When feminist filmmaker Cassie Jaye sets out to document the mysterious and polarizing world of the Men’s Rights Movement, she begins to question her own beliefs. Jaye had only heard about the Men’s Rights Movement as being a misogynist hate-group aiming to turn back the clock on women’s rights, but when she spends a year filming the leaders and followers within the movement, she learns the various ways men are disadvantaged and discriminated against.
The film chronicles Jaye meeting the most influential and polarizing men's rights activists and advocates (MRAs) of today, including: Dr. Warren Farrell, author of The Myth Of Male Power; Paul Elam, founder of A Voice for Men; Harry Crouch, President of the National Coalition For Men; and Erin Pizzey, founder of the first women’s shelter in the UK. The film also features rebuttals by leaders and scholars within the modern day feminist movement, including: Katherine Spillar, Executive Editor of Ms. Magazine and Executive Director of the Feminist Majority Foundation; Dr. Michael Kimmel, renowned sociologist specializing in gender studies and author of Angry White Men; and Michael Messner, Gender Studies Professor at the University of Southern California.
Throughout filming, Jaye documented her struggle to understand the MRA point of view by recording ‘video diaries’ which are gracefully interwoven throughout the film. Jaye learns about what MRAs call ‘Male Disposability’, the theory of why men are the majority of workplace deaths and injuries, war deaths, suicides, and why they have a shorter life expectancy. Jaye goes on to explore Father’s Rights issues including child custody, paternity fraud (where a man finds out he is not the biological father when he was believed to have been) and pregnancy entrapment (when a women lies about using birth control to trick a man into fathering her child). MRAs claim that domestic violence laws favor female victims over male victims and funding disproportionately supports over 2,000 domestic violence shelters for women and allowing for only one domestic violence shelter for men in the U.S.
While men’s rights groups gather on college campuses to discuss these men’s issues, they are often shut down due to feminist protestors barricading the entrance and even pulling the fire alarm. Jaye explores the growing ideological battle between feminists and men’s right activists.
Taking its title from a term coined by The Matrix, a popular 1999 film and a common metaphor used within the men’s rights community, The Red Pill challenges the audience to pull back the veil, question societal norms, and expose themselves to an alternate perspective on gender equality, power and privilege.
Director’s Statement by Cassie Jaye
It was March 2013 and I had just completed the screening tour of my feature documentary The Right to Love, a film about one family’s fight for same-sex marriage rights. Before that film, my body of work consisted of women’s issue films, including my first film Daddy I Do, which examined Purity Balls, where girls as young as 6-years-old pledge their virginity to their father. I also made a documentary about the lack of women in engineering calledThe Story of GoldieBlox and another film for the International Museum of Women called Making Mothers Visible. There’s no denying that my interests have always been centered around gender issues, so when I came across the brash online community of the Men’s Rights Movement, I was intrigued.
Fate had it that I was searching for my next film topic while a controversial men’s rights website called A Voice For Men was growing in popularity. All I had heard the media say was that A Voice For Men (AVFM) and the larger Men’s Rights Movement (MRM) is a misogynistic hate group determined to turn back the clock on women’s rights. I was considering other options for film topics, but something kept drawing me back to exploring AVFM and the MRM. I wanted to see for myself who these Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs) really were.
The first person I reached out to was the President and Founder of A Voice For Men, Paul Elam, the most notorious MRA. After some hesitation, he agreed to do an interview with me, which turned into a year of me filming him and other leaders and followers of the MRM. However, the story I intended to make was not the story that this film ultimately became.
During my year of filming, I kept video diaries for my own research purposes; I wanted to document what topics and talking points drew me in, and what I was still struggling to understand. While discussing the film with my producer, Nena Jaye (who also happens to be my mother), I showed her one of my personal video diaries. At that moment she suggested that the film should include my video diaries and show the audience my psychological battle with this topic as a feminist filmmaker. I didn’t commit to the idea of including my own story until a couple years later. It was the most difficult decision to make since I’ve always felt more comfortable with the fly-on-the-wall approach. However, my struggle to understand men’s rights issues and the turmoil I experienced in questioning my long-held feminist beliefs set the tone to have an open and honest discussion exploring opposing gender ideologies.
My hope for this film is to educate audiences on the issues that face men and boys in our society today and analyze why the current gender discussion is not fully inclusive. I don’t have all of the answers, but I believe the first step in the right direction is asking the uncomfortable questions.
I know this film may cause visceral reactions in some people, but I now believe that if you aim to understand, you will never be offended.
The Gender Equity Network will be showing The Red Pill at UCL on 8th Dec 2016. Details here http://www.genderequitynetwork.org.uk/events
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