“I don’t normally find women funny, but you’re hilarious” is the well-worn refrain of (mostly male) comedy-goers who believe their backhanded and frankly offensive comment is a nice thing to say.
Tess Waters, one third of the award-winning comedy collective Fringe Wives Club, revealed to me another even more bizarre male ‘compliment’: “I loved your show, it gave me a semi.”
Just as infuriating as the male anti-feminist (or Men’s Rights Activist) is the male pseudo-feminist (also known as a feminist fuckboi, soft boy or trend boy) who performs a kind of feminism sometimes, but will then go and tell female comics that their show sexually aroused them.
This particularly hilarious brand of performativity has invited commentary from the Fringe Wives Club in their show Glittery Clittery: A Consensual Party, showing at the Griffin Theatre in July.
The Fringe Wives Club was conceived in Edinburgh during the fringe tour circuit in 2016. Tess, Vicky and Rose began talking about their shared experiences of misogyny in the industry over bloody marys at brunch one morning.
“This was just prior to the #MeToo movement. We were talking about that song Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke, and how it had the most horrific lyrics yet it’s an absolute banger,” said Tess.
“We asked ourselves: could we make a banger of a song that has positive lyrics and isn’t preachy, didactic yet doesn’t talk down to the audience? That was our challenge. So we combined forces.”
The trio has been together ever since, and is a blend of cabaret, musical theatre and comedic storytelling.
“All of our shows have a strong foundation in feminism, or at least feminist ideas. What we love about comedy is the power to create a show that’s first and foremost really fun and engaging, but then also packs a punch and talks about stuff that’s important.”
The Wives’ latest musical release is a song and music video titled ‘Feminist F*ckboi,’ a catchy satirical take on the pseudo-feminist that most women will have come across at some stage.
“He probably works at a café-come-reconditioned-furniture-store and studied gender theory at uni, but still gets drunk and annoyingly asks women to have sex with them even after they’ve said no,” explained Tess.
“He talks to everyone about feminism and will often try to explain feminism, particularly to women.”
The lyrics are all anecdotal, with lines like “he’ll be a sensitive soul, and then break up via text,” and “he tells a sexist joke and then says it’s ironic, if you take offense he’ll say you’re being moronic.”
This strand of pseudo-feminists has been observed by other outlets like Vice. According to one article published in 2015, “the Male Feminist isn’t into labels—except for labelling himself as Feminist.”
Another published in 2016 claimed, “The Trend Boy is a proud male feminist, or “more of a humanist,” or appears legitimately invested in fighting misogyny. The Trend Boy adopts or ignores these beliefs as he pleases.”
The prevalence of the pseudo-feminist today is also hilariously captured in the Instagram account @beam_me_up_softboi run by Manchester based student Iona Erskine, which posts submissions from all over the world of cringe-worthy exchanges with these men.
Whatever the label – fuckboi, soft boy, trend boy – behind their earnest intentions lie a lack of critical thinking and delusion that provides excellent fodder for comedy, and a light-hearted avenue to explore the more serious political derivatives of the global pseudo-feminist phenomenon.
“Art is there to ask questions and spark conversations. That’s what this show is all about. We want you to have a great time and a really good laugh and also learn a thing or two.
“We might have made huge steps forward in so many places, but every generation needs to be taught again about consent. Every generation needs to be taught about racism. Every generation needs to be taught about compassion and empathy.
“These are not things that are just learnt. You have to keep reminding people about consent and keep growing.”
Join the Fringe Wives Club in their award winning cabaret show Glittery Clittery: A Consenual Party at the Griffin Theatre from July 8 – 20. Tickets via the Griffin Theatre website.
The Male Feminist’s Guide to Getting a Girlfriend for Winter by Michael Hafford, Vice, published online 23 October 2015.
From Fuccbois to Soft Boys: Have you Encountered the Trend Boy? by Monica Heisey, Vice, published online 7 January 2016.