.  Daniella is of East Indies descent (it seemed to me), and she’s a man in transition to be a woman.  She’s thoughtful and sharp, but hides showing off these gifts. Lastly, there’s Evie, Caucasian, beautiful, educated and single.  She’s opinionated and outgoing.  The women attend the focus group with different motives – whether it is for the $100 compensation, curiosity, opportunity or to fit in, they are forever changed by the dialogue initiated by a pink pen.

Sitting in the Lounge Theater at 4pm last Saturday, I listened to the monologues expressing their inner thoughts and true feelings.  It wasn’t just verbally expressing to the moderator “Tammy” about the pen.  Firstly, what kind of a name is Tammy?  Is that even a real name? or is it a psychological setup for the bearer of the name to be a stripper.  The women bark their opinions about the others which is a microcosm of their day-to-day life.  It’s really not about the pen.  It’s about their own perception, opinion, belief and attitudes about themselves, other people and situations.  This is cleverly played out in the story by using the pen as the instrument – a great metaphor.  The power of the word birth from thought and emotion as carried out with the pen.

They receive their checks in the mail, and again a tool is used to reveal a meaning – what is money? Roxanne deposits the check immediately, because she was taught by her parents that time and opportunity is wasted by an un-deposited check, and she’s saving up for fertility treatment.  Daniella saves the money for her operation, a dream to realize her inner nature.

The journey that the women had embarked upon at the focus group, has conscious shifts and unconscious impacts on their views.  Some can accept the event as a blessing that moved them to another direction on their path.  For example, the shy and demure Carol grows.  She breaks out of her self-imposed beliefs of only being a mother and wife, and becomes a successful leader and organizer of a group in her community.  To another participant, Evie, she recognizes her pattern of dating losers, and breaks out by learning to spend time alone, by herself, to discover her inner beauty and to love herself.

In case you’re curious to know… the story of play evolved from a real-life event in 2012 when a company began to market the Bic Cristal “For Her” pen.  People posted cutting and sarcastic reviews on Amazon that lamb-basted the marketing features of the pen as … “elegant design – just for her!” and “a thin barrel to fit a woman’s hand”.

 “Finally! For years I’ve had to rely on pencils, or at worst, a twig and some drops of my feminine blood to write down recipes (the only thing a lady should be writing ever),” one reviewer wrote. “I had despaired of ever being able to write down said recipes in a permanent manner, though my men-folk assured me that I ‘shouldn’t worry yer pretty little head.’ But, AT LAST! Bic, the great liberator, has released a womanly pen that my gentle baby hands can use without fear of unlady-like callouses and bruises. Thank you, Bic!”

“Oh. My. God. I’ve been doing it all wrong. There was me thinking I didn’t need to worry about whether my writing implement sufficiently reflected my gender. Thank you so much Bic for showing me the error of my ways. Perhaps Bic will also bring out a new range of pink (or purple) feminine spanners, screwdrivers, electric drills and angle grinders so that I can carry out my job as a bicycle mechanic without further embarrassing myself? Luckily my male colleagues have managed to keep their disapproval of my use of their masculine tools to themselves. I’m so ashamed. And re-educated as to my place in society. Thanks again Bic!”

Dan Kaufman, a reviewer is quoted, “Men, don’t stand for this. Aren’t there enough products specific to women already? First it was tampons, now these pens? What other products will I have to suffer the indignity of being unable to purchase just because I’m a male person?”

The BIC spokeswoman, Linda Kwong, responded to a request for comment: “We appreciate hearing honest feedback from all of our consumers, whether it is regarding a promotion, advertising campaign, or product.  As a global consumer products company, BIC wants to hear these important comments.”

The pink pen has given the opportunity for women to speak out about being branded, and perhaps that is the other F word.

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