Nov 1, 2016

Is The Red Pill really misogynist propaganda?

A controversial new film explores the world of men's rights activism. The filmmaker admits she has come around to see their point of view -- but is that such a bad thing?

Myriam Robin — Media Reporter

Myriam Robin

Media Reporter

the Red Pill movie poster
"I'm not a men's rights activist," filmmaker Cassie Jaye told me several times during our half-hour chat. "Nor was The Red Pill funded by MRAs." For many of the controversial documentary's critics, these are both dubious statements. The Red Pill is a documentary about men's rights activists, a largely online community often hostile to modern feminism that advocates action on and understanding of the challenges facing men. The doco interviews several of the movement's leading men and women, examining their arguments and grievances. While feminists and others who disagree with the movement are given space to rebut the arguments raised, the documentary gives MRAs the chance to explain for themselves, at length, why they're attracted to the movement. It launched last month, but it has not been reviewed much in the mainstream press. The LA Times described it as an unbalanced effort in need of a vocabulary lesson. Village Voice described Jaye as a propagandist. Two weeks ago, a petition started by someone who couldn't yet have seen the film garnered 2369 signatures and successfully got The Red Pill's Australian premiere cancelled. Melbourne's Palace Kino cinema pulled the planned screening even though it was a private booking, saying it didn't want to be associated with what was described in the petition as a "misogynistic propaganda film". Men's Rights Melbourne has since organised another screening at a yet-to-be-revealed location, after a rival petition got 8000 signatures in support. The documentary itself, which I have seen, starts with discussions of the dangerous work undertaken by men in trades and the military, and goes on to examine the role of work -- men are described as "success objects" expected to give up their hopes and dreams to bring in good incomes for their families, sometimes at the cost of long hours and poor relationships. It notes that men serve far longer prison sentences than women for similar crimes. It looks at men's treatment in family court decisions and reproductive rights, as well as domestic violence against men, who often lack access to shelters and institutional support. The doco also interviews an MRA who says he was sperm-jacked -- his then-wife got pregnant with his sperm without his knowledge (MRAs talk about this being done by women who want children and want a man they can then require child support from, leaving men financially obligated to support children they never agreed to have). It examines media coverage, which those interviewed claim is far more sympathetic to women than men (the example given is the Bring Back our Girls campaign, which gave little attention to the thousands of boys killed by Boko Haram in previous months). It looks at the issue of (male) circumcision, including a frankly stomach-churning video of it happening to a baby boy. "Suffering is not the same as oppression -- everyone suffers," a male feminist says at a rally towards the start of the film. But this is no fly-on-the-wall doco. Jaye's video diaries and voice-overs form the narrative scaffolding of the two-hour feature, and she seems less and less convinced by attempts to absolve feminism of responsibility for these issues as the documentary goes on. Feminist theory has always held that the patriarchy hurts men too, but according to many of those Jaye interviews, feminists are more interested in vilifying men than in correcting the harm rigid gender roles do. Jaye insists she's no men's rights activist. But by the end, she says: "I no longer call myself a feminist". The film has screened without mishap in many American cities. American sociologist Michael Kimmel, who is interviewed in the documentary and has written a book highly critical of men's rights activism, even took part in a live debate with men's rights activists after one premiere. From her home in California, Jaye told Crikey she was shocked about what had happened in Melbourne. "Especially as no one signing that petition had even seen the film," she said. "And all the news and controversy since the cancelled cinema screening, everyone is just speculating about what the film is about, and what I am about ... It’s been difficult to try and debunk each and every lie because they keep on compounding on top of each other." "There’s a lot of weight to making the first film about men’s rights activism and issues," she said. "I think there is a discussion to be had about men’s issues. Unfortunately the discussion devolves into this tit-for-tat, what cherry-picked quote makes them look bad, and using that to represent the whole movement and the whole platform of issues. You can easily do that to feminists. I didn’t want to go down that rabbit hole in the film." The rabbit hole she is referring to is largely the writings of Paul Elam, who runs the notorious A Voice for Men website. His writing has been prominently quoted in petitions and campaigns against the documentary. Elam comes across well in the film, but Jaye does not ask him about some of his more controversial statements, which has led to accusations of "white-washing". Jaye touches on the subject just once, towards the end of the film. Elam has for years been republishing a piece that suggested making October "bash a violent bitch month" (to use an example -- the website is full of this type of rhetoric). Jaye says in the film Elam isn't being serious -- he was trying to make a point about the acceptance of female-on-male violence. "I only had two hours for this film -- even two hours is stretching the limit on a feature documentary -- and I found men’s issues to be the more important story to address than cherry-picked quotes from online articles," she said. "It could have been a 100-hour series breaking down every cherry-picked quote. Most of the time, the Paul Elam quotes and the A Voice for Men quotes were satire, and actually had a lot of truth behind the point they were trying to make. "I don’t agree with their approach. At the same time, I have to give them credit -- that’s what got me down the path of making this film, it was reading their shocking headlines. So I don’t condone it, but I also see the brilliance in what they were doing, because it makes me read further than just scoffing at the idea of men’s rights and clicking the next web page." The men's rights movement Jaye depicts includes a former feminist ally of Gloria Steinem, a woman who started a domestic violence shelter before being barred from it for talking about violence against men, and several other female men's rights advocates, who go by the moniker "the honey badgers". All point to various levels of ostracism and condemnation from the mainstream feminist movement for their views. Jaye can certainly relate. Jaye was an actress who turned to filmmaking and feminism because she was sick of being cast as the disposable blonde, and her first two major projects were well-received features on LGBT and women's issues. She self-funded her first feature, Daddy I Do, which received positive media support upon release. Her second, about a gay couple whose marriage was declared void when Proposition 8 was passed in California, was funded through angel investment. Her attempt at what she calls a "balanced" look at the men's rights movement, however, met with far less support. Jaye self-financed the travel and equipment needed to film the interviews, but she needed financial support for the editing. Applications for funding grants led nowhere. And the media and angel investors she used to deal with, she says, weren't interested. "All my previous angel investors said they do not want to see a film about the men’s rights movement ... They think giving MRAs a platform to speak is a horrible thing to do, it’s giving them exactly what they want, which is media attention." One feminist group Jaye had been in interviewing for the feature was keen on funding it, but Jaye felt this would compromise her independence. She turned to crowdfunding, initially with little success. The men's rights advocates interviewed did their best to encourage supporters to get the film funded. But in two weeks Jaye raised only $20,000 of the $97,000 she would need to complete the film. Enter Brietbart. Notorious troll and alt-right figurehead Milo Yiannopoulos, who has since been banned from Twitter, interviewed Jaye and wrote a piece for the far-right blog about how she was being silenced by feminists who would rather the film never saw the light of day. In the following two weeks, Jaye raised double the figure she had initially aimed for. She spent a year on the final edit. She says many of those who supported the crowdfunding campaign left comments saying they'd never heard of men's rights activism but believed in free speech and wanted to see what MRAs had to say. Feminists supported the project as well. Kickstarter gives donors no say over the final product, Jaye adds. "In the end, I made the film I wanted to make, and I can sleep at night knowing that I have always been true to my journey and how I felt the film should be made." "I’m not an MRA. I’m a filmmaker. I made a film looking at the men’s rights movement, which has never been explored before in a film. I’m hoping the controversy eventually leads to having a more open discussion about gender equality."

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39 thoughts on “Is The Red Pill really misogynist propaganda?

  1. Inner Space

    Thankyou Myriam for covering the Red Pill. Glad someone has. Don’t you love how those minority feminist zealots have managed to practically get it banned from any cinema nearest to anyone. And where’s all the comments on this site? It seems intestinal fortitude is a rare commodity these days.

  2. Loula Belle

    A very balanced review. Thank you for being objective in your portrayal of the issues and the film. We’ve had more than enough feminist hysterics over the last two weeks, this level-headed review is just what we needed.

  3. Suzanne McCarley

    Thank you for your unbiased reporting of the facts. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this level of journalistic integrity on a story about a controversial issue. I’m actually stunned; I was beginning to think that unbiased journalists were extinct. I hope you see the film. If you have the courage to publish an article like this, you’ll probably appreciate it whether you like it or not.

  4. Peter Cook

    It’s nice somebody in the crooked media is actually being level-headed. Our society needs more of this, and fewer screeching harpees just trying to get others attention.

    Men have real issues in our society, far more than anyone wants to admit, and nobody seems to ever give a damn. We’re not even allowed to talk about our own issues, since most mens clubs and groups have been made illegal and women keep inserting themselves into them. You can’t even watch a game of mens sportsball without seeing non-competing females insisting they be worshipped (eg: journos, sponsors, mothers, pink jerseys, pink armbands, pink referee uniforms, pink chuggers).

    Heck, even the red pill doco could never have been made by a man. Nobody would have listened.

    Men are just expected to take abuse and work for the benefit of ungrateful others, until those others decide they don’t want us around, and kick us out, but still expect us to keep paying for everything, and coerce us to do so via biased legal processes (instituted by blue-pill men and exploited by women mercilessly ever since).

    As far as I’m concerned, until things change, men should just learn to ignore society’s expectations of them. No matter whether we serve womens interests or ignore them and go our own way, women and children will abuse and exploit us either way. That basically means there’s no net downside to taking the red pill.

    Unfortunately men are hardwired to sacrifice ourselves to benefit women and children. It’s like a software bug. Thankfully more and more men are learning to debug that unfortunate feature.

    Thankfully the nice people at Telstra gave me a free VR headset with the new mobile phone I bought six months ago, if you get what I mean 🙂

    1. Bob the builder

      “a free VR headset with the new mobile phone ”

      I think you mean you can retreat fully to the fantasy world of porn and male dominance, rather than deal with real, existing women and their horrible insistence on being treated as humans, not objects.

    2. AR

      Wow…women and children will abuse and exploit us, just WOW!
      Poor, hard done by, precious petal.

      1. Inner Space

        It’s obvious you have never stepped foot in a Family Law Court, Mr AR. Or have you just never shaken off your own little Oedipus? Hmm? Pdy.

  5. PDGFD1

    Well, that was interesting – the comments more so than the film…”feminist zealots”… “feminist hysterics”… “screeching harpees (sic)”… “…men are hardwired to sacrifice ourselves to benefit women and children..”.
    One of the problems with the so-called MRA’s is their insistence on blame.
    What issues are given airing in the film – and I think there are several that we all should look a lot harder at given for example, the rate of male suicide at the moment – aren’t actually dealt with articulately.
    And therein lies the rub – the film’s not much good. Jaye’s not much of a filmaker ( video ‘diary’ entries… seriously)- no doubt the controversy was ‘welcome’ for development (editing) funding, as it is for publicity now.
    Meanwhile – the assertion that both Jaye, and the author make – (“…petition “started by someone who couldn’t yet have seen the film” / “no one signing that petition had even seen the film…”) is wobbly to say the least – many have seen the film elsewhere – and there are ‘pirate copies’ doing the rounds. Jaye knows this.

    It would be a good thing if some men made an effort toward examining whatever grievances they feel need addressing some day. Of course, if they continue to just blame women in general and “feminists” in particular for everything that ails them- inchoate rantings won’t take them far enough to be useful.
    When the novelty wears off media will stop listening – and then they might have to do some actual work.

    1. Eric Hamell

      If the petitioners did see pirate copies of the film, it did them no good, since the petition totally misrepresents its content. If you’d seen it, you’d know that too — and also that MRAs *are* taking action on the issues affecting men, albeit with great difficulty in part because of feminist opposition.

    2. Inner Space

      Are n’t you concerned how a film representing men’s activism ( free speech? )can have the rug pulled from beneath it’s feet with barely a squeak of criticism from the msm? It’s being shut-out by vested interest feminist lobby groups. This is not theory, it’s a valid observation which should be identified for what it is, agenda driven Terrorism.

      1. MAC TEZ

        Inner Space ? A tiny little space without much room for thought from the sound of it.

        1. Decorum

          Great contribution, MT. Cheers for that.

    3. MAC TEZ

      Thank you for your comment PDGFD1 , I’m puzzled by the comments too, especially as a white male from the 1st world. Methinks these fellows doth protest too much.
      Poor old Peter sounds sooo down-trodden, there there Pete and
      as for those “honey-badgers” ala Loula & Suze …you must be kidding gals !
      Still, I’m sure the Donald would be glad there are MRA’s out there fighting this fight. Anything to create a diversion .

      1. Inner Space

        That’s interesting too, Macca – ” a white male from the 1st world”. If you were a black male from the 3rd world with historic culture you would probably have 4 wives and an endless queue of concubines to take up the slack. No sign of the zealots in that one. Thank God we have all evolved. Not.

        1. Bob the builder

          Inner Space Cadet – you may dream of being a big, strong, black, tribal man with lots of subservient wives, but that doesn’t describe any contemporary or historical culture. Time to get off Crikey and go back to your porn collection.

          1. Inner Space

            Dear Bob the Bully. I was only drawing a metaphor historically between two cultures but you only see a porn collection. Says a lot about your character, really.

          2. Bob the builder

            Except the metaphor (it wasn’t actually a metaphor) was completely without basis in fact.

          3. Inner Space

            Dear Bob the Boof-Head,
            a metaphor is “a figure of speech containing an implied comparison, in which a word or phrase ordinarily and primarily used of one thing draws comparison to another”.

            The basis in fact is thousands of years of anthropology. But your pea-brain can’t go beyond 3 syllables. Can it?

          4. Bob the builder

            Space cadet – you don’t understand what a metaphor is.
            Anthropology has only been going for little over a century, not thousands of years and the situation you describe in your original comment is a white male fantasy of the 20th/21st century, with very little basis in fact.

          5. Inner Space

            So Bobby, the study of anthropology does n’t go back thousands of years? Huh! ..derr..I must have missed something. Archaeology btw, is a branch of anthropology. But you probably would n’t know much about that either.

      2. lykurgus

        Mac Tez – the “honey badgers” reference was one of Myriams myriad “Author Did Not Do the Homework” moments.
        I go into more detail further down, because I didn’t have any acid to pour into my eyes.

    4. Loula Belle

      Found the angry feminist.

    5. Malcolm Lochhead

      Hi – you’re wrong to claim that the protestors have actually seen the film. (And you know this).

      But don’t worry – men ARE addressing ‘whatever grievances they feel need addressing’, as you so contemptuously put it – despite very vociferous opposition from feminist lobbyists. I, for instance, am trying to get a convincing answer to why men kill themselves at 3-4 times the rate of women, and to encourage government to make SOME kind of effort to reduce that number.

      What I find interesting is, even though many men fight very vocally and publicly to address women’s issues – such as breast cancer, or the pay gap – Cassie Jaye is one of the ONLY women I have ever met who gives a damn about an issue like male suicide. I can hardly express my gratitude! – and yet women supporting men should be commonplace – as men supporting women is. We are all human after all, and gender should not even come into it.

      In the end, this is about humanity – which you evidently lack, and she, evidently, does not.

  6. ms.innerwest

    This isn’t a review. It’s a weak synopsis with a bit of background to flesh out the word count. Where is Ms Razer?

    1. Myriam Robin

      It isn’t a review because I never set out to write one. I wanted to ask the filmmaker to respond to major criticisms of the documentary. If you want a review, the piece links to several.

  7. Bob the builder

    So-called “feminism” comes in many flavours, but most of them talk about the harm that the patriarchy does to women AND men. Read practically anything Germaine Greer has ever written. Just read. It’s clear from the misnamed “men’s” movement (I’m a man and it certainly doesn’t speak to me) that they know nothing about feminism, little about history and a lot about whingeing, hysterical self-pity.

    “Boo-hoo the bad feminists won’t let me be a warrior anymore” seems to sum it up. The quick descent into misogyny and belittling language (‘honey badgers’ FFS!) belies these sooks’ supposed wish to sensitively deal with injustice and their own vulnerabilities – they just want women back in their place, obedient and grateful.

    The world’s changing (thank f*ck) boys and it’s time you grew up into men and took some responsibility for yourselves instead of blaming your manifold shortcomings on the women in your lift.

    1. Dr Dagg

      Bob, perhaps the Men’s Movement might speak to you if you spent some time in a family court room and seen the many men pleading to be able to see their kids. Or been falsely accused of hitting your ex-wife and your children. Or had a female magistrate get the evidence completely wrong. Or you read the court statement from your ex-wife which absolutely vilifies you but your solicitor and barrister both advise not after going after a mother in family court. Or the female AAT commissioner who found a way to turn an $80,000 non taxable payment into over $200K of income for child support purposes.
      What speaks to me most of all though, is the vilification you get if you try to raise these as issues.

      1. Bob the builder

        Dr. Dagg,
        everything you mention relates to problems in the legal system, which, it might surprise you, don’t just apply to men in the family court. I live in the remote NT and Aboriginal people are routinely sent to gaol (not fined, not misrepresented – though that also – but imprisoned) for trivial offences or even when the evidence has been misrepresented. From what I have heard there is reason to believe there is some bias against some men in the Family court, but the inflated rantings about it demonstrate that this is the first time many of these men personally suffer injustice – out in the real world, many groups suffer systemic injustice all the time. Instead of putting all your efforts into saying how bad it is for YOU, how about uniting with other groups who also suffer injustice and doing something positive about it.
        First step – take the thumb out of your mouth.
        Second – look around you. Men have most of the money, most of the power and are in charge of most things. You or me may not personally fit into that category, but the people running the world are mostly men. Not feminists. Not women. You or some of your mates may have suffered from the system – one largely run by women – but Aboriginal people, poor people, migrants, LGBTI people and, yes, women, generally benefit from it far less than middle class men. Some men do get screwed over and sometimes it’s because of their gender. Some men have less power than they used to and it’s because of changes, including feminism, that have happened over recent years, but they generally have more power than their female peers.

    2. Ro Ro

      Comments like this is exactly why ‘The Red Pill’ needed to be made. It is just a load of spite filled drivel, and the problem this type of bigoted ranting is what is allowed to pass as mainstream feminist discourse.

    3. Draco Houston

      The problem, really, is appropriation of vague feminist thinking on both sides employed purely for cultural warfare.

      The first time I heard the term ‘Men’s Rights Activist’ it was in relation to a group that provides support for fathers separated from their children. Family court is terrible for both men and women, and built on patriarchal assumptions. That sort of men’s rights activism seems pretty in accordance with feminism.

      Ironically, as you point out, there are feminist critiques of almost any greivance contemporary anti-feminists have. Unfortunately, feminism isn’t a monolith, and there really are totally stupid strains of ‘feminism’ that barely qualify for the term. The kind that would be just fine with patriarchal society so long as the rulers are Diverse. The idiots that have appropriated the label MRA are irredeemable, though, and have stupid ideas as well. The best thing to do is brick off that part of the internet and try to forget it exists at all.

      I shaln’t be watching this film because I suspect I already read better versions of any argument they bring up.

  8. Teddy

    I’m interested in the fact Palace Cinemas caved in so quickly and easily, and abandoned what was simply a commercial arrangement (venue hire) because of the perceived danger to their “brand”.

    They have form here . They no longer host the Israeli Film Festival because of a noisy campaign by BDS activists. In Sydney a year or so back protestors claimed they would “shut the opening night down”, but their demo was a fizzer. During the rest of festival lone member of the Greens picketed outside the cinema, but that was enough to scare Palace, apparently.

    I’m not saying a cinema exhibitor should stand up to the bully-boy tactics, support free speech or campaign against censorship or anything – Palace are just another business trying to make a buck. But I do find cases like this sad, and a sign of our increasingly intolerant times.

    1. Noodle Bar

      Why does it have to be a zero sum game? Why can’t we help both men and women who suffer from domestic violence? Why can’t we help everybody who suffers from patriarchy be they whatever gender and whatever colour whatever persuasion etc. What do these men’s rights people have to say about fixing patriarchy?

      How about issues of injustice (and systemic injustice) being investigated on their merits?

  9. AR

    I am stunned to see so many revanchist commenters here – who knew the poisons lurking in so many Crikey readers?

    1. Bob the builder

      AR by using worlds like ‘revanchist’ you have gone over the heads of those you’re talking about.
      But, yes, I too have been shocked by the misogyny and sheer unashamed loopiness on display here (and no boys, I’m not trying to stop your free speech – just exercising mine). If nothing else, a useful corrective for any occasional thought that feminism has gone “far enough”!

  10. Stacey McAlister

    The conflation of patriarchy with men is the heart of the problem. Failure to recognise that both genders are affected by it, disadvantaged and advantaged in varying ways. I do think the influence of popular feminist writing (eg Greer, Steinem) almost implied a conspiracy of men plotting against women, rather than seeing the broader context for both genders. The focus of much feminist writing on white middle class women struggling with “glass ceilings” and the like and failure to recognise that issues such as race, class and nationality can negate the impact of sexism. Nearly every Aboriginal man in Australia experiences more disadvantage and discrimination than any white Anglo Australian middle class educated woman like me. A patriarchal society is not universally advantageous to men, or universally oppressive to women. We need a more nuanced discussion about it. So look forward to the film, even if it’s flawed. I’m glad the discussion is initiated.

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