Why banning The Red Pill is bad for feminism

Another day, another students’ union ban. This time, student officers at the University of Sydney Union have shown their contempt for their peers by banning a documentary about the men’s rights movement. A screening of The Red Pill had been organised by the University of Sydney’s Conservative Club, Students For Liberty, and a student group called BroSoc, but the students’ union cancelled the event.

According to its website, The Red Pill is a documentary about the ‘mysterious and polarising world of the men’s rights movement’. It chronicles ‘feminist filmmaker’ Cassie Jaye’s exploration of ‘an alternative perspective on gender equality, power and privilege’. Throughout the documentary, Jaye claims she ‘learns the various ways men are disadvantaged and discriminated against’. Unsurprisingly, the documentary has caused outrage since its release, with critics declaring it ‘misogynistic propaganda’.

It’s fair enough to criticise the documentary, but people should watch it and make up their own minds. And what better place to discuss a political documentary than a university? Aren’t students meant to be exposed to challenging ideas they disagree with?

Not according to the University of Sydney Union. In a statement released online, the students’ union announced it was prohibiting the movie from being screened on union-managed parts of campus. It also banned any union funds from being used to screen it. ‘The planned screening of this documentary would be discriminatory against women, and has the capacity to intimidate and physically threaten women on campus’, it said. ‘This documentary is decidedly anti-feminist and anti-woman, focussing not on the ways in which the systemic issues of patriarchy may also adversely affect men, but instead placing the blame on women and feminism specifically for men’s issues.’

In other words, the documentary disputes the dominant narrative around gender equality, and the University of Sydney Union can’t allow that. Apparently discussing issues facing men would have been fine if the documentary blamed all the problems on The Patriarchy.

Forget the men’s rights movement – is there anything less feminist than the claim that young women need to be protected from a documentary? By claiming that the documentary could ‘physically threaten women on campus’, the students’ union is painting women as too weak and vulnerable to engage in intellectual life.

Whether or not you agree with the premise of The Red Pill, it shouldn’t be banned. Students who disagree with it should go along to the screening and argue their case against it, not stop it from being shown altogether.

Patrick Hannaford is a writer based in Melbourne, Australia. Follow him on Twitter: @PatHannaford

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