A few months ago a friend of mine spoke of a free documentary screening that was due to take place in Norwich. I’d been fairly interested in the rising MRA (Men’s Rights Activist) movement which was championed by Milo “behind every racist joke is a scientific fact” Yiannopoulos and rape supporter Roosh V.
It always seemed to me like a movement that was a cause for those that didn’t really have anything to complain about; I’d assumed that it was widely accepted that we live in a patriarchal society by even those of a right-wing bias. It had always been one of those things that I’d laugh off as a pointless cause supported by fedora wearing, Monster Energy drinking unemployed men in their late-teens that spent their breaks away from playing Call of Duty reading into Meninist theories on 4 Chan.
Therefore, I presumed that ‘The Red Pill’ was a gonzo-style documentary made by a feminist filmmaker in order to expose these worms coming out of the woodwork and that my friends and I would go to the screening to have a good laugh at some pseudo-academic MRAs. In retrospect, this was an ignorant and ill-considered presumption that I turned out to be incredibly wrong about.
The screening was put on as a free event by a local man, Barry Wright, and paid for out of his own pocket. A duo of venue cancellations, apparently due to long-standing clients threatening to withdraw support, meant that we met up to be taken to a secret location and shown the film.
Appropriately, the location in question was the smallest screen of the decrepit Hollywood Cinema. At the entrance to the screen stood Mike Buchanan, the leader of the Justice For Men & Boys party, who is apparently the only anti-feminist party in the English-speaking world. Buchanan reminded me of a somewhat diluted Nigel Farage, standing in a barely tucked in shirt and unshaven face, looking to shake hands with everyone that entered the cinema.
Once we were led into the screen there was a table laid out for the Q+A that was due to follow the screening, on this table was a Justice For Men & Boys banner and sat around were some guests that were due to speak after the film. I’d expected at this point that the Q+A would feature unproven facts and meek discussion, how wrong I was to assume this.
Initially expecting a strong feminist presence, I was particularly surprised by the demographic in the audience, as although there were 10-12 people in their early-twenties, the vast majority of the crowd was made up by unaccompanied middle-aged men. I was then told that the reason for the prior cancellations was due to a strong feminist opposition in Norwich who had looked to stop the film being screened.
The documentary lasted for just over two hours and to give the film a short review it would be boring, pointless and confused. The film consisted of the audience being given a tour ‘down the rabbit hole’ and into the abyss that was the Men’s Rights movement. The filmmaker Cassie Jaye posed as a feminist at the beginning of the film, citing a failed career in Hollywood as the experience of sexism that led her to question the power of gender in society.
"The film consisted of the audience being given a tour ‘down the rabbit hole’ and into the abyss that was the Men’s Rights movement."
Whilst we were given short clips of anti-MRA campaigners and academics that presented well-reasoned arguments, the majority of the screen time that was given to the opposition was given to radical feminists such as well-known meme and Feminist Boogeywoman Big Red in an attempt to demonise feminists as neurotic and illogical.
In fact, academics in the film such as Dr Michael Kimmel mysteriously had little-to-no screen time when they came close to refuting any arguments presented by the film. What we were left with was anecdotal evidence of freak displays of paternity rights injustices and a bizarre display of a male circumcision gone wrong.
It occurred to me that the film simply presented bad things that happen in life to men and that this in no way had any relevance to the feminism that the film clearly opposed. Everybody suffers some kind of suffrage, but the film made no attempt to look at political history or power structures that exist within the patriarchy.
Any attempt to argue against feminism was simply irrelevant, such as the figures of percentages of male deaths against female deaths in wars in which only males could fight. A simply ridiculous argument was presented by Paul Elam, the most heavily featured cast member who leads the A Voice for Men party, when he stated that men are seen as finance objects, alike the way in which a feminist argument would claim that women are seen as sex objects within the patriarchal society.
However, the most laughable moment of the documentary had to come from anti-feminist Karen Straughan, who labelled Boko Haram ‘chivalrous’ in releasing the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls when attempting to claim that the media presented terrorism in Africa through a misandrist lens.
The MRAs and anti-feminists in the film all seemed to be privileged people who refused to accept that they were in a position that they were incredibly lucky to be in. To me this seems to stem from an inadequacy and low self-esteem that then manifests itself in hatred; these men were clearly those that weren’t particularly charismatic or those that had been through an experience that they remained bitter about.
After a few hours of struggling through the film, the Q+A then begun. The panel members on the MRA sympathising side were Cassie Jaye, Mike Buchanan, Erin Pizzey, Paul Elam and apparent Youtuber DrRandomerCam. Those on the other side of the fence were Lucinda Bray, Katy Jon Went and Jessica Austin.
"Whilst the Q+A session started off in a polite manner ... this then led to a barrage of aggressive questioning of the female members of the panel."
Whilst the Q+A session started off in a polite manner, discussing the film and the genuine problems that men in society go through, this then led to a barrage of aggressive questioning of the female members of the panel. Pot-bellied men in their middle fifties armed with print offs of figures and argument points began to question whether Lucinda Bray, Jessica Austin and Katy Jon Went were feminists who believed in the patriarchy as if it were a questioning looking for terror cells in Guantanamo bay.
Throughout the well-reasoned responses from Jessica Austin, Mike Buchanan attempted his best Grima Wormtongue impression by muttering sarcastic comments and “feminists” in a mocking tone as if he’d been sat on the dunce seat in the corner of the classroom for the past 40 years.
However, the most shocking moment of the evening came when Paul Elam was questioned a second time by an audience member on his comments some years before that attempted to justify rape after attempting to avoid the question earlier.
This quote from Elam is utterly disgusting and horrific. At the screening, Elam accepted that this was something that he has said. Whilst this quote is readily available via a quick Google search, I cannot be sure of if this quote is to the word and I am therefore not prepared to post it in the article.
Elam responded with a sheepish response that this was simply satire from years ago. I suppose this is the way that one could pathetically attempt to justify a racist joke, or effectively anything. I punched your mum in the face, but don’t worry, it was satire!
This then led to a comment from Erin Pizzey that stated that 50 Shades of Grey being a bestseller was proof alone that women desired to be raped. Those of a disposition of empathy to rape victims in the audience then began to take issue with this and the pot-bellied misogynists in the crowd then began to really show their deep-seated hatred.
The questions from the some of the audience then became increasingly aggressive. One particular crowd member (who I hilariously saw get dumped shortly after the screening) bitterly accused Lucinda Bray of patronising him after she gave an excellent refutation of a point in his bile-filled question.
This really summed up the MRA supporters at the screening. These men had in the majority arrived alone, presumably after a shift at an unfulfilling job to attend a screening that supported a pathetic meaning that they seemed to have conveniently stumbled across in their lacklustre lives.
These white, middle-class males have evidently failed to find meaning and pride in their lives of which they are told are privileged and therefore reject all reason that supports the idea that they are of a privileged position.
What do you do when you’ve failed to build success upon a lucky groundwork? You reject that the groundwork was lucky in the first place, the tradesman really does blame his tools as opposed to looking in on what is a fundamentally incomplete and fruitless self.
As much as this theory does paint the MRA movement as sad and pointless, there is a real hatred present in this movement that I did not know existed outside of the confines of a subreddit or the crevice of the internet.
Whilst these opinions are disgusting and have no place in modern society, it is important to address and refute these beliefs as to make sure that this doesn’t grow under the terrain.
Being of the left-thinking side of things, I never presumed that xenophobia was present enough for many of us to vote to leave Europe on the policy of immigration. We could go on for hours about how we live in a politically like-minded echo-chamber on social media and in our friendship groups, but the real point is that hatred and ignorance really do need to be addressed in order for us to thwart them.
I honestly believe that society is not full of hatred and bigotedness, but if this is not addressed by reason and logic then it will simply grow further. Events like the screening of The Red Pill therefore, need to be allowed and attended by those that oppose it. We need to quit with the no-platforming and banish these hate-filled people with refutation and debate.