The Red Pill documentary – Not the cesspool of misogyny you might think it is.

Image result for the red pill documentary

The Red Pill is a documentary film about a self identified feminist Cassie Hayes and her investigating the Men’s Right’s Activism movement. The film features interviews with prominent MRAs like Paul Elam, counterpoint interviews with feminists, and footage of confrontations between feminists and MRAs.

The film starts with Cassie explaining that she’d heard of deeply misogynistic MRAs and so looks in to investigate. The film ends with her saying ‘I don’t know where I’m headed, but I know what I’ve left behind – I no longer call myself a feminist’.

My overall impressions on this film as a film is positive. The production quality is good, and I was engaged throughout. This film is easy to watch.

I think it’s fair to say that the film is a pro-MRA film, despite its claim that it started out as critical investigation of MRAs.

I found the film very convincing, it that it made persuasive arguments that MRAs can be reasonable people with legitimate grievances.

The film covers a few specific MRA issues, which I’ll cover – but I think the main point of the film is not intended as a comprehensive run down of men’s rights issues, but to portray MRAs as reasonable people, and also to highlight the conflict between MRAs and feminists, or to suggest that the portrayal of MRAs as misogynists is unfounded.

Some of the issues covered were:

  • Men are subject to wrongful paternity or paternity fraud, and in some cases legislation prevents men from having recourse. (For example, the film mentions how in France paternity testing is illegal without the mother’s consent).
  • It presents the example of Carnell Alexander, where the law in some places is such that in order for a woman to qualify for welfare they need to put a name on a birth certificate, which has some men being put on birth certificates when they’re not the father.
  • One MRA tells a heartbreaking story about the parenting dispute with his ex over their son. He alleges that she was intentionally overfeeding him, and whereby he eventually gives up custody. In this story – I wish I could have heard the other side of the story, not that interviewing the mother was necessarily possible.

One bit that did give me pause was when an MRA was giving an example of wrong paternity, the example he gives is ‘Ok, we went to a party, I had sex with six guys, I think it was when I was hanging out the window I got pregnant I’m not sure.. and then she names one of the other guys who didn’t have sex with her’.
I thought this hypothetical situation was gratuitous and fell on the slutshaming siding of things. A more neutral example of wrongful paternity could have been given.

There are several moments that to me do strike me as legitimate grievances of men’s rights activists or criticisms of feminism.

For example, there’s footage of feminists confronting men’s rights activists that looks pretty awful.

Or this scene from a talk show where women cheer tricking a man into concieving a child:

 

There were a couple of points that I found poignant, and that I hadn’t considered:

  • The concept of men being objectified as a ‘success object’ in the same way that women have been objectified as sex objects.
  • Cassie mentions that whenever MRAs bring up men’s issues, she feels the need to respond with women’s issues. She then considers that perhaps when MRAs have been doing this in response to feminist talking points, it’s same thing, suggesting that the conflict between MRAs and feminists maybe due to each failing to empathise with each other.

 

Criticisms and thoughts about the men’s rights movement in general

The title of the film is unnecessarily inflamatory.

The term ‘The Red Pill’ initially comes from the move The Matrix, describing the choice to to see the real world.

The term has since been adopted by a reddit community /r/theredpill which subscribes to a toxic gender essentialism which suggest that women like being dominated, and also by alt right / 4chan types as verb to mean ‘what’s the hidden truth about’.

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I think the term does a disservice to the film, by associating with these toxic men’s movements. I suspect the term was intentionally used, to court controversy and get exposure.

An alternative view would be that if Cassie genuinely did set out with the view that she was investigating a misogynistic movement, then she couldn’t change the name once she realised that there was a distinction between MRAs and redpillers. (This does appear to be the case – as is evidenced in this reddit AMA).

Cassie briefly that there’s a distinction between men’s rights activists, red pillers and men going their own way (MGTOW), right at the end of the film.

I think this is where male gender politics deserves a good look it.

I’m of the opinion that there are genuine issues that men uniquely or disproportionally face, and also that there is a toxic form of misandric feminism that is being left unchecked. I think the instant dismissal of men’s rights activists is unwarranted and unconstructive.

However, I acknowledge that there is a huge amount of crossover between men’s rights activism, and what I consider genuinely toxic male subcultures such as red pillers, the alt right and gamer gate.

Giving feminists the benefit of the doubt, I would suggest many feminists see toxic cultures like gamer gate or /r/theredpill and erroneously conflate that with what I’d consider genuine men’s rights activism.

I think the term ‘men’s rights activism’ has its own problems too. It’s been effectively stigmatised as anti-feminist or misogynistic – and as a result I think many liberal minded level headed men, although sympathetic to men’s rights issues, are unwilling to adopt the label themselves. The remaining men are then more likely to be of a more bitter or dug in persuasion.

For example, I don’t agree with Paul Elam’s strategy in writing  ‘Bash a violent bitch month‘, where he’s satirizing using a deliberately inflammatory tone in response to this Jezebel article. I think Elam’s technique is misguided, if not outright misogynistic and it’s not constructive. The Jezebel article I think is callous in its tone, I suspect it’s meant to received with a tone on apology, but they don’t make that explicit. Elam’s response on the other hand, is pretty disturbing.

That brings me to where I’m at: stuck between not really wanting to associate with the bitterness or misogyny that I see as common in the men’s rights movement, and also not wanting to be stigmatised as a misogynist myself; but also wanting to talk about men’s issues and be critical of what I think is some pretty toxic elements of feminism – such as wanting to suppress the discussion of men’s issues or dismissed it as either deserved or misogynistic.

This is where I would like Cassie Jaye to go next. She’s created one documentary that starts out investigating an apparently misogynistic subculture and then presented as reasonable and with legitimate grievances. What I’d like to see a documentary that investigates the genuinely misogynistic subcultures, and draws a distinction between their various political ideologies, as well as presenting where men’s rights activists and feminist identifying men are positioned in relation.

 

Conclusion

Well produced film. Cassie Jaye definitely has talent as a film producer. Having watched the film, it’s hard to see how it warrants people wanting to shut the film down for being misogynistic. At most, any criticism of the film should be on its academic merits, and for me it’s more concerning that there’s a culture of actively trying to censor this kind of film.

I recommend this movie to anyone with an interest in gender politics. Regardless of what you think about men’s rights activism, I think this movie is a good start for men and women to start talking about the issues men face.

As final insight of how this film has been received – here’s a video showing the creator on morning news show – where it’s apparent they’ve made their mind up about the film without watching it. I suspect that for many feminists who haven’t seen the film, they too may hold the same preconception. If you need something to convince you to watch the film, then watch this clip – she’s a very persuasive speaker and holds herself well.

 

 

Female empowerment, success objects, and male mental health.

Here’s a chart I discovered recently that concerns me:

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Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1414751/

It shows a steady increase in the male teen suicide rate, while the suicide rate for female teens remains flat.

On my Twitter feed today, this article from Sophia Graham of the Mental Foundation responds to Mark Dawson’s editorial suggesting that increasing male suicide is linked to their relative less prominent role in society.

Mark says:

One explanation for this disproportion may be the growing empowerment of women and their increasing role in society.

Is an unfortunate side effect that men feel less secure, less sure of their place in a world where they were once more dominant?

Perhaps it reflects the work pressures on men – still usually the main bread-winner. Working males make up a significant proportion of the grim statistics.

Sophia is critical of Mark’s editorial. The headline reads ‘A response to the newspaper editor who thinks feminism may cause male suicide’ though Mark never mentions the term ‘feminism’.

Sophia makes a few points I take issue with:

  • Male suicide rates have always been higher than female suicide rates.
    • This is true – but male suicide rates are also growing. She doesn’t acknowledge this. Correction: in New Zealand suicide rates appear to be on the decline. The excel spread sheet linked from here from Stats NZ  shows a steady increase of suicide rate of both women and men of about 50% from 1985 to 1998 and then a steady decline since then.
  • She says his comments are dangerous. She makes the argument that Mark’s article contributes to the traditional culture of male stoicism.
    • I fail to see how this is the case. Mark’s article is precisely highlighting that one aspect of traditional masculinity is seeing men’s value as an economic provider, and that their changing role in society may lead men feeling disempowered and turning to suicide as a result.
    • Instead it’s Sophia that is reinforcing this gender norm, by shutting down an attempt to encourage looking at the the changing definition of masculinity and how that’s affecting men today. Sophia shames men for talking about their  response to currently defined masculinity by labeling it as dangerous and anti-woman’s empowerment.
  • She makes the point that ” male suicide rates are tied more closely to economic pressures than changing social roles”.
    • The source she cites does indeed mention the decline of traditional male industries as a factor in male suicide. However, the same source also makes a point that traditional conceptions of masculinity also play a role – one of those expressions of masculinity being providing for the family, especially amongst working class men.
  • She says that he shows a lack of compassion towards females who live with depression or anxiety.
    • Mark’s article was specifically talking about male suicide. Sophia’s criticism is a ‘whataboutism’ argument. Given that in New Zealand 3/4 suicides are men, it make sense to pay special attention to why men are doing it.

The one thing I would criticise about Mark’s article is where he says

[suicide is] one area where women don’t want gender equality

this is a cheap shot and is a broad generalisation that serves to paint an uncaring picture of women.

Overall – this was an incredibly disappointing response from the Mental Health Foundation. Instead of congratulating Mark for starting a discussion about this one particular aspect of mental health – she attempts to shut it down by labeling it as dangerous.

The Mental Health Foundation is an organisation that I respect and support, but this is one case of I think them doing exactly the wrong thing.

Sophia ends the piece with

I acknowledge your editorial contained some valid and interesting remarks on the how the pressures men face can contribute to suicide. It’s a shame these were left unexplored.

and to be fair – Mark’s article was quite short, all he’s really doing is saying ‘this is an issue that men are uniquely facing, and we need to do more to focus on it’.

But instead of taking advantage of a teachable moment – and articulating just what the factors and trends of male suicide are, she instead just the discussion as dangerous – without, in my opinion, really conclusively refuting it.

So here I go to further expound what I think Mark was getting at.

Sex objects vs success objects. 

The term sex object or sexual objectification has been used in feminist discourse to describe how society reduces women’s value to society as their function to provide sexual gratification.

This has been frustrating to women, where they’ve felt that their potential contributions to business, science etc has been marginalized because of this.

Using the same lens to look at men’s roles in society – we can use the term ‘success object’.

That is – men’s value to society is a function of their ability to win, to be an economic provider.

In our historic society with traditional gender roles this was easier to achieve for the man – even a single low skilled worker’s pay was enough to support a family.

However in modern times average guy’s ability to get this kind of role has disappeared, while the expectation that he can do this remains.

Research shows that despite women’s increased participation in the economy – educated women still prefer to marry men who earn than them. 

Pointing this out isn’t an argument against female empowerment. It’s argument for redefining masculinity in the modern era – and that involves allowing men to say ‘I feel pressure to earn a lot of money so I can attract a mate’. Perhaps then we’ll get a conversation about what society values in men instead.

But shutting these conversations down as dangerous or disempowering to women is not the right way to go. That only causes feelings of male disempowerment to fester unseen.

 

Subject: Do you offer university postgrad scholarships?

Hi there.

My name is David Johnston, I’m a 31yo New Zealand born citizen.

I have a bachelor’s degree in computer science and four years commercial experience as a data transformation and web developer. I spent two years at Acme transforming documents to and from a spine, and the last two as more general frontend and full stack web developer.

With the recent election of Donald Trump and Russian manipulation of social media, I’m feeling I’d rather be working in this space than my current job.

What I want to do is a create an API for scraping news websites and social media, gathering sentiment,  and presenting it wordcloud format or similar.

I don’t have a particularly theoretical approach in mind – I’m not educated in linguistics; my interest in the software engineering solution.

Have a look at this web application I made: www.blacksheepcode.com – this is something I threw up pretty quickly and haven’t refined – but it shows the possibilities of web browsers as good application interface.

I want to create an open source API, free for the world to use, but something you might find useful.

Essentially, a good way to do this would be for me to go to university, and make this project the subject of my postgrad thesis.

What I’m ask of you, is if you offer sponsorship or scholarships to allow me to go this. I’d be looking for $60,000 living costs/year + study costs.

I hope this finds you well, and I’ve attached my CV if you’re more interested in my technical experience.

 

 

 

 

Why didn’t Obama tell everyone about the Russians before the election?

It’s become clear recently that the FBI was investigating both Hillary Clinton’s emails and Russian attempts to interfere with the US election.

Comey has faced criticism – why did he come out about additional Hillary emails ten days before the election, but didn’t mention the Russian interference?

Surely Obama would have been briefed about this.

Why didn’t Obama hold a press conference and tell everyone what was going on?

Is it really that the extent of it hasn’t come to light until recently?

It feels like the Obama establishment really fucked up on this one – instead of fighting like the Russians are – by exposing information, they’re opted for a strategy of secrecy. Hardly does wonders for their credibility.

 

Here’s how the western intelligence community should respond.

The western intelligence community should respond with their own wikileaks style dump of data they have on the matter.

One of the great appeals of the Russian propaganda outlet Wikileaks, is the open data nature of the documents.

For example, in regards to the DNC hack, the data surrounding how it was ascertained that Russian hackers were responsible, should be released.

Donald Trump’s entire tax history should be released.

The CIA etc wouldn’t necessarily have to publish the data themselves. Who knows what the level of direct collusion between Putin and Assange is, but the CIA could similarly leak data to a friendly hactivist type organisation. Or directly to the Washington Post I suppose.

 

It’s apparent that you can use data leaking and data manipulation (eg. Twitter bots, paid trolls) to quite an effect. The Western intelligence community should perhaps consider responding in kind. After all, intelligence warfare is quite a peaceful kind of warfare. If all conflicts were just releasing embarrassing data about each other, that could be awful in its own right, but apparently better than dying a bloody death.

 

 

A new form of nihilism

Nihilism is the philosophy that life has no intrinsic meaning. Nihilism commonly then leads to conclusions like:

  • Let’s just kill ourselves now.
  • Let’s have a life of hedonism and enjoying yourself while you can.
  • Actually, you’re probably going to enjoy yourself more if find some sense of purpose.

But the common narrative around nihilism tends to a personal sense of purpose – about the individual’s lack of intrinsic meaning or purpose.

With the election of Donald Trump, and its repurcussions regarding action on climate change, demonstrating how apparently stupid, selfish, ignorant or self destructive a huge chunk of our society is, I think a more deep seated nihilism is seating in.

That is – when talking about combating climate change, from the perspective of the human race as a whole, it’s seen as a good thing for humans to survive, or for things not to be unpleasant for us in the near future.

But given the apparent selfishness and stupidity of people, I do start wondering maybe it really doesn’t matter if it all goes to custard. Of course care – but from a nihilistic perspective things might be easier for me if I just didn’t. 

This College Humor video sums it up well:

Star Wars: Rouge One review.

Summary: Decent movie. I recommend watching it.

Spoiler scope: Not especially spoilery – does talk about one scene.

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Overall I liked this movie. High quality.

Here’s my nitpicks.

I did feel blue-balled at the fleet battle. The rebel fleet jumps in next to the planetary gate, there’s at least two star destroyers and… the rebels send out xwings to fight this battle.

rebel-fleet-rogue-one

You never see the star destroyer fire its big guns, only ever its anti-fighter guns.

There is one sweet scene were a pusher craft pushes one of the disabled star destroyers in to the other. That was cool.

The other minor disappointment is that I would have like to seen another Millennium Falcon class ship (YT-1300) performing its pushing role – but perhaps that class was already obsolete at the time that the movie is set in.

The time I was woken by a police dog.

When I was 20 I lived by myself in squat in Dunedin. The squat was a partially burned out house, which I’d crawl into through a hole in the wall.

One night I woke with police German Shepherd on top of me.

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The dog was gentle, I in no way felt menaced by it; it was just as if a friendly dog was waking you up by climbing on you.

However, at the time, I was a cannabis dealer, and I did had about 1/2 pound of cannabis beside me. Not knowing whether the dog was trained to smell drugs, I quickly got up to meet the dog’s handler.

A policeman was beginning to climb through the hole, and instead I met him outside.

He explained that they were looking for someone else. He said I could stay there for now, but that they’d be informing the owner that I was there, then him and the dog left.

A couple of months later I awoke to the owner and worker arriving. The owner promptly informed me ‘your tenancy is over!’, in good nature. They boarded up the hole and I found a different place to stay.

 

 

 

 

I used to believe the 2012 prophecy.

It should be apparent from my blog and for anyone who knows me, that I prefer to take a rational, evidence based approach to things.

I’ve recently been considering that truth shouldn’t trump all, and that if someone gets comfort out of say, believing horoscopes, then why should rationalism seek to destroy that? On the otherhand – I think the willingness to believe conspiracy theories, also has people believing that climate change isn’t happening, and that’s concerning to me.

What might not be apparent – is that I didn’t always take a rationalist approach, and it’s easy for me myself to forget that.

I used to genuinely believe the 2012 Mayan prophecy. If you’re not already familiar with it – it was a prediction that ‘the world as we know it’ will end on December 21 2012 – the date that the Mayan 5,126 year calendar ends.

mayan-calendar

What ‘the world as we know it’ ending means wasn’t exactly clear. For me, at the time it meant a collapse of the global system of governance and an anarchistic uprising.

My belief in this prophecy did have real world effects. Most concretely in that, when I was 18 years old (in 2004), I took out an interest free overdraft with no intent of paying it back – the global financial system will have collapsed by then. Other shortsighted decision making – like my reckless disregard for getting criminal convictions for graffiti also stemmed from this belief that it wouldn’t matter in eight years.

By the time 2012 came around – I had long stopped believing the prophecy.

This part of my life is a useful look in at how beliefs are formed, and why people hold the beliefs they do.

For me, a big part of believing the 2012 prophecy was that a lot of people who I thought were cool around me also either believed it, or enjoyed talking about it, and from memory, I didn’t hear much of a counter opinion to it..

I think this shows that the kinds of beliefs people have about things, does depend on how common the belief is in the people around them, and also how offering countering beliefs in a civil and persuasive manner is probably genuinely useful in grounding people’s beliefs, even if it doesn’t change their mind at the time.

It also give insight into why someone will hold a belief, for me, it’s because I liked the idea of this great prophecy, and a new world populated by people like me.

I think belief in especially end of world prophecies, but also global elite conspiracies are indicative of a cognitive shortcut – it’s much easier to imagine the world coming to an end, or some dramatic change – that is to image what the world is going to look like in ten years, or twenty years, or thirty years, maintaining the status quo.

So I guess I should be more sympathetic to people who I think hold irrational or baseless beliefs – but at the same time this actually encourages me to speak out more. I might have made less bad decisions if someone had taken the time to explain to me that there was no objective reason to believe that the 2012 prophecy was true. But of course that would have me then questioning whether my friends were as cool as I thought they were.