Cassie Jaye was a feminist who discovered A Voice for Men, a men’s rights activist (MRA) website run by controversial figure Paul Elam, at a time when she was looking for a new documentary to make. The Red Pill was born: an in-depth look at the men’s rights movement with a particular focus on the US.
The film, which required a Kickstarter campaign to get going, has faced opposition from feminists in Australia and elsewhere. It has been labelled ‘misogynistic propaganda’. At the heart of the film is Jaye’s personal journey from ardent feminist to someone who seriously questions her own views, even asking herself, ‘Do women now have it better?’.
Statistics show that deaths in the workplace, deaths in armed conflict and suicides are overwhelmingly male, which should give any rational person pause for thought. Further, when one MRA interviewee in the film asks why we don’t see feminists lobbying for more equal representation among ditch-diggers, he raises an important problem with feminist thinking: its tendency to compare ordinary women’s lives with extraordinary men’s lives, rather than with the experience of most ordinary, working men.
Katherine Spillar, executive director of the Feminist Majority Foundation, argues that MRAs are just frustrated because they unfavourably compare their lives to that of their grandfathers, who ‘had it good’. Now, she says, too many men are simply annoyed that we live in a level-playing field. But this misses some important points. Firstly, wasn’t it these very same grandfathers who, far from having it good, risked their lives fighting in the First and Second World Wars?
Also, while women must of course have the opportunity to go into the workplace, let’s not pretend that the older era when men were the sole or main provider for their family was some sort of idyllic state of affairs for them. I’m sure that, for many women, being forced to live the life of a housewife was agony; but, for many men, being the breadwinner also involved stresses and concerns, and, yes, agonies. To look back on history with a sole focus on the struggle of women overlooks the struggles of men. Existence tends to be one big struggle for us all.