Misogynistic, racist, homophobic. The men’s rights movement is often dismissed by the mainstream media as nothing more than a hate group- an assortment of angry chauvinists intent on forcing women into a life of servitude at the hands of men. I attended the annual International Conference on Men’s Issues, which was held on the Gold Coast over the long weekend, and tellingly, the mainstream narrative couldn’t be further from the truth.
The conference began on Friday afternoon, with the organisers hosting a press event for visiting media. Leading figures of the men’s rights movement fielded a series of questions as they discussed their ideological stance, the opposition that they have encountered, and what their specific long-term ambitions are. The movement’s inclusiveness stood out early on, with avoiceformen.com editor Robert Brockway explaining how men’s rights activists – MRAs – had flown into Australia from across the entire world, with women, disability sufferers, members of the homosexual community, and people of various different political leanings in attendance.
Following the conclusion of the press conference, the 200 or so conference attendees began entering the venue for the first official event of the weekend: a screening of The Red Pill – the controversial men’s rights documentary which feminists have attempted to censor. A woman – US documentary maker Cassie Jaye, who had originally set out to create a film which would expose the supposed misogyny of the men’s rights movement – created the movie itself. Jaye’s own experiences making the documentary, which included hundreds of hours’ worth of interviews with both MRAs as well as feminists, led her to change course; ultimately creating a film which accurately portrays the men’s rights movement as a community of impassioned advocates, fighting to draw attention to a range of different social and legal issues which disproportionately affect men and boys. Jaye no longer identifies as a feminist.
The film itself is undoubtedly a must see. Issues such as family court outcomes, the male suicide epidemic, funding for men’s health research, double standards in criminal sentencing, educational achievements, male genital mutilation, the misrepresentation of domestic violence as a gendered issue, and the narrative of male disposability more broadly are addressed, with many tear jerking moments featured throughout. The screening was then followed by a Q & A session with Cassie Jaye herself, who outlined to the audience the opposition which she had faced in regards both funding as well as promoting the film. Just the night before, Jaye had been ambushed by panellists on The Project, in what was possibly one of the most unbalanced pieces of gutter journalism ever seen on Australian television. This was then followed by a similar display on Weekend Sunrise, as host Andrew O’Keefe labelled the men’s rights movement “the most misogynistic anti-woman antifeminist organisation in the world”, despite also admitting in the exact same interview to having never actually seen The Red Pill movie.
The second day of the conference then saw a series of speeches given by various presenters on a range of different topics. Canadian MRA Karen Straughan, who has made a name for herself as one of the founding members of the Honey Badger Brigade– a movement of female MRAs, gave a fantastic speech looking at the role of evolutionary psychology in gender relations. This was followed by a screening of Martyrs of Marriage– a film directed by Indian MRA Deepika Bhardwaj, which explores controversial anti-dowry harassment law 498A. The law, which was originally introduced with the intention of protecting married women and their families, is widely exploited, with millions of cases emerging of women using the law to blackmail not only their former spouses, but also in many cases the man’s extended family as well. Provisions attached to the statute entitle women to also pursue legal action against the man’s family members, with cases emerging of elderly grandparents and even new born babies being accused of having engaged in dowry harassment.
The final day of the conference focused on the legal discrimination faced by men in Australia, with West Australian Law Reform Commissioner and Murdoch University legal scholar Augusto Zimmerman detailing the state of Australian family law. Zimmerman’s stories of having met men who hadn’t seen their children in years was a poignant moment, as he outlined the opposition which he has faced from the feminist lobby in his attempts to push for much needed reforms.
The highlight of the final day however was former ALP leader Mark Latham’s speech, which focussed on the proliferation of identity politics within the mainstream, and how the media and major parties’ obsession with this narrative ultimately serves as a betrayal of the Australian people. Latham received a standing ovation at the conclusion of his speech, but wouldn’t give a definitive answer when questioned about the possibility of a potential return to Australian politics. Watch this space.
Overall, the weekend spent at the conference was an enlightening experience. We met a middle-aged man who had spent four years sleeping rough on the streets of Brisbane following his divorce. We chatted with a woman in her twenties who had grown up deprived of a relationship with her father following her parents’ divorce. We were introduced to a female domestic violence researcher who was intent on dispelling the myth that domestic violence is a gendered issue. Ultimately, the conference concluded with a final rallying cry from British MRA Mike Buchanan. Frustrated with the ongoing misrepresentation of his movement as one of hatred and misogyny, Buchanan urged his fellow activists to “stop apologising for being for men’s rights…Stop apologising for being men!”
Within the men’s rights movement, activists commonly refer to their ‘red pill’ moment- the moment when they were exposed to the truth, discovering a reality which they never knew existed. Having spent an entire weekend engaging with the perspectives and ideas of the men’s rights movement, I can now proudly say that I have had my own red pill moment. Will you take the red pill?
The Red Pill movie can be accessed at http://theredpillmovie.com/screenings/buy-rent-stream/
Tom Pirrone is a postgraduate student from Melbourne. This piece also appears at The Unshackled.