19 November 2016

The Red Pill: Take Two and Call me in the Morning

This week I was lucky enough to attend the screening of The Red Pill at the Soho Hotel in London. The documentary focuses on the world of Men’s Rights Activists, and is directed by Cassie Jaye—a young feminist who had initially set out to observe rape culture within mens activist and anti-feminist forums. Cassie’s personal journey and creative integrity instead led her to produce an entirely different piece than she had originally intended, but the results were fortuitous, and the final product is a cultural game-changer.

The film gained some notoriety across the web when a screening in Australia was pulled from the cinema, thanks to a petition created by feminist Susan Smith. Smith was concerned that it could be ‘potentially damaging to our credibility’ before labeling it as ‘misogynistic propaganda’—that’s before having watched it herself, by the way. The petition gained over 2,300 signatures and resulted in the Kino Cinema in Melbourne cancelling the screening.

Paul Elam, A Voice For Men

This event is how the film first came to my attention, ah the good old Streisand Effect.

A YouTuber I watch regularly named ‘Computing Forever’ (real name Dave Cullen) posted a video concerning the petition, and I was outraged to think that it had been removed not because of what it was, but because of what people thought it might be. I signed and shared the counter-petition before checking out the official website, learning that a London Screening was scheduled a few weeks afterwards (I later found it took eight attempts to find a venue to agree to host it).

When posting about this on my Facebook page, I was challenged by a couple of my friends, who were worried that I was unwittingly claiming my support for misogynistic rape apologists. They seemed to feel that it was their job to enlighten me on my blunder, which I found both considerate and patronizing. I kept this in mind as I found my seat at the screening, and was curious to overhear members of the audience discussing the friends they were also losing over differences of opinions. I also kept a close ear on a Daily Mail reporter, who I noticed was conducting an interview with a man behind me. I heard her ask him in an accusatory tone, ‘so you think feminism is to blame for men’s problems?’. 

While I had originally intended to write a review of the film, I would rather just tell you that the proof is in the pudding with this one. It’s such a poignant and self-explanatory piece that I don’t think I could do it justice. Instead, I wanted to share my personal experience of moving towards, and then away from the feminism label this year.

Erin Pizzey, Family Care Activist

I also feel it’s important to mention first and foremost that when I say ‘feminist,’ I mean third-wave western feminism. I know that all over the world girls are being subjected to female genital mutilation, married off as child brides, stoned to death and living with inadequate access to education and contraception. But where I agree that these women are in desperate need of liberation, I feel that a lot of effort is being wasted over here doing things like marching through the streets with no knickers on.

Something which increasingly frightens me is the way that some women are using feminism to excuse their own sexist, racist and vulgar behavior. I believe that it’s part of my duty as a member of the so-called ‘sisterhood’ to make a stand against it—because those people do not talk for all women, and they certainly don’t represent me.

The funny thing is, to the untrained eye, I’m every bit as feminist as the girls you see portrayed in the film. I have green hair, hand drawn tattoos, a degree in Photography and I’ve been told that I ‘look vegan.’ 

I was raised in an environment in which being a liberal was natural. To me, it seemed ludicrous that nobody else had come to the same conclusions as I had about the way the world should operate. But as Winston Churchill put it, if you’re not liberal at 20 you have no heart —but if you’re not conservative by 40, then you have no brain. This year I finally took to the streets with my outrage over the police shootings in America, and have been actively trying to involve myself in political groups ever since. This quest has led me through some interesting experiences. One of the most relevant of which is when I joined a feminist activist group.

I was privy to meetings that were being held with a group of women from all walks of life. Some working in prisons, some domestic abuse survivors, some who just wanted to help in any way they could. While I can’t fault the efforts of the individual members, I found a couple of things didn’t sit quite right with me on the whole, but I wasn’t sure why. To start with, I didn’t know why we had to state our pronouns after our names. I was new to all of this, so the concept of pronouns was alien to me. But I obliged. We also had to say how we were feeling too. “Hi, I’m Lucy, She/Her, Feeling Happy,” that sort of thing. It was sort of cute at first, along with waving our hands in the air instead of clapping, which I thought was some sort of quirky group handshake. I later learned that it was because clapping was ‘triggering’ to some members. Triggering.

There was also a seemingly endless discussion of everyone’s feelings, as well as new speech rules being regularly introduced, to protect the ethnic minority ‘sisters’. I felt like a lot of time was spent on these topics, time which I considered as being wasted when we should have been focussing on more practical matters. This code of conduct also led to an overall tense atmosphere. One meeting comes to mind, where a ‘person of color’ (I’m still on the fence about that phrase) wanted to talk about the problems that she faced in the feminist community because of her race. Nobody dared speak, lest we are deemed to talk over her, but we eventually managed a very stilted conversation in which everyone present agreed that they didn’t want to be insensitive by daring giving any sort of opinion (if their skin was white).

The final thing that tipped me over was when a really, really lovely girl I knew was shamed for the crime of uploading a link to an article about the group which made it into the mainstream media, accompanied by image of - shock horror - three white girls standing in a row at a protest. I watched a couple of other ethnic minority ‘sisters’ jump in and condemn her for not noticing how racist this was, stating it was ‘typical’ that she didn’t understand, what with her being white. No matter how much she apologized and tried to explain herself and promise to be more respectful in the future, she was not excused. That was my Deborah Meaden ‘I’m out’ moment.

I broke rank and put myself through the process of ‘unlearning.’ I stopped reading fashion magazines and articles, stopped following the celebrity scandals, and stopped watching TV. It took a while, but slowly I found that the answers I was seeking came from alternative media sources who were able to explain why some things are a nice idea, but structurally unstable when put into practice.

The primary example is this ridiculous notion that men are almost always the perpetrators of violence while women are innocent victims. Under this ideology I’ve seen countless girls calling for a full on male genocide—some even going so far as to suggest rounding them up and putting them in camps. Watching this behavior go unchallenged and, more shockingly, encouraged by the media—I felt a deep anger rising. Only this anger is not shared by my friends and colleagues. It’s not a popular anger. The sad fact is that Men’s Rights Activists don’t have punchy Dazed and Confused articles and fun slogan t-shirts worn by Cara Delevingne to promote their cause, it’s not ‘on trend’—so when you do attempt to open up a dialogue, expect confrontation. I’m now in a position where I don’t feel comfortable sharing my opinions at work, among friends, or in my home, to keep the peace. Indeed, there are times when I wonder to myself ‘why oh why didn’t I take the blue pill?’

That being said, while some things seem slightly harder, my overall journey is becoming more enlightening by the day. I am connecting with content creators who inspire me. Am lucky enough to be able to hear different points of view thanks to the alternative media sources. 

As the film started, I must say it felt surreal seeing what I now consider to be my ‘world’ projected onto a cinema screen. Up until then my learning experience involved sitting alone in a dimly lit room, tapping away at a keyboard into the wee hours. But this felt like a collaborative effort, an end-of-year presentation if you will. Especially knowing how much effort Milo Yiannopoulos (who I used to despise) had put into helping to raise funds even to be able to get it finished and out the door. As I watched Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole during the opening credits, I felt overcome with a sense of hope - ‘this is my world, I’ve found it at last.’

Cassie Jaye comes across as an intelligent and inquisitive young women, a real role model. She explains how she came to produce the film, starting from her career as an actress, showing us how often she was typecast as ‘female victim’ or ‘kidnapped girl’ in horror B-movies. She starts by questioning the status quo of being a woman, particularly in the acting world, and decides to leave it behind, pick up a camera and become a documentary filmmaker instead. She studied feminist and LGBT issues before the phrase ‘rape culture’ piqued her curiosity. Cassie starts her adventure by simply typing the phrase into Google and finding the website ‘A Voice For Men’ on the front page. Thinking she had hit the jackpot, she got in touch with them—and before long was given access to interviews with some of their longstanding members. During the time spent with these activists, she comes to realize that they are nothing like what she thought they would be—and in fact, they make a lot of sense.

The film did justice to my expectations, and then some. The points raised about the lack of empathy for men’s rights are unwittingly and oftentimes comically confirmed by the response of feminists and gender studies teachers alike, who scoff at the idea that men could possible be oppressed. I was also morbidly fascinated to see the infamous ‘Big Red’ being interviewed, who gave the charming response of ‘cry me a river!’ when asked what she thought of men’s rights. This, juxtaposed with a father crying over the mental abuse his ex-wife is inflicting on their son, takes ones brain to a difficult place. A place we must open up and take a good long look at.

During the Q&A afterward, one of the members of the audience stated that trying to get feminists to help Men’s Rights Activists was like the Jews asking for help from the Nazis. Someone quickly pointed out that comments like that will not help us bring people together (as demonstrated by two smug girls in the audience giggling to themselves) but I do understand his metaphor, and I can’t help but agree with his point to some extent. But now, thank God, at least we have Cassie’s piece of work to help present the argument in a way that’s easier to digest for those who are still on the fence themselves.

We watch Cassie struggle through her intellectual transition in her personal video journals, where she explains how hesitant she is to believe what she is being told. Sometimes she wonders if she is being lied to. Sometimes she hangs her head in her hands, seemingly at war with her perception of reality. It’s compelling to watch, having been through it just a few months ago myself. I found myself rooting for her, as well as admiring the effort she had put in to challenging the world around her, to always seek the truth and speak the truth. She displayed all of what I believe to be the best traits a woman can have—strength, grace and a willingness to change ones mind. These are admirable traits, and if the feminists had any sense they would be rallying to support this brave young woman. Alas, not today.

But to end on a positive note, the YouTuber I mentioned earlier— Computing Forever—said in one of his videos ‘taking the Red Pill is pretty much a one-way street.’

Once you see the world through these eyes, there’s no going back.