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’.

Image result for red pill me on

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:

Capture2

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.

 

My New Favourite TV Show

y99sexcast2_20000530_00477.jpg

 

Stop. Before you proceed with the body of this review – ideally write, but at a minimum think and acknowledge, what’s your thoughts on Sex and the City (the TV show)?

Have you ever watched  it? Did you like it?

If you haven’t seen it, but have you heard about it, what are you impressions?

If you’d asked me before I started watching the show, I would have told you that it’s a lowest common denominator show that uses sex as a drawcard, and superficial and easy clichés to drive the plot.

To be fair to myself, I do have the book I read and reviewed, written by some of the show writers, which did fit that description.

I love this show. I wish I’d watched this show ten years ago.

The show centres around four thirty-something women, and their pursuits of love and sex.

Each episode tackles a different dynamic, from younger men, faking it, discrimination against single people.

The characters are archetypes, and instead of this being a short coming, it has broad appeal – the audience is easily able put themselves in the characters shoes.

The show unashamedly approaches these dynamics – and whatever your viewpoint, the show provides a good starting point to thinking about these dynamics.

I said I wish I’d watched this ten years ago, and be that as it may, the show has a certain appeal that may have become relevant in the last couple of years – I now identify with the women in the show as my peer group, rather than being the generation older to me.

There was one episode that irritated me – it featured one of the girls dating an uncircumcised guy, and her being put off by it. The guy ends up getting a circumcision, and then the twist being that after he did he wanted to play the field more, with his new penis. The episode irritated me because the focus was entirely on women’s preference for circumcised or uncircumcised penises, without regard for the actual and serious impact removing a part their penis has for men.

The same episode also featured one of the women hitting her partner in the eye, and while it flirted with the idea that this was a bad thing, I think it’s fair to level the charge that Sex and the City can be a bit blasé at times.

Nb. I actually stopped watching the show about the time I wrote this review. I got through about two and a bit seasons. I think the first season is definitely worth watching, because it does confront sexuality, but it does quickly lose steam. Perhaps the characters are too rigid, and it becomes difficult for the audience to empathise as they seem to go around in circles.

 

I don’t like the term ‘fuckboy’.

If you’re not already word, there’s a new slang word in youth culture – fuckboy.

The meaning of the word isn’t without controversy.

This slate article provides an interesting read about the term – acknowledging that the meaning isn’t concrete:

Here are two true statements about the word: Everyone knows what fuckboy means. And no one knows what fuckboy means.

If I’m to define the word myself, I would say that ‘fuckboy’ is used to as a disparaging term to describe a man who sleeps with women without commitment to them. Essentially the male equivalent of a ‘slut’.

It’s important to note that all words are defined by the context they’re used in, and in fact that’s how new words are added to formal dictionaries. 

To suggest that there is ‘one true meaning’ of a word, and any other use of the word is just incorrect usage, is a no true scotsman fallacy. 

I’m going to continue this post with the assumption that my interpretation is correct. A context it was recently use was when this poster was pasted around Auckland:

1453879002957

Here, the guy in question is having the label applied to him because he’s, whether ethically or not, slept with the woman without committing to her.

Now let’s acknowledge that this is possibly either a fringe case of crazy on her part, or perhaps the guy genuinely was quite awful, or a bit of both. As such, perhaps we shouldn’t take this particular case as context for how the word is used.

Certainly, some men can conduct themselves in a manner that is callous, or disrespectful, or abusive, or whatever other adjective you want to use. But we already have a word for this, they’re called assholes or dickheads, and women can be those things too, meaning that the term fuckboy doesn’t hold any additional value above those, other than being gender specific.

I think it’s fine to acknowledge that people can conduct themselves in a manner that while isn’t rape or sexual assault, is still hurtful or disrespectful when it comes to sex.

What I suspect is that ‘fuckboy’ has been cultivated by the women using it as a means of personal empowerment – a means to get back at men who treated them badly, or to relatively improve the power position of women by tearing some men down.

I don’t think using gendered, sex specific slurs is not the right way to deal with this. It’s divisive, and doesn’t serve to alleviate shame in our already, though getting better, sex-negative culture.

The term conveys an additional role of responsibility for feelings to the men, in heterosexual interactions. The implication being that beyond each party having the responsibility to obtain sexual consent, the men are also responsible for the feelings of the women afterward.

This is a very regressive attitude toward sex – belonging in the same ballpark as ‘women don’t enjoy sex’ and ‘men only think about one thing’.

To provide a contrast, imagine I’d slept with a women, and she didn’t call me back afterwards. If I were to say ‘She slept with me then didn’t call me back! What slut! What a whore!’, I’d immediately be called out for being immature and not respecting her sexual autonomy – and this is a good thing. Along with sexual automony also comes the responsibility to protect your own feelings.

Most modern men (or am I simply projecting my world view and understating the prevalence where men do infact do this?) have learned this lesson, – when an interaction doesn’t go their way – they don’t jump on social media and call her out as a ‘slut’ or a ‘whore’, they know it’s immature and unattractive. Women should hold themselves to the same standard.

I recently called out a Facebook page for its casual usage:

fuckboy.PNG

What do you think? Does the term fuckboy have an legitimate usage, or is another unacceptable slur with no place in civil society?