There’s a new feminist controversy in town. It’s called The Red Pill - a documentary by Cassie Jaye about Men’s Rights Activism. You don’t need to have watched the documentary to read this (it’s not a review), but please be aware that this post contains triggering subjects.
If you’re not familiar with Men’s Rights Activism you’d be led to believe from their name that they fight for rights for men. This is what The Red Pill documentary focusses on, and the men interviewed certainly make some valid points. However, despite the documentary being two hours long, it managed to miss out A LOT of what MRA’s actually do, and I mean A LOT.
Let’s start at the beginning – my beginning at least. I first stumbled upon the manophere a few years ago when I came across some articles by a man named Matt Forney:
I soon strayed onto A Voice for Men - a website set up by Paul Elam who is one of the most ‘famous’ members of the MRA community who features prominently in The Red Pill documentary.
Wikipedia defines Gynocentrism as ‘a dominant or exclusive focus on women in theory or practice; or to the advocacy of this. Anything can be considered gynocentric when it is concerned exclusively with a female (or specifically a feminist) point of view.’
Paul Elam once wrote the following in an article on A Voice for Men:
“And the women who drink and make out, doing everything short of sex with men all evening, and then go to his apartment at 2:00 a.m.. Sometimes both of these women end up being the “victims” of rape. But are these women asking to get raped? In the most severe and emphatic terms possible the answer is NO, THEY ARE NOT ASKING TO GET RAPED.
They are freaking begging for it.
Damn near demanding it.”
This has since been taken down, with an explanation criticizing the media for quoting this as an example of ‘typical’ MRA views.
Then I found Roosh V. He's not in The Red Pill, probably because he says he’s not an MRA, he’s a ‘neomasculinist’ (a term I think he made up himself to feel special). Reggie Yates made an interesting BBC documentary series, one episode of which featured Roosh (no longer available on iPlayer but on YouTube here). Roosh is a Pick Up Artist (these are sometimes called PUA’s) and he’s written numerous books, most of which have the word ‘Bang’ in them (eg ‘Day Bang’, ‘Bang Poland’, ‘Bang Ukraine’ and simply ‘Bang’).
He has written so many awful articles, such as the one above, that I could write a long post on him alone (not that I’d want to give him that much attention). A lot of MRA’s are internet trolls only interested in promoting their websites and books. One of Roosh’s worst articles is called ‘How to stop rape’ – sounds ok at first, right? Wrong…
“I thought about this problem and am sure I have the solution: make rape legal if done on private property. I propose that we make the violent taking of a woman not punishable by law when done off public grounds.” – Roosh V, ‘How to stop rape’
Roosh owns Return of Kings which is similar site to Paul Elam’s A Voice for Men ie it’s run by men who say they support men’s rights but instead dedicate most their time to slagging off women. It’s a shame their energy isn’t resulting in anything constructive towards the men rights they all supposedly believe in. Paul Elam’s ‘Activism’ page was empty last time I looked.
The Return of Kings website has posts like ‘How feminism wrecked the social contract between the sexes’ - (I’m not going to link to these articles as I don’t want to give them the traffic) – this includes a horrendous video of ‘women getting hit back’ and outlines how things would be better if men were more masculine and women just stuck to being pretty and told what to do.
In a world where almost all terrorists and mass shooters are male, I don’t think ‘being more masculine’ is the solution to this somehow.
Return of Kings also has an article called ‘8 ways to spot a transsexual’ where they say:
‘It’s cross-dressing men who are so mentally ill that they think they’re women.’
There's a funny irony to their transphobia. The term ‘the red pill’ is explained by Paul Elam in the documentary as being from the film The Matrix - you take the red pill to 'wake up' to reality. However, on his site A Voice for Men it says:
‘…the entire notion of a red pill that can make one return to reality/sanity comes from the movie Total Recall of 1990, not The Matrix that came out nine years later.’
This change is of course nothing to do with the fact that The Matrix is made by the Wachowski’s – two now transgender women. Of course it's nothing to do with that. Sure.
My worry is that people watching The Red Pill documentary with no prior knowledge of the manosphere will take it at face value. The points made in the documentary are not untrue – they discuss male domestic abuse survivors, fathers rights, male suicide rates – all of them a cause for concern. But MRA’s are not tackling these issues in the most constructive way, they’re blaming women instead. Many MRA’s seem obsessed with destroying feminists – the ones who are supposedly stealing their rights. It’s as if they think there’s only enough power for one certain set of people – predominately straight white men, ie THEM.
If they were so passionate, surely they would be running campaigns and setting up charities to help men in these situations. Through my research, I haven’t seen much evidence of them trying to change things for the better. If there were some constructive projects to help men’s mental health to help reduce the suicide rate, or help men affected by domestic violence, then I think many feminists (such as myself) would want to help. But they seem to write these things that purposely provoke feminists to get a reaction. Then when they get angry responses, they can say 'oh look at all these angry crazy feminiazi's, we were right.' It's a manipulative game they're playing and many feminists are falling right into the trap.
Despite Cassie Jaye interviewing a lot of people for The Red Pill, the bulk of the air time was given to the MRA’s. The few feminists were not portrayed well. Take for instance ‘Big Red’ – she’s the one with the bright red hair in the memes shouting ‘patriarchy’ and telling people to ‘shut the fuck up’. She's become the poster girl ‘feminazi’ it seems, when she’s actually just one person who was very angry in that moment. But she certainly didn’t deserve all the trolling, including rape and death threats, from MRA’s:
“In about 12-24hours, I got about400-500 new messages on my blog, most of them hate, which included rape and death threats, also people wishing death upon me or the typical troll “kill yourself” message. They made a meme of me.” - Big Red, We Hunted the Mammoth
There’s no doubt the documentary swings in favour of the MRA’s, despite Cassie Jaye insisting that she wanted it to be ‘fair and balanced’. Due to lack of funding when making the film, she started a Kickstarter campaign, which was promoted by general douche-bag Milo Yiannopoulos in a Breitbart article. So the film was funded largely by Men’s Rights Activists, plus some of the producers are in fact MRA’s too. Balanced...? My arse.
Mike Cernovich is one of The Red Pill's associate producers. He sees Donald Trump as a ‘kindred spirit’ and he supported Gamergate – a movement which involved the severe online abuse of female video gamers. He Tweeted such things as ‘who cares about breast cancer and rape? Not me’ and admits to using online trolling to promote his brand.
And here's Cassie Jaye - the documentary maker - hanging out with Matt Forney...
'Balanced' isn't even close.
I can’t believe in a whole 2 hour documentary about the manophere there wasn’t a single mention of the words ‘feminazi’ or ‘game’. These are two terms so widely used by MRA’s – the first referring to feminists being just like Nazi’s (because they're just like them), and the second referring to the art of picking up women. Now, this is where it can get confusing as there are Pick Up Artists (PUA’s) and MRA’s (and there’s also MGTOW – Men Going Their Own Way) and there is conflict between the groups but it’s too long and arduous to get into. The PUA’s, like Roosh V, seem to be the main teachers of ‘game’ by which they rate women on a scale of 1 to 10 on their attractiveness.
Roosh V has an online forum, but another popular hangout is Reddit. Neither are very nice places to be. There are sprawling threads about the 'red pill' theory, about how to get women, about hating feminists and about how to be more masculine and dominant (with threads like 'how to get a body which attracts women' - masculine body standards can seem as harsh as women's at times) , and of course politics.
“You could have a wife that does whats she's told when she's told if we had governments that gave men the power in the relationship which is natural in nature as men are stronger and smarter. What we need is a government that enforces men to be men and women to be women.” – commenter on Reddit.
There are sad comments too, by which I mean you can almost feel sorry for them. Lonely guys who just want to get a girlfriend. Guys who are so bitter about women it makes you wonder how much they've been hurt by women in their own lives. These men have been fucked over by the patriarchy as much as women have. Striving for such a high standard of masculinity means some men are even considering suicide. The overwhelming thing I found when reading these comments, and from watching The Red Pill, is that these men are hurting. Some of them seem like they’ve had relationship or family issues which have been traumatic, but due to the sigma around men asking for help they’ve not been able to work through these issues in a healthy way. They desperately need gender equality as much a feminists do. They’re looking for a supportive community in which to heal themselves, but they’re in a world where blame is offered as the answer.
I have concerns about the younger or more vulnerable men entering the manosphere. The MRA’s now are teaching the next generation that you get your way by calling people names, trolling on Twitter, and using anger to get what they want instead of peaceful conversations. It’s the anger and difficulties that young men face now that lead them to violent behaviour, not just towards others but to themselves. It probably won’t be Paul Elam or any of the men in The Red Pill that rape women or walk into a school and kill a bunch of kids, it’ll be the men they influence.
When the US President says things like ‘grab her by the pussy’, these violent, misogynist views are being justified. We’re living in a world potentially even more dangerous for women than it already has been. These men on the internet are scared of never getting laid, whereas women are scared men will rape them.
Hate speech is becoming a more normal way to communicate. You only have to type feminism into YouTube and there are pages of ‘feminist fails’ videos with awful, hateful comments all over them:
If you need any more proof that The Red Pill documentary presents a very limited view, there’s a Trump supporter feed about Netflix refusing to stream it, with slagging off Orange is the New Black/Dear White People and other shows because they’re ‘too PC’.
We are never going to be able to communicate effectively through hateful comments on YouTube videos or by ranting on a red pill thread on Reddit. Or ranting in a feminist group on Facebook for that matter.
‘Free speech’ is often the go-to argument used by MRA's, but it’s used to shut down any opinions they don’t agree with. Basically, free speech only applies to them. It’s incredibly hard to know how we can have a successful dialogue with these men. They see masculinity as the epitome of everything wonderful. Maybe we need to call on other men to help us, to show that they can still be a ‘real man’ by being kind, compassionate and respectful. We can also help by keeping calm and not falling for their bait on social media. We should try not to stereotype people but also not to live up to our own stereotypes. Feminists have every right to be angry, they’ve been treated like shit by a lot of people and still continue to be, but being the aggressive, ranty feminist is only going to prove the MRA’s right.
It’s harder for somebody to be mean if you’re kind to them. It’s like when working in customer service if a customer is angry – if you remain calm and smile it’s more likely to calm them down. This may not work online so well but it's worth a try. Something bland can work too eg 'I'm sorry you feel that way' (you of course don't have to be sorry!)
Otherwise, maybe just reply with a cute cat GIF.
Alternatively, the benefit of the internet is - you don’t have to reply. There will be times when you can choose not to engage. Save yourself time and stress, choose to turn off and maybe go and read a book or something instead.
It seems MRA’s and feminists are going around in circles. MRA’s are blaming feminists for apparently blaming men. These blame cycles are not getting anyone anywhere. We can all help by trying to communicate online in a non-aggressive way. I work for a relationship counselling charity and was struck by something one of our therapists said about the state of politics at the moment – the opposing sides are like a bickering couple that can’t communicate without shouting. It feels like a similar relationship between feminists and MRA’s. Communicating online is so tough as we can’t sense the persons tone or see their body language. It means things can often be taken the wrong way.
It seems silly to say ‘don’t be mean,’ but seriously – don’t be a dick. You may think calling someone a ‘fat fuck’ is a joke, but most people probably wouldn’t find that very funny. Think about what you hope to achieve from your words. Overall, I think most people want others to see things from their point of view, in which case you especially should be nice! If trying to engage, using ‘I’ statements might help eg ‘I feel’ instead of ‘you made me feel like’ – this can help someone understand your experience without accusing them and making them feel attacked.
Try to focus on your goal and what you can do to help (as I’m attempting to do now at the end of this post!) Try to be aware of what you don’t know. Sounds ridiculous I know, but we only see the world from our own tiny perspective. We have no idea what people we speak to online were been doing earlier in the day. We don’t know if they just had an argument with their partner, if they have a stressful job or if they have a mental health issue. We only feel the weight of our own hardships. Until we can take steps to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, to learn enough humility to consider that others have had a different/worse experience than our own, we won’t be able to move forward. That’s the brilliant thing about our brains, we can learn and rewire the way we think. To change your mind shows at least you’ve opened your perspective enough to see another way.
“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
Kindness is so hard to teach. I’m not claiming to know how to resolve these huge conflicts but I know that fighting each other is an old, out-dated technique. It’s time we evolved beyond that.
Suggested resources for men and mental health:
CALM – The Campaign Against Living Miserably: https://www.thecalmzone.net/about-calm/what-is-calm/
Fathers for justice - http://www.fathers-4-justice.org/
Men's advice line - http://www.mensadviceline.org.uk/ 0808 801 0327
Samaritans - http://www.samaritans.org/welisten?gclid=CMqXooe-4dQCFZ2p7QodtmkFVw
I've written a short story about a young vulnerable man sucked into the manophere - available to read here.