1 Dec 2016

Linda Kelsey, Former Editor Of Cosmopolitan, On The Red Pill

By Mike Buchanan: Linda Kelsey, former editor of Cosmopolitan, was in the audience at the first London screening of The Red Pill recently, with myself and others. I introduced myself to her, and she wasn’t friendly. In her lengthy article, although well worth reading, she makes it clear she remains a feminist. That would explain her reference to the Men and Boys Coalition.
By Linda Kelsey: Looking back, I can pinpoint the precise moment I became a feminist. I was 17, a bright-eyed student at Warwick University, with a well-thumbed copy of The Female Eunuch clutched in my hand.
There in the lecture hall in front of me was Germaine Greer, empowering us all with talk of women’s liberation.
During the years that have passed since — some of them spent as the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine — the advances made by the women’s movement have been extraordinary.
I’ve witnessed the introduction of the Sex Discrimination and Equal Pay Acts, the recognition — and criminalisation — of rape in marriage, the right for women to be taxed separately from their husbands, not to mention massive improvements in maternity rights.
But for many years now — and as the mother of a son in his late 20s — I’ve had a growing sense of unease about what these achievements have meant for men. If, over the past half a century, women have been noisily smashing through glass ceilings in almost every field, then at the same time it seems as if men’s voices have been slowly drowned out.
We may have been building a better world for ourselves, but men, it seems, have been left behind in a way that will have negative repercussions for us all.
I say this knowing that I risk incurring the wrath of the sisterhood because, as we shall see, there are few arguments as incendiary as the debate over men’s versus women’s rights.

A controversial new film, The Red Pill, due to be released next month, has raised hackles by taking a closer look at today’s gender wars and questioning whether or not it is men who are the real losers in the battle of the sexes.
With the gender pay gap still yawning wide and men showing no sign of relinquishing the top spots in business around the world, it’s easy to scoff at the very idea of them being at a disadvantage.
But the fact is, in some crucial areas, they are. Take, for example, the fact that, according to the Higher Education Policy Institute, ‘a boy born in 2016 will be 75 per cent less likely to attend university than his sister if the present trends continue’.
That’s no feminist victory, it’s a terrifying prediction which will have widespread ramifications, not just for men in the workplace, but for relationships between men and women as well.
We have to ask ourselves why this is happening and investigate whether teaching now unwittingly works against boys from the earliest years, as some experts suggest.
There are theories that the paucity of male teachers in primary schools is holding boys back and that a lack of male role models at secondary school is also discouraging them from applying to university.
Here’s another disturbing statistic: across the UK and Republic of Ireland, men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women, according to the Samaritans.
And yet women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression.
Women are also much more likely to talk about mental health issues, while men rarely come forward and are therefore less likely to get treated.
This isn’t a question of rights, but of men still feeling that to own up to psychological issues would be seen as a sign of weakness — a sign, if you like, of being less of a man.

Which leads to another ‘tug of war’ men find themselves in: on the one hand, they’re encouraged to look like pumped-up superheroes, because for girls today, nothing less than a David Gandy lookalike will do. On the other, they must be kind and sensitive.
They must also be brilliant fathers — and put in as much work as women when it comes to parenting — but when it comes to break-ups, it is mothers who often have the upper hand.
The perceived silencing of and unfairness meted out to men, particularly when it comes to parental access and financial support after divorce, has led to an increasingly vociferous alliance of men who blame a conspiracy of vengeful women, bias in the courts and feminist-dominated social services for ruining their lives and their relationships with their children after separation.
The battle lines are being drawn, and it’s only going to get uglier.
So have men really been disenfranchised by feminism? The Red Pill certainly makes a compelling case. Its title is taken from another film, The Matrix, in which Keanu Reeves’ character takes a red pill to see ‘the truth’.
Men’s rights activists claim that they see the ‘truth’ about women and a world they now believe is rigged in women’s favour.
Not surprisingly, it has provoked outrage among women’s groups. Its feminist director, a fiercely intelligent young American actress-turned-film-maker called Cassie Jaye, has been pilloried for questioning her own beliefs about women’s roles in society and the consequences of feminism for men.
By daring to make a sympathetic film about the men’s rights movement, the 30-year-old has been shocked to find herself verbally attacked and ostracised by members of her own sex. Jaye described herself as a feminist when she set out to investigate the ‘hate groups’ of the men’s rights movement.
For more than two years, she spent hundreds of hours with the internet’s most notorious activists (for balance, she also interviewed the group’s fiercest opponents among feminists).
It changed her entirely. ‘When I started this project, my perception of men’s rights activists (MRAs) was definitely negative,’ she said. ‘I thought it would be a peek inside this mysterious, misogynist community.

All I knew of them were the cherry-picked, shocking comments used on feminist websites.

‘But when I really started to listen to them, I started to emphathise with a lot of their issues.
‘Our cultural conditioning is that women have been oppressed and that men are the oppressors. But I saw that wasn’t so.’
When backers got wind that Jaye had begun to question her own feminist principles, the money soon began to dry up.
The project was on the verge of being scuppered before the financial hole was filled via crowd-funding — putting a plea out on the internet, proffering a sob story and a virtual begging bowl — and loans from family and friends.
Jaye gathered support from all over the world. ‘People were disgusted that one side was trying to silence and prevent this film being made.’
When it was shown in the UK for the first time in a London hotel basement one Saturday afternoon last month, there was no red carpet and not a celebrity or canape in sight.
According to Richard Elliott, the man who bought the rights to screen the premiere: ‘No one ever looks at the ways in which men are powerless.’
Elliott is a semi-retired handyman whose interest in the men’s rights movement stemmed from his own experience. He and his partner separated around the time their son was born, 19 years ago.
‘If it had been a 50/50 arrangement, I wouldn’t have had to pay my ex anything,’ he says. ‘But by restricting my access to two nights a week — which was not my choice — I was required by the courts to pay £230 per month.
‘I’ve had to get past a lot of bitterness in order to reach a calm point and I want to look to a future where men and women can resolve differences without throwing rocks at one another.’
Elliott acknowledges that there’s aggression coming from both militant feminists and some men’s rights activists. He says he doesn’t ascribe to the misogynist views of some of the extremists within the men’s rights movement.

There are two things he says he wants to campaign for.
Firstly, for men’s right to know if they have children and, secondly, for the law to assume an equal right to parenting.
The issues are complex, but they go right to the heart of the question of whether feminism has disenfranchised men.
It used to be that when a girl got pregnant outside of marriage, she became a victim, an outcast.
Now, it’s women who are seen to have the power. There is no doubt that some women use men as unwitting sperm donors, simply informing them that they have become pregnant and then excluding them from further contact. Meanwhile, many men feel they’ve been left behind.
The Red Pill highlights the men’s issues that are rarely aired, from the lack of support for male victims of domestic violence to the fact that more than 90 per cent of workplace fatalities are male (as men tend to have the most dangerous jobs).
The film features Erin Pizzey, who opened the first refuge for battered women in the UK in 1972, but has since fallen out with the sisterhood for suggesting that women in abusive relationships are often themselves violent. Statistics back up her claim.
According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, there have been 600,000 male victims of domestic abuse in the last year alone.
While this compares to less than half the 1.3 million female victims in the last year, it is still a figure that demands urgent attention.
According to Women’s Aid, there are more than 500 refuge and support services for women and children in the UK — but the ManKind Initiative, which supports male victims of abuse, says there are only around 20 for men, offering 82 spaces, compared to around 4,000 for women.
Mark Brooks, chairman of the ManKind Initiative, points to the welcome £20 million of government funding awarded to refuges earlier this month, but notes this funding is specifically for female victims.
A new organisation, The Men and Boys Coalition, brings together charities and pressure groups which advocate for males across a raft of issues, ranging from health and education to separated fathers, as well as trying to help create ‘a positive and constructive discussion about men, manhood and masculinity’.
At the end of The Red Pill, there is an extraordinary moment when film-maker Jaye states: ‘I can no longer call myself a feminist.’
I have watched the film and although, unlike Jaye, I have no intention of renouncing the feminist beliefs I have held since I was 17, there can be little doubt that, nearly half a century on, it’s time to listen to the other side of the debate.
Personally, I see no conflict between my feminist credentials and recognising the need to face up to the disadvantages faced by men in today’s society.
The time has come for women to recognise the ways in which boys and men are missing out, because what good will it do any of us if future generations of men are under-educated, angry and unable to provide healthy role models for our — and their — sons?

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