Protests, petitions and boycotts have erupted over the last few months in response to the launch of a medicine you might not have ever heard of. It’s called The Red Pill.
According to a fringe, but very vocal movement, we live in a world where men are at least as disadvantaged as women, when it comes to health, family, finances, legal rights and sexual rights. And to finally see the true nature of society is to swallow the red pill.
This argument broke free of the dingier parts of the internet and into popular consciousness recently with the release of a controversial documentary, also called The Red Pill.
Written, directed and narrated by Cassie Jaye, the movie tracks this self-described feminist’s journey into the world of men’s rights activists.
In the opening sequences, Jaye explains how her investigation into “rape culture” led her to the internet blogs and forums of the men’s rights movement.
One blog in particular, A Voice For Men, is a prominent publisher of essays dedicated to “expos[ing] misandry on all levels in our culture”.
The site’s founder, Paul Elam, features heavily in the documentary, mostly talking about facts and figures that appear to prove the oppressed nature of being a man in the 21st century, and the damage feminism has done to men.
But Elam has some less palatable views about the state of gender relations, and despite Jaye’s initial rationale for investigating the people behind this movement, she never holds him to account for these.
A common complaint of these bloggers and posters, loosely referred to as the “manosphere”, is the threat of false rape allegations by women and the power that women have to destroy men’s lives without repercussion.
“Should I be called to sit on a jury for a rape trial, I vow publicly to vote not guilty, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that the charges are true,” he once wrote in a blog post explaining the way the criminal justice system is stacked against male defendants.
Elam has since defended the post against claims of “rape apologia”, saying he was being deliberately provocative.
Similarly, the post that women who took drinks off men, made out with men, and went back to their apartment at 2am were “freaking begging [to get raped]” was satire, Elam says.
These kinds of women “walk through life with the equivalent of a I’M A STUPID, CONNIVING BITCH – PLEASE RAPE ME neon sign glowing above their empty little narcissistic heads [sic]”, he writes.
Nevertheless, as Jaye learns more about the movement Elam and these others are fighting for, she starts to question her own assumptions about gender and power. Proposed screenings of The Red Pill were met with bitter opposition by feminists, who called it a “misogynistic propaganda film”.
The protests and backlash led to many cinemas overseas and in Australia dropping screenings, to cries of censorship from men’s rights activists and others.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
The origin of the concept of “the red pill” is the scene in the 1999 science fiction film, The Matrix, where the character Morpheus offers another character, Neo, played by Keanu Reeves, a choice between a blue pill and a red pill.
These two pills symbolise the choice the character must make between continuing the comfortable fantasy that he has known all his life, or accepting the harsh truth and freedom of reality: that he is living in a simulated world.
“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe,” Morpheus tells Neo. “You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
To swallow the red pill is to deprogram yourself from the feminist world we live in, red pillers say.
“The blue pill is the paradigm that most people live by,” Elam tells the documentary-maker, “that men have all the power, that they’ve always had all the power, that domestic violence is a problem that’s only committed by men against women that sexual assaults are only committed by men against women [and] that women don’t make the same money for the same work as men.
“[Feminists say] we need to stop violence against women, instead of just stopping violence. That is feminist training.”
A key concept explored on A Voice For Men is the apparent “gynocentric” society we live in, which demands male sacrifice for the benefit of women. According to the website’s mission statement, women have become the dominant, oppressive gender and this needs to be rectified.
“The noble idea of freedom and equity between the sexes has been corrupted,” it says. “It has become a malignancy on our social consciousness. What used to be cooperation between sexes is now gynocentric parasitism that inhabits every level of men’s existence, from cradle to coffin. The efforts to enhance the rights of women have become toxic efforts to undermine the rights of men.”
This concept of male disposability underpins much of the men’s rights activist gripe with society. “That men should sacrifice themselves utterly – their very essence, their being and their identity, to save women that they do not even know – is neatly encapsulated in that popular phrase, ‘women and children first’,” writes author Adam Kostakis in his blog, Gynocentrism.
And in a YouTube video, that now has almost 1.5 million views, one of the female men’s rights activists and contributor to A Voice For Men, Karen Straughan, speaks about feminism and the disposable male.
Straughan argues that women have historically been protected from the most dangerous roles and situations because of the biological value each woman has as a potential mother.
“When it comes to producing babies, every woman counts, whereas biologically one very happy man could probably do the work of hundreds in that regard,” she says.
Men’s rights activists point to statistics that show men in the US account for around 99% of war casualties, 94% of industrial deaths, 76% of homicide victims and 80% of suicides.
Straughan says that the “objectification” of women that feminists complain about has protected women from these outcomes.
“I think if I was going to be an object, I’d rather be a sexual one or somebody’s prized possession than an object that can simply be thrown in the trash or smashed into pieces in the service of somebody else’s purpose,” she says.
They also argue that men die earlier, that men’s health receives less attention than women’s, men are more likely to be homeless, men are less likely to gain custody in a divorce, and that, now, education attainment is swaying in favour of women.
But what about the feminist argument that CEOs, elite sports-players and academics are still overwhelmingly male?
Feminists who truly want gender equality should be fighting for greater representation of women in dangerous roles, or in low-status jobs as tradesmen and garbage collectors, the men’s rights argument goes.
Domestic violence is another key point of contention. Men’s rights activists say men are demonised in the discussion of gendered violence, and that male victims of domestic violence are ignored and robbed of support thanks to women-only shelters.
In Australia, the One in Three campaign seeks to redress that imbalance by drawing attention to statistics suggesting one in three victims of domestic violence are men.
The group points to ABS Personal Safety Survey data suggesting that males account for 33% of the people who have experienced an act of violence from a current partner in the last year.
Nevertheless, the data itself comes with a clear warning that the estimates have a high potential for error and “should be used with caution”, and many believe it to be an incomplete picture.
From this figure alone, it is hard to know whether men’s experience of domestic violence mirrors that of women’s, because the data do not describe the frequency or severity of the incidents. And self-reported domestic violence incidents could also be anything from a push or shove to hospitalisation. The data do not distinguish between a person who has been in a long-term frequently physically abusive relationship and another who has been hit once.
Of course, it could go both ways and the figures for violent incidents against men could be a gross underrepresentation. But when it comes to severity, Australian Institute of Crime statistics say that 75% of victims of intimate-partner homicides are women, and that men are the perpetrators in 77% of these cases.
Overall, one in six women and one in 20 men in Australia have experienced domestic violence since age 15, according to the 2012 ABS personal safety survey.
The men’s rights movement says when it comes to relationships, women hold a disproportionate amount of power in modern society compared with men. An article, Facts about Men and Boys, on the A Voice For Men blog, claims false rape accusations against men are “epidemic” and that false rape accusers are rarely prosecuted, while rape itself is “vigorously prosecuted”.
False rape and domestic violence allegations are one way women can to ruin men’s lives, it says, and this may be borne out by criminal charges, financial costs or custody of children, not to mention carrying the stigma of even an unsubstantiated claim.
[Feminists say] we need to stop violence against women, instead of just stopping violence. That is feminist training.
Paternity fraud is also rampant in the US, the author states. As a result, the lack of contraceptive options for men puts them in a vulnerable position. Where women can choose between barrier methods, oral contraception and implants even before choosing to abort or adopt the child out, men are essentially limited to condoms or vasectomy.
WHO ARE THEY?
The manosphere is a hugely diverse place, encompassing genuine equal rights activists, pick-up artists, Men Going Their Own Way , virulent misogynists and more.
A hotspot for discussion is an online Reddit forum, also called The Red Pill.
The founder of this online community, which is notorious for its vitriolic anti-women tone, was recently outed as a US Republican politician.
After some serious sleuthing, The Daily Beast news site linked the 31-year-old New Hampshire lawmaker, Robert Fisher, to the Reddit account that launched the online forum in 2012.
Writing under a pseudonym, Fisher welcomes newcomers to the community by telling them the movement has sprung up out of men who have realised that everything they’ve been told since they were young is a lie.
“Our culture has become a feminist culture,” Fisher says. “I am here to say, for better or for worse, the frame around public discourse is a feminist frame, and we’ve lost our identity because of it.”
But for Fisher, this quest for self-empowerment goes hand-in-hand with hostile attitudes towards women. “I find women’s personalities in general to be lacklustre and boring, serving little purpose in my day-to-day life. So I usually only compare body types,” he says in an archived post.
Women exist as a strange duality in this community, both as irrational, emotional and childlike on one hand, and simultaneously Machiavellian and master manipulators on the other. As a result, it is impossible to either respect or trust women.
“I trust them. I trust them to be liars, hypergamous sluts, and branch swinging whores,” another commenter puts it.
To understand what that means, it is first necessary to understand a basic tenant of The Red Pill forum, which is “female sexual strategy”.
By this, adherents to the red pill philosophy believe that women have evolved a sexual strategy that is understood as “alpha fucks, beta bucks”. Under this understanding, women have evolved to seek out the fittest male in a group to get the strongest genes for her child, but to also secure resources and commitment to help bring up the child. The resources and commitment don’t need to come from the same place as the sperm, however.
So hypergamy is the belief that women are driven to marry or mate with a man of higher class than themselves. “Branch swinging” is shorthand for the idea that women, like monkeys, don’t let go of one branch (boyfriend) before they have another one lined up.
For this reason, red pillers claim that women are incapable of unconditional love in the way that men are. Whereas men will jump in front of a bullet for a woman, sticking with them through thick and thin, women treat men as disposable and will trade them in for someone better. Further, there are no exemptions to this among women, who all have the potential to take everything from a man and then leave him for someone else.
Here, the term “divorce rape” is used to describe the belief that family courts favour women by unfairly awarding custody and an undue proportion of husband’s income to women.
In response to these perceptions, a movement called Men Going Their Own Way has sprung up, which advocates avoiding all relationships with women, especially marriage.
The overarching theme in The Red Pill posts is men’s unhappiness and frustration with women. The site overflows with stories of girlfriends and wives cheating on their man, or dragging them through a messy divorce, or both. Alongside these tales are those of equal anguish by men, often of tender years, who complain they can’t rustle up any sexual or romantic interest from women no matter how hard they try. Men at the extreme end of this latter group appear furious they can’t find women who’ll have sex with them.
A tragic example of this group, called incels or involuntary celibates, was Elliot Rodger. So tortured by being ignored by women, the 22-year-old killed six and injured 14 people as retribution against a world he thought was “unfair”.
Some of the advice given to new converts to The Red Pill is healthy – to get fit, eat nutritious food, and improve personal hygiene. But others take advice from pick-up artists, such as the notorious Roosh V, who was banned from entering Australia last year for advocating legalised rape. Much of his advice is a form of gamification of social interaction, which emphasises probabilities and reduces women to statistics, challenges and simplistic caricatures.
Our culture has become a feminist culture … the frame around public discourse is a feminist frame, and we’ve lost our identity because of it.
The level of fear and mistrust of women is so high that in 2012, Fisher admitted to setting up a video recorder in his room to protect against false accusations of rape.
“If she feels insulted, your incidence of false rape accusations or pregnancy scares go waaaaaaaaay up. You might think I’m paranoid, but statistically, I’m overdue for a false rape allegation.”
In the closing scenes of Jaye’s documentary she declares “I now no longer call myself a feminist”. It’s just a shame the movie never shows us how deep the rabbithole really goes.