Staying in Wonderland

"This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more." (The Matrix)

Was the film, The Red Pill, as controversial and anti-women as I had been led to expect?  
The answer is a 'qualifed no'. The reason being is that the film took a simplistic, narrow and rather biased view of feminism and women's rights that focussed almost entirely around relationship breakdowns and divorce. So in that sense it was more about how entrenched violence is in the American culture, its justice system and how various states deal with men and women who separate; which, let me tell you, is not all that well. Harrowing stories of children being put up for adoption because mothers did not want fathers to have them, unequal access, multiple partners - the really ugly side of relationship breakdown was on display on the big screen, and it was heartbreaking. 

The main protagonists on the pro-male side were Paul Elam, founder of A Voice for Men; Harry Crouch, president of the National Coalition for Men; Warren Farrell, author of The Myth of Male Power; and Erin Pizzey, who started the first domestic violence shelter in the UK.  They were all quite bitter about how 'the system' appeared to support women's claims ahead of those of men - particularly with regard to children. They gave many case studies and appeared to be genuinely perplexed as to why they were being treated so poorly and why the system appeared skewed in favour of women.

The common statistic used was that 1 in 3 women experience domestic abuse but that 1 in 4 men do as well. Doing some research into the statistics in Australia (the movie quotes US figures where violence is far more inculcated into society and did not give its source) it is more likely that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 20 men have experienced at least one incidence of violence from a current or former partner since the age of 15. ( Regardless of the numbers, they are still too high. The point being that there are many nuances around the definitions of abuse and some of these appear gender biased. 

My male friend who attended the movie with me, made the observation that the movie took particular note of a counselling approach that may be highly prejudicial against men. It appears to have little scientific basis, yet it has become the mainstay in many domestic abuse court hearings in America (and possibly Australia.) It is called the Duluth model of Power and Control. Amongst the things it says is that you don’t need to ask the perpetrator of abuse why they are doing something as part of their healing is in fact to come to believe in the model and its assessment. There is little space for exploration and trust - as you are seen as not being able to change if you don't agree with the model.

What then of the movie's portrayal of women and feminism? Sadly it was mostly very radicalised feminism we saw in action - protests by women who spent a lot of time screaming obscenities and abuse to stop men's rights groups meeting or holding events. A very ugly and confrontationist view that juxtaposed the extremes in the views held by women and men.

There were also attempts to show that the world is more sympathetic to women rather than men with a comparison of how the media responded to Boko Haram kidnapping 300 girls in Nigeria compared with it capturing and burning alive more than 60 young boys previously, which went largely unreported. Also, one which appeared somewhat bizarre to me, was a comparison made between the general level of horror at female circumcision and the public acceptance of male circumcision in many societies.

At the end of the movie, Casey Jaye declared she was no longer a feminist having explored the issues for a year or more. However, given the somewhat one-sided and simplistic portrayal of the men's rights movement and feminism it was a declaration that appeared short on fact and lacking awareness of the nuance and complexities surrounding domestic violence and separation.

The movie raised for me people's failure to acknowledge that with rights come responsibilities and a need for respect and grace in relating to other people. The Red Pill served to highlight that the system is reflecting the worst, not the best, of humanity when it comes to addressing conflicts between men and women. My summation is that at its best The Red Pill will increase awareness as to the disenfranchisement some men feel with the rise of the feminine, but at its worst will only serve to ignite more conflict.
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