When searching Google for ‘best documentaries list’ you find yourself among some familiar titles. Michael Moore is on there with his anti-gun Bowling for Columbine. Morgan Spurlock is on there with the already debunked Super Size Me. Gabriela Cowperthwaite is on there with the blown out of the proportion Blackfish.
To me there seems to be a blatant absence on this list. The Red Pill from Cassie Jaye. This 2016 documentary gives the viewer a front row seat to Cassie Jaye’s ideology being tore down and her being forced to rethink her beliefs on men’s rights. In her TED Talk, Jaye talks about how she originally decided to film the documentary in an attempt to expose the dark underbelly of the men’s rights movement.
Her view of the men’s rights movement has previously come from what the left had told her. These were supposed to be disgusting men who had an agenda to discredit women’s rights. I mean, what else was she supposed to believe? This was the same filmmaker famous for various films on reproductive rights and the need for more women in STEM fields. She had cocooned herself inside of an ideological bubble up until now. When she saw there was a lack of documentaries on this movement she decided to expose the evils it contained but what she found was so much different.
Cassie Jaye expected to see these men as vicious detractors of feminism who only wanted to trivialize women’s rights. It hardwired into her brain that men had all of the advantages, and no disadvantages. Her ideology preached male privilege and rape culture and toxic masculinity but it lacked the nuance to actually approach the other side of the coin. Jaye took it upon herself to explore this alternative side to the story and what she found was not a group of women haters, for the most part. These weren’t bitter, adult versions of the Little Rascals‘ ‘He Man Woman Haters Club.’
The opening scenes of the film document a small men’s rights gathering being shouted down by feminists. The men present for the men’s rights gathering are called ‘f**king scum” and “pathetic” by the protesters. Jaye watches as this gathering is shut down and even interviews those involved in shutting down gatherings like this. One of which of these detractors of the men’s rights movement is the notorious ‘Big Red’ feminist.
Big Red dismisses the movement by claiming that they don’t talk about actual issues such as parental custody, but when you dive into Jaye’s interviews with actual members of the movement, that is one of their main issues. They just want fairer custody cases where men are not automatically seen as ‘second class parents.’ They just want to see more support for male victims of rape and domestic violence. They want male victims to be taken seriously and not ridiculed and trivialized.
Last year, shortly after the documentary was released, the very first domestic violence shelter specifically for men opened in Arkansas. This is an important step as many of the men in the Red Pill talk about how they called domestic violence shelters and hotlines yet many of them told them they did not help men. While it is statistically more likely for women to be victims of domestic violence, we must still help out male victims. 1 in 4 men will experience domestic abuse in some form at least once in their lifetime according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Another recent report found that over 40% of domestic violence victims are men. While women still make up over half of the victims, it is still not a very large gap between the two. Despite the statistical gap not being very wide, there is a blatant disparity in resources for these victims.
The level of nuance found in Jaye’s documentary is astounding. At multiple points in the film, she breaks down. Everything she thought she believed was being changed now that she did decide to take a look at the other side of the story. This led to her deciding to distance herself from the ‘feminist’ label. She still believes in women’s rights but would like to do what she can for the other side of that coin as well. Within Jaye’s TED Talk she makes a statement that sums up her experience perfectly:
“When you start to humanize your enemy, you may be dehumanized by your community.”
When Cassie Jaye broke away from the feminist movement just to hear what the other side had to say, she faced backlash. Her film was banned in areas of Australia. She received threats. Men’s Rights supporters featured in the documentary faced threats. And her showing of her film were protested. Cassie Jaye, still a fairly liberal person, we tore apart by a group she believed herself to be a part of. That is the lesson we can all take away from the Red Pill.
Looking at the other side is difficult and we may be alienated for it, but it is a meaningful endeavor.
note: with a Spartanburg Public Libraries account, you can access VUDU for free and watch the film