The Red Pill Movie (review)

The Red Pill – A Feminist’s Journey into the Men’s Rights Movement is a 2016 documentary directed by Cassie Jaye. Jaye acknowledges her feminist worldview at the beginning of the film. While researching “rape culture”, she discovered articles written about various men’s rights Web sites, most notably A Voice for Men, a site started and maintained by men’s rights activist (MRA) Paul Elam. Mainstream articles about such sites frame men’s rights groups as “hate groups”, who use the Web as a platform for sharing and propagating woman-hating, anti-feminist, misogynistic ideology. Jaye’s idea for the film was born of the interest in what men’s rights activism is really about – who are these people, and what are they taking issue with? Is the men’s rights movement just a backlash against feminism, comprised of men who are upset that women are making advances toward equality, and lashing out in misogynistic hatred?

Jaye thus begins her journey, spanning a period of time during which she met with and interviewed leaders in not only the men’s rights movement, but also leaders at the fore of the feminist movement. The metaphor of going down the rabbit hole, from Alice in Wonderland, is leveraged to characterize the feeling of disorientation she experienced while being exposed to information that seems so alien to her accepted view of reality; namely, that the social deck is actually stacked against men in some substantial, even horrific ways. Throughout the film, the prevailing feminist ideology that men are Oppressors and women are The Oppressed – that somehow men have an unfair advantage at the expense of women – is flipped upside down through personal testimonies and careful analysis of the validity of commonly held views based on social demographic studies.

I appreciated that Cassie Jaye took care not to minimize the real issues women face. She is one herself, and she seemed honest in her struggle to process what she was learning while keeping her mind open to the facts. This is what we need more of today – an openness to the truth and a willingness to examine our own beliefs. As is par for the modern course, dogma tends to rule the day, and this film is effective at deconstructing feminist dogma and turning a listening ear to the voices that tend to be shouted into irrelevance.

When you hear the term “domestic violence”, what images does it conjure? Maybe a billboard presenting a woman’s battered face? An angry man in a wife-beater t-shirt, a woman cowered in the corner, fearing for her life? When you hear that 1 in 3 women are affected by domestic violence of some type, do you also hear that 1 in 4 men are also affected? If domestic violence is perpetrated on each gender nearly 50/50, why is domestic violence largely presented in the media as a women’s issue? Why are there two-thousand or more shelters for female victims of domestic violence in the United States, and only one for men? Domestic violence is a human issue, perpetrated on both genders. Where is the outrage when it is perpetrated on men? Have you ever stopped to consider that domestic violence perpetrated on men is possible? This is just one example of many men’s issues the film explores, from the biased family court systems to reproductive rights, paternity fraud, and suicide rates. The information and data presented stands in stark contrast to the messages we receive from feminism in our culture.

I particularly enjoyed the segments focused on the Honey Badger Brigade, a team of female men’s rights activists. These ladies get it. They do not drink the feminist kool-aid. I would proudly be the first registrant were there ever to be a certified Honey Badger dating app.

The Red Pill was screened in select theaters worldwide in 2016, and was released to most major video streaming services this week on Tuesday, March 7th. I went to a screening in Seattle, Washington in January of this year. Some screenings, such as one in Melbourne Australia, were canceled after feminists petitioned to have this “misogynistic propaganda film” shut down. The claim that The Red Pill deals in misogyny is ridiculous and untrue. I am thrilled that the film’s reach has expanded, and I am looking forward to seeing how the dialogue progresses in the coming years. If we want to survive as a species, we cannot continue to foster a system where gender relations present a threat to either sex. We are all in this together. Real equality does not tip the scales to anyone’s advantage, or treat anyone as a means to an end (see Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative).

The screening I attended closed to applause from both men and women. That was heartening, especially in Seattle. I left the theater with a sense of hope, and I wanted to give Cassie Jaye a big hug. Let this post be that metaphorical hug.

Thank you Cassie!

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Whatever Happened to Polite Discourse about Ideas?

Regardless of where you stand on recent political events, I think you would be hard-pressed to argue today that tolerance for conflicting ideas and freedom of speech is being observed. The news of late has been a carnival of misinformation, name-calling, slander and hatred, the likes of which I have seldom seen, with warring sides laying claim to the “real” truth and leveling horrific accusations at one another. Reading and listening to the news has become akin to voluntarily drinking poison – the venom and vitriol are acidic; and bitterness and rage are contagious. I do not choose to surround myself with corrosive influences in my personal life, but they are finding their way in through my desire to follow current events. I am in a toxic relationship with the news.

The climate is not improving in the wake of the recent presidential election. It is getting worse. We are a nation at war with itself, and a house divided cannot stand. This concerns me deeply. Rather than polite discourse about ideas, we have a kind of raving domestic violence case. We are shrieking incoherent condemnations in a pitched battle for total control, aiming for complete annihilation of our opponents. When emotions run this high, we lose sight of real issues. At the end of the day, we are all in this American thing together, and we have more in common than we are letting on. We are focused on our differences, and inventing boogeymen. Who exactly is attacking race, religion, and gender? Who is promoting the exclusion of anyone from constitutional protection, or proposing that anyone cannot be part of this nation based on the above, should they pursue it legally? I could argue convincingly that men, and especially fathers, have been stripped of their reproductive rights and the right to pursue happiness by corrupt government bodies and family court systems – who out there cares about that, when we can decry male privilege? Maybe putting an end to toxic masculinity is the higher priority. When did feminists decide to take up defense of Islam and Sharia Law, systems that actually do oppress women and deny their fundamental rights?

Dogma. It is in part why I abandoned my religious upbringing. When your arguments don’t make sense anymore, and are not grounded in reason, but are driven by a desire to advance your worldview and see your ideas implemented at any cost, then truth becomes subjective. I have seen journalists and talking heads using the term “post-truth” to describe the condition of our present discourse, implying that we’re not working with facts anymore; we’re just saying whatever we want and calling it truth. They are right, to a degree. Where they err is in the assertion that the political right is the faction creating this post-truth culture. It is everyone. Liberals are outraged when they claim that conservatives don’t pay any attention to data, and then they present disingenuous interpretation of data to serve their cause. Take the gender wage gap myth. The only way to argue that there is a gender wage gap is by taking the mean salary of all employed American males, and comparing it to the mean salary of all employed American females, regardless of title and position. The mean female salary comes out lower.  But when one accounts for all relevant variables, by taking a look at mean salaries between males and females working the exact same jobs, the gap is reduced nearly to the vanishing point. A reporter for the Huffington Post, a left-leaning news outlet, revealed this in an article entitled “Wage Gap Myth Exposed – by Feminists” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christina-hoff-sommers/wage-gap_b_2073804.html). And yet, we still hear the wage gap myth coming out of government talking heads and feminists everywhere. If you point out the facts, and you happen to be male, you are labeled a misogynist, a woman-hater. God help you if you are also white.

We are witnessing a war on truth, a siege on ideas. Somehow we have lost our ability to discuss our differences politely – that, or wherever it happens, it’s not getting attention. Free speech is under attack. Race and gender baiting are shamelessly leveraged to arrest the discussion of actual issues. I’m not saying our country doesn’t have any issues to deal with in these areas, but for everyone’s sake, we must stop generating hysterical national crises that do not exist.  I would like to turn on the television one day and hear a real debate, where meaningful data is evaluated rationally, and minds change in the undeniable light of the facts. Where hatred and incoherent rhetoric are no longer mainstream. But I do not believe that goal can be achieved by the silencing of dissenting voices in order to create a safe-space utopia where nobody is ever offended. We will always be passionate, emotional, conflicted human beings. We will always think and say dumb and hurtful things. That is our right, and that right is protected by the first amendment.

America, please… can we just talk?

Snowmageddon 2017

If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you’re well aware that we are on day two of a significant winter weather event. We received the most snowfall in the area (for February) since 1990. Overnight temperatures in the high 20’s have meant icy and treacherous driving in the mornings, and I am working from home today, like most my colleagues – staying alive.

It’s times like these, when the world quiets down and there’s nowhere to go, nature’s spires and fronds blanketed in silent, frosty white, that I like to reflect on the horrors of third and fourth-wave feminism. Just kidding – I reflect on feminism all the time. The weather has nothing to do with it, although I would liken the overall posture of modern feminism to an icy winter’s morn, and the gender war landscape to an inch-thick sheen of ice on a crowded city street. Travel at your own risk.

These are shallow observations. I have quite a few books to read and people to talk to before I expound on modern feminism and the gender wars. That day is coming.  I can’t avoid the ice forever.

Feminism is threaded through my religious upbringing and de-conversion story. I am still grappling with exactly how to interpret and tell it.I will say this: I have no problem with real gender equality, and I don’t know anyone who does. There is something else going on these days.

Just some thoughts, as I wait for the end of Snowmageddon 2017.

Stay safe!

 

 

Pussy Hats

I have to take a break from my story today, and get something off my mind; something that has been bugging me since the Women’s March that took place on Saturday, January 21.

I have no problem with peaceful assembly and protest, and I do not deny that women have had a hard fight for rights over the decades that they should have had to begin with, as human beings of unquestionable and equal value. I have a high degree of respect for women, which is why I was baffled and disappointed by some of the things I observed during the march.

Enter the Pussy Hat.

pssyhat

You can see an ocean of them here:

gty-womens-march-washington-4-jt-170121_12x5_1600

I get it – many in this crowd have female genitalia. They’re women. That’s great. But with nearly a million people congregated at the nation’s capitol, the unifying symbol was… a pussy hat? I started grappling with the meaning of this immediately. I googled “pussy hat” (carefully), and found the movement’s web site at http://www.pussyhatproject.com (nothing lewd here, but probably NSFW because of the nature of the language). According to the web site, the Pussy Hat Project started back in November 2016. This is the Project’s two-part mission statement:

“1. Provide the  people of Washington D.C. a means to make a unique collective visual statement which will help activists to be better heard.”

“2. Provide people who cannot physically be on the National Mall a way to represent themselves and support women’s rights.”

A unique visual statement was most definitely made, but what was it? Which rights were we talking about in a sea of pink, knitted pussy hats gathered at the National Mall? If the Project had to reduce its message to a single symbol for visual effect, was this the right one? Was this not the symbol of the very thing that Donald Trump boasted about grabbing, in an awful sound byte that aired in the run up to the presidential election? Maybe that was the point – to rub it in the president’s face. Pardon the pun.

Jokes aside, I question the project and the symbolism. The message seems rather crude, and I think it distracts from the real issues women face. I saw photographs of children wearing these hats. My own daughters witnessed this on television. Are they old enough to comprehend what they are seeing? Might a little girl subconsciously absorb the message that the most important thing about a woman’s identity and message is her genitalia? Would it be unreasonable to think that the Pussy Hat Project has objectified women? What if we had elected a woman president, and a million men marched on the Capitol with Dick Hats? Begin the process of trying to forget that visual.

Aside from hats, there were a number of other crude and irresponsible demonstrations at the National Mall, including Madonna’s use of hard expletives and openly claiming to have fantasized about blowing up the White House on live national television. I think a movement can, and should, do better than all this. I have no doubt that there were many people at the march who clearly articulated their real concerns, even their anger, with dignity and class. It would be unfair and inaccurate to paint the entire movement as vulgar and irresponsible; my intent is not to do that, nor to minimize the positions and feelings of the marchers.

Still, I can’t help but feel a bit put-off by the gender-based rage and animosity that I witnessed. The symbols and messages seemed vague and sometimes inappropriate, extreme in their vitriol. A few casting a shadow over the many, I certainly hope. Are things really this bad?

I waited in line behind a woman waiting for coffee at work today. She was wearing a pussy hat. I had a negative, unspoken internal reaction. Therein lies the problem, and I do not think that was the Pussy Hat Project’s goal. Then again, maybe it was, and things are much worse than we’d like to admit. .