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Men's rights activists need to take a chill pill



The 'men's rights' documentary The Red Pill has been pulled from Melbourne's Palace Kino cinema, sparking a debate over censorship and what constitutes partisan reporting.

The Red Pill movie posterTime will tell whether the full documentary will be widely available in Australia. However, even the trailer raises questions over the legitimacy of the men's rights movement, commonly known as MRAs.

The men's rights movement is founded on the idea that 'feminism has gone too far', to the point that men are discriminated against. Though men's rights had more benign beginnings in 1970s, since the internet and the third wave of feminism, the majority of MRA groups seem to be little more than a veil for misogynists to legitimise their sexism.

Most women's interactions with MRAs are online, and most likely involve some kind of harassment. MRAs will often troll feminists and invade feminist spaces under the guise of 'debate,' making demands on women's time and derailing feminist conversations. 'But what about men?' they type, in a conversation clearly about women. 'Don't men deserve attention too?'

And that's just scratching the surface. The Red Pill Reddit threads are an absolute joy (read: horrifying) to look through. Click on the 'required reading' to find Trump-esque locker room talk on how to 'manage your bitch' and why 'rape culture is 100 per cent bullshit'. I fail to see how likening women to children in need of an 'alpha man' is equality, but obviously I must have been 'brainwashed by feminism.'

The documentary trailer features Paul Elam, generally regarded as a moderate within the 'manosphere', who has been described as the Gloria Steinem of men's rights. In his article 'Jury duty at a rape trial? Acquit!' he vowed that due to the 'prevalence' of false rape reporting, if he were to sit on a jury, he would refuse to convict a rapist — 'even in the face of overwhelming evidence'.

Though an editorial note claims the article was merely intended to be 'provocative', it does troublingly echo wider MRA sentiments regarding rape culture.

This type of misogyny isn't shown in the trailer. What we see instead are a lot of staid MRAs carefully choosing their topics, interspersed with feminists responding to the MRA movement. This framing paints feminists as the reactionaries, rather than MRAs being the backlash counter-cultural movement.


"Feminists have been pointing out that gender roles are toxic to both women and men for a while now. If the men's rights movement was what it says it is, both ideologies could co-exist to reach a common goal."


The sad part is that there are MRA groups who raise real issues. Men's mental health statistics are alarming, with recent statistics suggesting men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women. Domestic and sexual violence against men and young boys, though statistically less likely, are often dismissed. Whether there is bias towards women in the Family Court is debatable, but women are allocated more primary custody roles than men.

Where the real fault in their logic lies is in blaming feminism.

MRAs don't recognise that these issues are rooted in toxic patriarchal thinking. The demand on men to be stoic aggressors has created generations of emotionally constipated boys. In regards to parental custody agreements, the patriarchal expectation of women to exclusively play a nurturing role with their children creates absent fathers who were themselves never modelled how to be a present parent.

The thing is, feminists have been pointing out that gender roles are toxic to both women and men for a while now. If the men's rights movement was what it says it is, both ideologies could co-exist to reach a common goal.

But, for the majority, that's not really what men's rights is really about. I don't see men who care about justice; I see men who have been privileged their entire lives, and are scared that privilege will be taken away. Men who use real issues as a tactic to justify fearmongering and misogyny. The present men's rights movement isn't activism at all, just anti-feminism and anti-women by another name.


Neve MahoneyNeve Mahoney is a student at RMIT university. She has also contributed to Australian Catholics and The Big Issue.

Topic tags: Neve Mahoney, feminism, The Red Pill, MRAs



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Existing comments

Precisely! This seems like a doco that would be more suited to Netflix. I don't see Cinema Kino as censoring anything, they just have taste.

Jessica | 27 October 2016  

Nothing wrong being a non feminist or anti-feminist 80% of Au are. Many women anti-feminists around, recall I dont need feminism campaign, need to see both sides of the coin ??

Black Dog | 27 October 2016  

How can you do a movie reveiw on a movie yet to be seen in australia?

John | 28 October 2016  

Effect: "Domestic and sexual violence against men and young boys, though statistically less likely, are often dismissed." Cause: "The demand on men to be stoic aggressors has created generations of emotionally constipated boys." Conclusion: Violence against men and boys gets dissmissed because they are the actual agressors. Case closed.

Kerder | 28 October 2016  

Of course men and boys have genuine human rights issues but... The issues of men and boys are all due to a system men put in place to provide advantages only to men and boys while disadvantaging women and girls... Feminists have been trying to help men and boys by focusing on women for over a century... MRAs negate the issues of men and boys because they hate women... MRAs are really only scared about losing their privilege and supremacy... MRAs are the scourge of the internet... I haven't seen the movie but trust me, it's full of men who hate women... I won't directly say they were right to shut down the voices of men, but I will justify the action by associating whatever negative matters I can think up... "Where the real fault in their logic lies is in blaming feminism" Coz feminists didn't do nothing...

John | 28 October 2016  

Men are always told to take a chill pill even when they might have some very legitimate issues to deal with. 'Toxic patriarchal thinking' doesn't even begin to describe these problems. I implore you to take a leaf out of Cassie Jaye's play book - speak to MRAs and more importantly LISTEN to what they might have to say.

Sharad | 28 October 2016  

"MRAs don't recognise that these issues are rooted in toxic patriarchal thinking." So, they should go to church more often. In fact, most problems would be fixed if more people would go to church more often.

Roy Chen Yee | 28 October 2016  

OK, sure - let's talk about human rights in general.... but we all know that banning something is the best way to promote it. (I now want to see the film, knowing that someone wants to stop me from seeing it.)

AURELIUS | 28 October 2016  

It seems, Neve, that there is something wrong with a "patriarchal expectation of women". Is there a matriarchal expectation of men? If so, is it equally as flawed as patriarchy seems to be in the feminist view?

john frawley | 28 October 2016  

Feminists plaining a men's movement is really silly and only preaching to the choir. Repeating negative stereotypes and third-wave dogma will not help you understand the movement. You should actually see the film and then provide an informed opinion.

Paul | 28 October 2016  

Yes, men and boys have legitimate issues that need to be talked about, however MRAs and the so-called "Men's Rights Movement" are the worst possible advocate and voice for them. There are highly productive mainstream organisations and services out there which cater to men, but there is a reason why they don't associate with or identify with MRAs.

Ben | 28 October 2016  

I see & hear enough Men's Rights conversation & anti-feminism whinging in my local Sports Club not to need a film of the kind Neve writes about. Men of all ages in various degrees of physical depredation talk as if they were the greatest specimens of masculinity that any woman could desire as a sex partner. Their bragging & their assessments of barmaids, waitresses, female entertainers etc is Donald Trump lockerroom smut. I don't think it springs from any male ideology or anti-feminism. It is largely 'group think' behaviour they have absorbed over a lifetime . "Sugar & spice & all things nice that's what little girls are made of" is a con. "Slugs & snails & puppy dogs tails that's what little boys are made of" leads to low self esteem & resentment. Of course I exaggerate but a lot of men's problems with women can be traced back to conditioning in their early years - at home, in school & at play.

Uncle Pat | 28 October 2016  

Anyone remember how outraged freedom of thought and anti-censorship advocates were, at Christians wanting to ban "The Last Temptation of Christ" and "Life of Brian". We have changed as a society, haven't we. Personally, I would like to see it first, then to compare it with proper feminist research into the men's rights movement. I have already seen and heard the misogynous and 'creepy' beliefs, attitudes and behaviours of some men in such movements, and they are without doubt, very concerning. But, I'd rather make my own mind up rather than have it made up for me. In the end, shouldn't all this be focussing on HUMAN behaviour, not gendered behaviour. All behavior starts with individuals. Doesn't making this a gender issue first, divide people based on isms? Wouldn't making mysogyny a personal human behaviour issue first, make the individual critique their own beliefs, attitudes and behaviours? Arguments based on divisions into camps become arguments for those camps, rather than about sexist, unjust or ugly behaviours of people both male and female. Doesn't the ability to make informed decisions rest on hearing both sides of the argument, (even if biased)? Isn't that what the law and academic rigour rest on?

Ed | 30 October 2016  

"The thing is, feminists have been pointing out that gender roles are toxic to both women and men for a while now. If the men's rights movement was what it says it is, both ideologies could co-exist to reach a common goal." With the greatest of due respect, it's not MRAs blockading meeting venues, pulling fire alarms, phoning in bomb threats or generally disrupting feminist meetings. If you really believe that coexistence is desirable or even possible then why are you doing your little bit to make sure that only one viewpoint can be heard - the feminist one?

Rufus | 31 October 2016  

I appreciate, Neve, that your article is not per se a critique of the trailer let alone of the full film but rather of MR activism as you’ve perceived it generally manifests itself. Your statement that “the majority of MRA groups seem to be little more than a veil for misogynists to legitimise their sexism” may in fact be too narrowly targeted. @ Black Dog, feminism is not the other side of the coin to men’s rights but to structural male oppression, or, if you prefer, oppressive male structures. It is a necessarily revolutionary movement aimed at redressing structural disempowerment. Until such structures are abolished or transformed, men’s complaints are from a privileged position. @Roy, considering that churches often reflect the toxic patriarchal thinking to which Neve refers, going to church might in many cases be the worst advice you could give. @john frawley, if you can identify a female expectation of men that comes anywhere near the common ‘locker room/board room’ male expectation of women as sociologically and economically inferior servile unintelligent sex objects or the traditional religious subordination of women in other ways, then just maybe there’d be an equivalence one could discuss. @ed, individual behaviour is always socially conditioned and contextualised: misogyny, sexism, like racism and other attitudes, though immediately encountered in the individual, are unavoidably group, political and class issues. @rufus, the same could be said of you. Neve is putting her viewpoint forward – nothing has stopped you doing the same.

stephen kellett | 01 November 2016  

Neve, you are so out of touch with the real issues some, if not many, men face. And, yes, the family courts are definitely biased towards women

Alex | 01 November 2016  

Well, you've certainly worked up a few readers, Neve. Are there "extreme feminists" out there? Yes, there are, but no more than "unreconstructed (genuine) male chauvinists". A plague on both their houses, I say. Will we ever learn to get along? Intersex relations in Australia are often of the infantile variety. We need to grow up and take a leaf out of the Scandinavians' book. Scandinavian men do it well without being like some of our revolting Snags. God preserve us from the latter: they're so oleaginous.

Edward Fido | 02 November 2016  

@ Stephen Kellet: @ed, individual behaviour is always socially conditioned and contextualised:...etc. So, does that mean that an individual can not become aware of how they've been 'conditioned' and rise above their conditioning to become free of that? Conditioning 'theory' is very mechanistic and therefore easy to sync with one's ism. But what is also true is personal psychological conditioning from childhood. Yes, social and psychological conditioning is true, until you become aware. This is called adulthood. So, if everyone has been conditioned, who have you been conditioned by...the most? Who has Neve been conditioned by. And then you must always ask, if truth is relative to the individual (the current mainstream belief in academia), is it possible if I am wrong? The people who want this film banned I suspect never ask this question. The film maker did, and probably continues to do so. Who then is the more trustable? I'd like to view the film so I can make up my own mind on my continuous journey of asking "What if I am wrong". I have known academics who for years taught a theory only to later say they now believe that theory was wrong. Society is entering a time of deep paradigm shift? That's when isms will go to war with each other, once again. This controversy is a perfect example of this.

Ed | 04 November 2016  

What I am asking of you, Stephen, is whether having been 'conditioned' can one rise above that? Only those who continually ask "What if I am wrong" what if those who conditioned me (society, political beliefs, academics, ismists) are wrong" can start to become free of that conditioning. It's another version of Carl Popper's belief that to prove theory is true, you have to try to disprove it. I don't see this happening much these days with ismists. Instead, society is being conditioned, if you like, to take on an ism, as an identity and then if that 'identity feels threatened, this becomes a very scary thing and they, therefore, must fight to 'protect' their identity. How much of this, do you think, might be happening in this case: That is, how much is this about one's personal AND one' s group-think, conditioned identity being threatened? If we try to 'ban' anyone who might be asking this question, then we no longer have a democracy but a dictatorship. As a feminist, (assuming she is genuine about what she says about her experience during the making of this doco), I commend Cassie for daring to ask "was I right"? Are you willing to ask the same question of yourself? Is Neve? Or does your conditioning not allow for this?

Ed | 04 November 2016  

"toxic patriarchal" (whatever that means): Stephen Kellett, do you attend a mainstream denomination Sunday service regularly? What was the last 'toxic patriarchal' sermon about? In fact, when was the last 'toxic patriarchal' sermon?

Roy Chen Yee | 04 November 2016  

Ed, in your first comment you said “all behaviour starts with individuals”. My point to you was that our individual behaviour starts with conditioning. My answer to your second and third posts is yes, we can, in varying degrees, overcome or modify such conditioning. In fact I agree with you that the progress of adulthood is largely about understanding that conditioning and making changes to the extent possible or deemed necessary. I am very familiar with Popper’s falsifiability test. Either of us - you and I - could be wrong on any number of our current beliefs and viewpoints, but we are not in discussion forming scientific theorems but taking issue with statements we don’t believe are true or quite right. You can’t assume I haven’t or don’t ask the question whether I could be wrong simply because I take issue with others’ comments. Were we not to hold the values or beliefs at any given moment at least as working hypotheses, for fear or paralysis that we might be wrong, then neither of us would say anything, ever. Are you sure you don’t have any attachment to any –ism yourself? And who said either Neve or I wanted to ban a film? I read Neve as highlighting issues with the MRA as a whole.

stephen kellett | 05 November 2016  

It's a shame that some MRAs waste their time attacking feminists instead of raising the awareness their fellows need, about the issues such as depression and suicide. They miss the point altogether, and men keep suffering while the anti-feminism folks rant.

Trish | 06 November 2016  

From where I stand, the attitude of "men's rights" activists resembles that of a toddler faced with a new addition to the family--fury that they are no longer the centre of attention.

Lenore Crocker | 12 January 2017  

I don’t think it’s fair to blanket all MRA’s as misogynistic, as I’m sure feminists wouldn’t appreciate being all banded together as toxic. By banning this film from playing (at several locations) and the gross treatment of Cassie Jaye (the female director, who you so eloquently ignored) whilst in Australia, a precedent was created that ‘people only have the right to an opinion if it is the ‘correct’ opinion’. This is dangerous, the only way to progression is through opposing thought, nobody continues to grow without being challenged. I like how you say, ‘if the men’s right movement is what it say it is, then both ideologies should be able to work together’. Completely ignoring that feminism may have it’s shortcomings. I have yet to see a feminist say ‘why do we have no male abuse shelters in Australia?’ ‘Why are all of our domestic abuse hotlines targeted at men being abusers, and women being victims?’. The reality is that both sides are plagued with hypocrisy. However, it just fits a better narrative to say men are at fault again. I understand this happened well over a year ago, but for those who are interested - watch before judging.

Tahlia | 21 June 2018  

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