I’ve just watched Cassie Jaye’s documentary The Red Pill and I think you should, too. A superb interviewer who knows how to draw out her subjects’ deepest beliefs, Jaye takes viewers on a tour of the Men’s Rights Movement (MRM), by talking to some of its main proponents and detractors. She also charts her own changing attitudes through a series of moving miniature video diaries. She comes across as highly intelligent, thoughtful and empathetic throughout.

I’m a lifelong feminist and approached the movie with the expectation of finding the main figures in the MRM unsympathetic, misogynistic or puerile. In fact, it was the controversy surrounding the film which first drew my attention to it. The film itself shows footage of protestors drowning out talks by MRM activists with shouted chants and noisemakers. Once released, life echoed art when protestors in Australia, in particular, tried to shut down performances of the documentary. These attempts at censorship made me all the keener to see it for myself. When people try to shut down a speaker, it’s generally because they have something disturbing, but important, to say.

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Cassie Jaye

Surprisingly, what most struck me about the film were the many similarities – in both their strengths and shortcomings – between the MRM and modern Western feminism. Towards the end of the movie, a feminist activist called Big Red is yelling at an MRM campaigner, telling him that the MRM is unnecessary because feminists share all their aims. Once stripped of its hostile vitriol, her speech basically states that she fundamentally agrees with him – and yet she’s branding him a misogynist and an enemy. This clearly has more to do with tribalism than with a genuine difference of views. Unfortunately, this refusal to listen with empathy was characteristic of the feminists portrayed in the film.

I do have some problems with some of the MRM’s statements and arguments. Like many feminists, the MRM tends to argue on the basis of statistical outcomes, without really examining the reasons for those outcomes. We know that only 4% of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are women, for example. But is that because women are discriminated against in business or because many women do not choose to pursue high-pressure careers? We should ensure discrimination is not a factor, but there is no need to aim for a specific proportion of each sex in any field.

Similarly, some of the statistics the MSM cites as evidence of society’s mistreatment of men – such as the fact that men are more likely to take on high-risk jobs which may result in workplace injuries and deaths or that men live, on average, six years less than women – may be the result of testosterone and its related biological and psychological effects, rather than social oppression. The parts of the film I found least convincing were those arguing that men and women are equally prone to violence. I felt especially squirmily uncomfortable during the interview with Erin Pizzey, a prominent social campaigner and activist for both women’s and men’s rights, who argued that most domestic violence is a consensual struggle between equally violent men and women. These and other sexual blank-slateism claims go against everything I’ve learned from evolutionary biology. I remain skeptical about them.

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Erin Pizzey

Having said that, the film outlines some clear injustices against men. These include the widespread acceptance of male circumcision in the United States and among Jewish and Muslim communities worldwide. While female genital mutilation is rightly deplored, circumcision is permitted. We allow people to perform what is in effect a cosmetic surgery with no medical benefits and which causes significant nerve damage and lasting reduction of sexual pleasure on male babies, who cannot consent. This is a clear violation of the Hippocratic oath.

The other major injustice against men takes place in the family courts. At the film’s heart is an interview with MRM activist Fred Hayward who was denied access to the son he loves through an egregious miscarriage of justice. He was the most sympathetic character in the documentary. His affection and care for the son who is now lost to him were so palpable that I watched that section through tears. We rightly complain when men neglect their duties as fathers. We should therefore be encouraging, not persecuting, those divorced or unmarried dads who want to take a full role in their children’s lives.

Beyond legal discrimination, there are also societal attitudes to combat. I firmly believe that a sexist society benefits no one. It forces individuals into roles based on the contents of their knickers, roles which may make them very unhappy. When we talk about harmful aspects of society’s conception of masculinity, we often focus on their knock-on effects on women. But men are also victims of imposed and internalized stereotypes about maleness.    

One example of this is the continued expectation that men will be the family breadwinners. Perhaps, the film suggests, men’s overrepresentation in stressful careers is not a sign of their dominance. Maybe we should re-evaluate our fetish for these outward signs of wealth and status and reconsider the importance of free time and relationships with friends and family. We only have a limited time on this planet. Personally, I’m glad I’m not spending it supporting a wife and children through some unfulfilling and empty money-making activity.

But perhaps the most striking example of these pernicious attitudes is that we tacitly expect levels of self-reliance and physical courage from men that we would not ask for from women. We often behave as though we valued men’s lives less than women’s – at least, in the secular West. A powerful section of the film showed news coverage of Boko Haram’s killings, illustrating how the press places more importance on female deaths than on male ones. Women and children are first into the lifeboats. Men are first on the battlefield. As a society, we do not encourage men to express fear, vulnerability and loneliness. We expect them to tough it out. I believe this may be part of why so many more men than women commit suicide. In fact, his internalized perception that as a man he should be a success, a provider, self-reliant, was a major factor in the suicide of one of my dearest friends six months ago.

The film left me feeling that feminists and MRM activists should work together. Sex is an accident of fate. Most of us do not choose to be male or female. It is pointless to demonize everyone who shares a heterozygous set of chromosomes. It is divisive and harmful to both sexes to engage in competitions as to who is most victimized. As Hayward puts it, “we can’t compare suffering, we can’t quantify [it].” Instead, we must work to ensure that everyone has an equal chance at happiness. If women’s rights are close to our hearts, men’s should be too.

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36 comments

  1. One of the rallies in the movie occurred in Edmonton, Canada. That is where I live.

    In fact I remember vaguely a few years ago when the radio was talking about an MRA rally to happen downtown.

    The announcer (a man) was saying how these men are really white supremacists who use nen’s rights as a cover.

    I didn’t think much of it at the time. But I did wonder how the announcer ‘knew’ this. Did he interview them? Did he conduct intensive research while the commercials were playing? Or was he just reading off of a script?

  2. The fact about wife abuse is that 80% of men who beat their wives watched their dad beat their mom. What tgat tells us is that wife beaters tend to learn this kind of violence from their parents.

    But interestingly enough, 80% of women who get beaten by their husband also watched their mom get beaten by their dad.

    I’m not saying that these women actually want to get beaten by their husband. Nobody wants that.

    What I am saying is that it takes a certain kind of programming for a man to beat his wife. But it also takes a certain kind of programming for a woman to end up almost always with am abusive man.

    Of course is a man is abusive and violent, I make no apology for that. But trying to punish/shame/correct the man is less than half of the solution here.

    I once lived with an exotic dancer (nude stripper). Her husband beat her up so violently with an ashtray that their 3 year old daughter called 9-1-1.

    She needed extensive facial reconstruction. She was in the hospital for 2 months and could not work for an other 6 months. Meanwhile, he was in jail.

    As soon as her face got better, she started to date a guy while her husband was in jail. He beat her up too.

    But that beautiful romance didn’t last very long. Her husband was coming out of jail. So she broke up with her boyfriend and impatiently picked up her husband on his release day.

    Within a week, he was back at beating her up.

    I am not saying she enjoyed getting beat up. That would be absurd. But I would say that she was wired to look for abusive men. All the nice guys she encountered were all too stupid, too creepy, too boring for her.

    And yeah, she did beat her 3 kids too. Her youngest kid was a boy names Brian Junior. But she called him B.J.

    There is no question in my mind that a young boy virtually nick named after the phrase “blow job” and who watched every man beat his mom, will grow up to be an other wife beater. He too will find a woman who doesn’t find him creepy or boring.

    He is likely 30 or 35 now.

    I worked in a center for abused women for a year. I can assure you that almost all the women lodged there were very violent.

    They look like poor beaten up victims the day after they get beaten. But once the scars have faded away, they all become very violent, loud, and angry.

    In fact that ‘Big Red’ loud mouth feminist in the Red Pill looks, talks, and acts like the typical woman in the shelter I worked at. I bet you my right arm that she is very violent to her partner, whoever or whatever that may be.

  3. The author seems to state opinions, not facts, in most of the article’s content. Starting with these comments: “While female mutilation is rightly deplored, circumcision is permitted. We allow people to perform what is in effect a cosmetic surgery with no medical benefits. Which causes significant nerve damage and lasting reduction of pleasure in male babies who cannot consent. This is a clear violation of the Hippocratic oath.”

    Anatomy will better inform a clitoris is not the same as foreskin. It is not wrong or cruel to remove a male infant’s foreskin and it is done solely for health benefits. Death by circumcision is extremely rare—unless, performed outside of a sterile hospital environment or by a person who is not a doctor. Perhaps the author is of opinion the surgical correction of a cleft palate—a far more complicated surgery—preferably administered while an infant “who cannot give consent” is also against the Hippocratic Oath?

    Where is it said in any medical journal that circumcision is done for “cosmetic” reasons. Does anybody know a guy who elects circumcision because he wants a better looking penis? Take the darn time to read about the many health benefits of surgically taking off extra foreskin, which is not enervated like a clitoris. It’s a preemptive procedure to protect men from infections, impede disease; helps to maintain cleanliness, no more build up of “cottage cheese” due to folds of excess skin tissue. Gosh—just read a medical book to get better informed!

    Many numbers of adult males choose to undergo circumcision in sterile hospital or outpatient setting with a professional medical doctor. Again, statistics show a nonexistent percentage of deaths by circumcision occuring in hospital. Stats reflect all adult males who go through the procedure at a later, age when it is much more complicated, emphatically affirm sex feels better, is more intense (their mates likewise agree) and also report how much easier it is to maintain cleanliness of the area. Maybe the author lacks male buddies who confide they are pissed off their parents didn’t get the procedure done when they were infants.

    I’ve yet to watch the suggested documentary but felt other topics in the article seem outdated now in many places; plus, no diligence in accurate reporting was given to important, factual medical criteria in which I’ve bloviated and begun to unintentionally sound like a pill.

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    1. Indeed, I have never heard any intact man say he regrets not having been circumcised as a child, but if anyone does feel that way, it is easy to undergo the operation as an adult and I would certainly support that if it’s someone’s free choice.

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    2. Letting the tip of the penis dry out and therefore killing the cells that produce the pleasure is better? How much sense does that make?

  4. the facts re: intimate partner violence are very clear, massive meta studies, decades of research (look up PASK study) demonstrate exactly what erin pizzey observed. women are just as violent as men and infact more likely to harm the children under their care than biological fathers. until these issues are recognised as a generational cyclic learnt behaviour our science informs us it to be, we’ll not curb the problem.

    feminist dogma, to this day shamelessly use this social ill for their financial and ideological gain at the expense of men and boys (and society as a whole), using literally billions of tax payer dollars to vilify and smear men.

    the dishonesty of feminists in the domestic violence sphere is so ingrained there is actual research into dishonest feminist research. examining their techniques used to achieve this. I’d suggest you look those up, quite an interesting and eye opening read.

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  5. The feminists in the movie continued to insist that the MRA’s were somehow anti feminist male supremecists but it seems to me that you can’t begin to subscribe to their cause unless you already accept feminism. It seems to me that men’s rights and women’s rights movements both Want to free people from traditional sex roles. The world could be so much better off and the sexes far more equal if the movements could merge. It also seems that the MRA’s are dying to have the feminists simply listen to them. I hope everyone sees this film.

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  6. Both my husband and I are Marine veterans, together we believe in the right of freedom of speech across the board. We feel that freedom to speech about all issues builds open minds that can help bridge the gaps of misconception. After watching this movie I was sadden to know how much men do suffer. An disturbed about how their freedom of speech was being shut out and shamed. I feel that the gentleman she interview in the MRM movement gave creditable evidence for their cause. They were respectful and thoughtful about their responses and even acknowledge that the classic feminist had good ideas. At the same time I was disappointed about how the feminist responded by either flat out belittling the MRM causes or denying factual evidence provided. I also felt the interview with “Big Red” was a must, because her lack of professionalism and bulling tactics of screaming gave viewers a GOOD example of what Extreme feminist have become. My husband and I enjoyed this movie. Mrs. Jayes did a wonderful job. I hope that she continues to produce more thought provoking documentaries.

  7. With all the obvious bias against men in Courts with regard to Child Custody, Child Support, DVRO’s and just everything. It is baffling to me how people like the author above can still even discuss whether there is MRA’s have legitimate complaints. I guess blinkers are kind of necessary to call yourself a feminits. Read http://www.RealWorldDivorce.com, learn the facts.

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  8. The authors opinion about circumcision is only that. A procedure still recommended by the American pediatric society gets that for a reason. There are health benefits including reduced risk of contracting sexually transmitted disease. Those are medical doctors recommending the procedure. They are the ones able to advise on that, not journalists. Also, the comparisons to female genital mutilation are ludacrous.

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    1. the two are entirely comparable, the “heal benefits” you list have been debunked over and over again and in countries where FGM is practised similar “medical based” excuses are also presented. the fact the practice is legal AND recommended by the APS should outrage everybody, however it seems in this day and age we’re still willing to excuse unnecessarily and harmful surgery on baby boys. disgraceful.

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  9. I’m male, not MRA and certainly not feminist either. I disagree with feminists and MRAs on many points, in particular this obsession that circumcision is some how an issue (medically speaking it’s more beneficial for males than not). That said, despite my ideological disagreements with the author (and MRAs) I would like to thank the author of this piece for a thoughtful and fair review and Cassie Jay for legitimately covering MRAs. Society needs more dialog, and less shouting down.

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  10. Sorry for the low substance comment (compared to the others) but I just have to mention my shock at reading something that puts feminism and this film together. I too, would consider myself someone who cares about the plight of women, but as a male I also see how this film is great because it shows the oft discarded plight of men. Most discussions about this film don’t have such a levelled and honeslty fair approach to understanding it, so this is quite the refreshing anomaly.

    Kudos!

  11. Wow the red hair lady basically made herself look like an idiot didn’t help her cause at all no compassion and she said we only want one thing no we are wanting much more but she don’t wanna close her ignorant mouth to listen

  12. I can’t believe spiller acts like the men don’t get a bad deal when it comes to kids yeah u can talk to a lady about kids befor sex but they just turn it around on u all the time not let u see the kids and other stuff it happens all the time them people wounded why guys don’t want
    To be in there kids lives well they can’t handle the games that a lady will play so yeah SPILLER stop being blind to the facts

  13. I haven’t finished this yet, but wanted to comment on one item before I forget. Having read Farrell’s work, I was interstingly curious upon reading your assertion that perhaps men are prone to risky behavior, and jobs, due to testosterone. Interesting point. If that’s true, aren’t you simply making the case for Darwinism and gender roles? If so, don’t women belong in the kitchen, and men in the ditch? Also, should that be genetic, as it seems we agree, why does it to me appear that our expectations of men still remain as provider, sole, or largest bread-winner, leaving women to what appears to be pursuit driven roles? Furthermore, if you can assign life expectancy to testosterone, how can the gap have widened so much, in less than a century? Do you have data to support that? My thoughts assume a monogamous couple, and don’t negate single-motherhood. However, studies show that men play a far more active role in child-rearing, significantly, assuming dad is present. Or, is this the cause OF single-motherhood? OR, is single-motherhood, and their absentee partner, the result of feminism, the new deal, etc.?

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    1. People belong wherever they freely choose, as individuals. Our job, as a society, is to simply ensure all barriers and prejudices are removed so that people’s choices are truly free.

      1. “Our job, as a society, is to simply ensure all barriers and prejudices are removed so that people’s choices are truly free”

        Ionia, did you forget about the psychopaths, pedophiles and other kinds of perverts existing in society—do you think they deserve to freely exert their choices?

        It gets complicated but know you mean well.

  14. “Similarly, some of the statistics the MSM cites as evidence of society’s mistreatment of men – such as the fact that men are more likely to take on high-risk jobs which may result in workplace injuries and deaths or that men live, on average, six years less than women – may be the result of testosterone and its related biological and psychological effects, rather than social oppression.”

    Similarly, some of the statistics the Feminist cites as evidence of society’s mistreatment of women – such as the fact that women are less likely to take on high-risk jobs and jobs with managerial responsibility which may result in a on average 21% lower hourly earnings – may be the result of less testosterone and its related biological and psychological effects, rather than social oppression.”

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  15. I noticed especially this sentence:
    ” . . . some of the statistics the MSM cites as evidence of society’s mistreatment of men – such as the fact that men are more likely to take on high-risk jobs which may result in workplace injuries and deaths or that men live, on average, six years less than women – may be the result of testosterone and its related biological and psychological effects, rather than social oppression. ”
    Now, we are used to hear that feminists are uncompromisingly against any biological explanation for the relatively poor situation of women in certain fields. The poor situation, according to them, can only be due to faults in the social system and thus must be remedied.
    But here we see that i men are in a poor situation in certain other fields, then the explanation must be biological, rather than having something to do with faults in the social system, so such problems concerning men should not be remedied.
    Double standard.
    By the way, there seems to be no evidence that the shorter lifespan of men than of women has a biological explanation. For instance, monks and nuns that live quiet lives in monasteries live approximately equally long. So if the lifespan somehow is an integration of all harsh and pleasant experiences during life, then we may conclude that men on average have a harder life than women.

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    1. On the contrary there is biological evidence and studies on it. Almost certainly a contributing factor is that having two X chromosomes, women keep double copies of every gene, meaning they have a spare if one is faulty. Men don’t have that back-up. The result is that more cells may begin to malfunction with time, putting men at greater risk of disease

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  16. What the author and movie avoid is the male and female oppression are constructs of gender roles which are constructs of the male female dynamic.
    Prison, racism, violence, murder, homelessness, homophobia, mental illness, suicide, reproductive rights, rampant misandry in our courts, workplace discrimination, workplace injuries and death, military deaths, parental bias, failing our veterans failing education, lack of empathy and compassion, lack of choices, degradation, dehumanization, etc., are all overwhelmingly male experiences of gender injustice. Even sexual assault and domestic violence equally affect men. These are all examples of historical disadvantages that men have endured due to male gender role expectations

    There’s a huge male underclass in this society, as compared to those in power, influence and authority. Chivalrous men who more often than not attain their influence, power and authority at the expense of other mens value, rights, justice, dignity, humanity and compassion. Patriarchy is actually a construct of the male female dynamic. It is a collective male gender role response to female demands for deference, protection and resource provision. Since the dawn of humanity men have slaughter each other by the billions to fulfill gender role expectations and seek approval from potential mates. Yet feminism still reinforces male gender roles with the help of white knights in power, influence and authority. Women through feminism have thrown off gender roles that they deem oppresses or victimizes them. Now it’s men’s turn.

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  17. Circumcision isn’t just a violation of the Hippocratic Oath which is merely an abstract intellectual principle about medical ethics. Circumcision is an ugly euphemism for the criminal act of raping, torturing, and sexually mutilating a child. Those who survive male genital mutilation (every year babies die) are sentence to a lifelong injury that is physical, emotional, and spiritual.

    The first step of male genital mutilation is to penetrate the penis with a weapon called a circumcision probe to tear the foreskin off from the glans. At birth the foreskin is fused to head of the penis like a fingernail. Next the penis is put into a clamp and the foreskin is crushed. Finally, the foreskin is amputated. All the while the baby’s brain is recording every sensation and screaming bloody murder.

    If performed in a religious context, the assailant may finish the procedure by forcing the infant’s penis into his or her mouth to suck the blood off of it. This is called metzitzah b’peh and it still happens in 2017 in the United States to American citizens who live in fundamentalist religious communities. There are cases every year of herpes or other communicable disease being transmitted to the infant, which is sometimes fatal.

    This is far more than a violation of the Hippocratic Oath. It’s child rape of the absolute worst kind. No person can escape genital mutilation without incurring psychological trauma.

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  18. “If women’s rights are close to our hearts, men’s should be too.”

    But they’re not. Feminist Theory 101 says men (especially white men) are oppressors of women and minorities under patriarchy and therefor cannot be discriminated against or oppressed in any way by a woman, women, or minorities.

    Balanced reviews like this are nice to see, but it’s like putting band-aids on third-degree burns. The idea that feminists want equality for men too, and to stop injustices against men are still, to this day, just that: nice words. When feminists protest along side men against the divorce industry and the joke that is the family law system, then I will believe that feminists are allies of men and hearing OUR stories and what things WE have lost.

    When feminists stop silencing and no-platforming male speakers on men’s issues then I will START to believe that feminists care about men.

    Until then, it’s all just band-aids and nice words.

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  19. Iona, that was a well thought out review. I saw Casey Jaey struggling at times throughout the movie. I believe this was her experiencing cognitive dissonance. In regards to your comments of domestic violence, i hope that you do further research. http://www.oneinthree.com.au/ . Also with your comments of male suicide does not reflect peered reviewed studies in australia, i suggest that you contact Griffith University and ask why they are considered the lead national body on suicide and whether children are a protective mechanism against suicide and a denial of access a clear source of male suicide. Also ask if the ABS figures of 6 suicdes a day are accurate and why the ABS themseleves state they do not have accurate data https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B_nCBgRb8hSYNndjd0NhZXRyazA

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