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How A Movie About The Men’s Rights Movement Became A Feminist’s Journey


Dissent from politically correct conventions is not allowed, and the politics will get personal. Such are the lessons award-winning documentary film maker Cassie Jaye learned while making her third film, “The Red Pill.”

The documentary filmmaker who gave us short films like “Making Mothers Visible” and two full documentaries—“The Right to Love” about LGBT relationships (before the drop the T petition, obviously) and “Daddy I Do,” about abstinence education culture—Jaye had feminist and progressive credibility, plus the media connections that come with it.

Not only did the films win an assortment of awards and accolades, but also the likes of Slate’s Amanda Marcotte starred in the latter. Jaye could investigate any topic she wished. Or so it seemed.

Bicurious, Femcurious, and Now Mancurious

As her portfolio displays, Jaye was curious about gender topics. Until 2013, she had focused on women’s and LBGT stories. But she wondered about the opposition. How could men’s rights advocates oppose the gender truths she and her friends knew? She began to explore men’s rights sites to understand.

What she saw infuriated her. Some arguments seemed too obnoxious to be true. Others struck her as doubtful because if they were true, then surely she would have come across the argument previously. Others still made her angry to think that they might be true.

Some arguments seemed too obnoxious to be true.

So she embarked on her current project, “The Red Pill,” a documentary on the men’s rights movement. She assumed the feminist movement was open-minded enough, as she was, that she could do an honest film.

Initially, that assumption held. She had the support of her networks, who were frankly excited about the prospect of a men’s rights movement exposé. But Jaye did her homework. She researched. She conducted personal interviews. And she realized that the men’s movement made some valid arguments.

When her backers realized that Jaye would not be doing a hit piece on the men’s movement, she lost their support, both technical and financial. Some simply did not believe what she had found. Others told her that her findings may be true, that men might face an assortment of crises as claimed, but that it was unacceptable to address those concerns while women were still oppressed. Many might sing a song of equality for all, but in practice, women were their priority.

Opening the Lace Curtain

What started as a film about the men’s rights movement became a parallel documentary about the men’s movement and Jaye’s journey as a modern feminist. In a recent conversation, she would not tell me the details of her moment of realization. It is a pivotal event in her film, and it informs the title, “The Red Pill.”

A ‘clack’ moment was when a woman realized that she only garnered praise for actions taken at the expense of men.

Her moment of realization about the truth of balance between feminism and men—that is, there is no balance, only the feminist perspective, purpose, or preference—has many names. Danielle Crittenden called it a “clack” moment in her 1999 book, “What Our Mothers Didn’t Tell Us.”

The opposite of Betty Friedan’s “click” moment, when the suburban housewife of the ’60s realized that men took advantage of her domestic service, a “clack” moment was when a woman realized that she only garnered praise for actions taken at the expense of men. Warren Farrell, a long-time men’s rights activist who long ago sat on the board of NOW, referred to domination of the feminist perspective as a “lace curtain” in his 1999 book, “Women Can’t Hear What Men Do Not Say.” To help men, one has to get though the lace curtain. It was a play on the Iron Curtain of the Cold War. (That chapter is excerpted here.)

So in 1999—apparently a banner year for scales falling from eyes metaphors—“The Matrix” was released. In the movie about virtual and actual reality, Morpheus, the wise teacher, presents Neo, the newly found hero, with a choice of two pills, red and blue.

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.

Soon “taking the red pill” became the preferred metaphor for the moment when a man realized that feminism wasn’t just about women’s equality and that it had no concern for men.

Women realized this, too. Camille Paglia is the most infamous of the dissenters. Christina Hoff Sommers is the most well-known on the Right. I wonder how many have even heard of Karen DeCrow? Jaye, with her new knowledge, has plenty of company, and plenty of heartache.

Cassie Jaye’s Breitbart Interview

Her network’s abandonment almost scuttled Jaye’s film. She had to resort to a Kickstarter campaign, which onetime-friends even refused to share in email because they did not trust her to present the men’s rights movement as they saw it.

As soon as they released their collective breath in relief, the project almost died.

Men’s rights activists had known about the project. Many had been interviewed and were wary. A feminist looking into the movement? Well, many of them had not had good experience with feminists, especially the old guard, the men who had been feminists in the ’70s before Gloria Steinem ousted Betty Friedan from leadership at now.

(By the late ’70s Friedan had realized the movement had overstepped in trashing housewifery and men. “Some of the rhetoric got off,” she said later, when she published an all-but-forgotten book that tried to restore balance. But Steinem, Helen Gurley Brown, and their ilk had already taken over. Men and home were out. Sex and career were in.) The original feminist men had lost friends and networks. In some cases, they were all but destroyed.

Yet some had spoken with Jaye on the hope that someone from the outside was willing to listen without assuming they were patriarchal oppressors or sewers of toxic masculinity. As soon as they released their collective breath in relief, the project almost died.

Then, Milo Yiannopolous published “‘The Red Pill’ filmmaker started to doubt her feminist beliefs…now her movie is at risk” in Breitbart. Those who were sympathetic to the empathy gap for men—the lack of concern that many from professional social workers to everyday people have about any problems men face—found out about the film.

Along with a few anonymous feminists, these sympathetic people funded the project. In about two weeks, Jaye made her main goal and her two stretch goals, which will allow her to improve the production quality and submit the film for Oscar contention.

From Ice to Fire

This success did not sit well with her erstwhile supporters. When they thought the project would starve, they were content to simply ignore her. But when she got funding, the personal attacks started. Dissent is not tolerated. Ever. Their preference is to ignore it, to freeze it out. But if it still surfaces, then they go for the credibility of the messenger. It seems like a habit. They’ve done it for decades.

When she got funding, the personal attacks started. Dissent is not tolerated.

I’m on the steering committee for the commission to create a White House Council for Boys & Men. A couple of old-guard men’s rights activists started the initiative in 2013. During one of our recent weekly conference calls, Jaye’s documentary came up.

By this point, the men knew it wouldn’t be a slanderous exposé. They knew that she had lost support because she was going to present the movement as she found it. And they knew she had lost friends for her integrity. Warren Farrell, one of the authors linked above, was on that call, as he often is. He had spoken to Jaye just a few days before about what she was going though.

He started crying. Just the way a smell sends you back to a time and a feeling, talking with Jaye had brought back memories of the days when people he thought would always be his friends had shut him out of their lives because he did not agree that feminism had to proceed at men’s expense. He was for actual equality, not gender karma and revenge.

But he learned, as all feminist dissenters learn, dissent is not allowed. And the attacks will be very personal.

Cassie Jaye’s film, “The Red Pill,” will be out in fall 2016.