Pieces of Me
Jenny Fox’s new play wrestles with difficult questions of contemporary womanhood
Mother’s Day is an invitation to reflect on the impact that maternal figures have had on both individual lives and the world. Jenny Fox’s new dramatic one-woman performance, You Might Think Less of Me, opens Mother’s Day weekend in a somewhat ironic twist; the protagonist, Girlie, faces the harsh reality of what it is to be a woman. Fox weaves themes of body image, sexuality, and judgement throughout the coming-of-age story, culminating in what she says is a “battle to find wholeness.” Fox spoke recently with former senior producer of KNPR’s State of Nevada, Kristen Kidman. An edited excerpt of their conversation follows.
You wrote this performance, and then you're also the actress presenting it. What it was like going through this creative process?
The writing process itself actually came about in my own exploration of trying to find self-acceptance. So, it was actually my counselor who said, “I know you're a writer, and you're writing a lot about this stuff for yourself through your poetry and your essays. But you're also a performer. Why are you not putting this in your body? Especially so much of this is about body stuff— why are you not exploring it that way?” And I pushed them away. And I was like, yeah, no, that's ridiculous. I'm not going to do that. And then it just kept popping back in my head. And then I thought, you know what, I don't have to show this to anyone … So, it's almost like the act of exorcism in a way: Let me see what's going on for me and where it lives in my body and how I can move it out and through.
It is semi-autobiographical … and that feels really risky, really vulnerable … But I think that in and of itself is what the piece is really about: what is it like to reveal yourself, to not hide from others, your real heart? And so, for me, I guess what I keep trying to remember is, first of all, there's strength in vulnerability. And then also, if I can be vulnerable, and it benefits someone else, then it's an act of love for others and an act of love for myself.
There's this major theme in the show about how society views bodies, especially the bodies of women (or people who identify as female). What does body positivity mean to you?
Yes, we live in our bodies, we want them to be healthy, we want them to be spaces that we inhabit — mind, body, spirit. But the emphasizing of a body is objectifying, and so that in and of itself, I wish there was less of.
I also think body positivity and body acceptance is not quite the solution that we hoped it would be. To me, it's paradoxical. It’s actually still a conflict, because we're still judging bodies, even in the act of being body positive, right? So, all we've really done is widened the circle of body parts that we're saying are okay, instead of just saying, “This part of your body, whatever it may be, doesn't have to look like this anymore.” Now, what we're saying to people is, “It's okay for it to look like this.” But we're still judging. We’re still superficially relating to the body.
Living in Las Vegas, most of us regularly see billboards of women in very suggestive poses and clothing. Did that influence the themes as you were writing the show?
Absolutely. I've lived here over 20 years; I became a mom here. I came here without consciousness and awareness of my own lack of love for myself inside and out, so I was susceptible to begin with. And I think, for everyone, these images and messages affect us. Whether we're conscious of them or not, they have an impact subliminally.
Your show also focuses on motherhood and the relationship between a mother and her child. What themes is your character exploring there?
When we think of mothers, we automatically associate unconditional love … One of the conflicts this piece explores is that, when we send our children out into the world, particularly our female children, we are entrusting the world — hoping that the world will also give them this unconditional love. But obviously, that's not how the world works. The world kind of bats people about, (and) one way or another people get their wounds. So, one of the conflicts in the piece for the mother character is that sending of her child out. This is something we symbolically explore: There's the handing of our puppet, Girlie … to various audience members to hold and care for during different sections of the piece … And obviously, there's ambiguous meaning to this, but one of the primary symbols is, again, can I trust you with my child?
And then we look at unconditional love in another way, which is the way that we offer it to our children versus the way we offer it to ourselves as mothers. We can be hard on ourselves as mothers — am I a good enough mother? — and then also my body. We want to look like we're not mothers until somebody finds us attractive enough to make us mothers. And then we don't want to look like mothers again. We (culturally) want all visual signs of our motherhood gone.
As a mom of sons, what are you teaching them about body acceptance and female autonomy?
I am so glad you asked. It starts, for me, with modeling. And I think this is something that we as women can model in front of daughters as well.
Let's say I'm looking in the mirror one day, and one of my sons is around me. And I might be thinking in my head something negative about myself, but I will never, ever say it out loud. So (if they ask), “Hey, Mom, why are you putting that dye your hair?” it's never, “Oh, because my greys look make me look old.” It's always, “Because it's fun! Why not? I'm playing.”
What is the message that you hope people take away from this show?
I would say the biggest, maybe most important message for everybody … is that you are a whole being; you are not separate parts. And you deserve to be valued as a whole being. I think, for men who would consider themselves allies to women, or may be tuned into what we call “women's issues” — which really are issues that belong to everybody — this piece is really an invitation to go deeper. Can you listen more deeply to the women in your life? Can you tune in more deeply to their lived experiences in female bodies?
You Might Think Less of Me runs May 13-21, 3 p.m. (Sundays) and 6 p.m. (Saturdays), at Super Summer Theater, 4340 S Valley View Blvd #204. General admission costs $15 and discounted tickets are available for $10. For tickets and more information, visit thinklessofme.org.