The Red Pill, Discussion – A Feminist explores MRAs

On the day of the worldwide release of Cassie Jaye‘s latest documentary “The Red Pill”, The Gender & Sexuality discussion group will be meeting and discussing the film and the issues raise around domestic violence and abuse, parental custody, prison sentencing, mental health, workplace injuries, and patriarchy v gynocentrism, and whether these are gendered issues and outcomes and if so how are feminism(s) and MRM(s) dealing with them, and if they are, are they doing so equally?

The Red Pill Film Trailer

Extended Sneak Preview

Q&A Movie Discussion Panel

On the 18th (and 19th) of January this year the film was screened here in Norwich. The screening was followed by a Q&A with a few special guests – including the filmmaker herself, on her first visit to the UK. Video of the panel Q&A with Erin Pizzey, Cassie Jaye, Paul Elam, Dr Randomercam, Mike Buchanan, Lucinda Bray, Jess Austin, Katy Jon Went:

And a further between showings and panels discussion among: Erin Pizzey, Cassie Jaye, Paul Elam, Dr Randomercam, Mike Buchanan & Nikita Coulombe:


GAS Event:

Opinion – Katy Jon Went

Watching the film and participating in the discussion panel twice made me realise that the battle of the sexes is still alive and well, but at times and in certain contexts it seems the social war between men and women has shifted its balance in favour of women. The intersectional feminist in me would rage, that no, the patriarchy (if it can still be said to exist – the gender neutral kyriarchy may now be a better word) still discriminates against women.

The age of Feminism and Men’s Rights Movements has marked some gains in equality but also some marked paradigm shifts in the experience of that equality.

Health and life expectancy favours women over men. One could argue that men live more dangerous lives, workplace injury, war, gang violence etc, women had maternity death risks, domestic violence etc, but for the last 200 years they’ve lived longer and healthier than men, and that gap is only now beginning to narrow.

Hearing how men’s experience can be just as hellish as women’s in different ways, more combat and work stress, parental rights deprivations etc than overt sexism or sexual assault, but degrees and differences of privilege, patriarchy and matriarchy or gynocentrism.

Domestic abuse, sexual violence, and coercive control can affect 1-in-5 men (UK, 1-in-4 USA) just as it does with 1-in-3 women. And yet, count up how many men’s DASV shelters there are? You’ll only need the fingers on one hand.

Gender roles, “the boy code”, “man up”, “be a man”, “you’re the provider/protector”, “boys don’t cry/blab”, all serve to trap men, discourage them from seeking help in relationships, around mental health – and when they do attempt suicide, they are invariably more lethal in taking their own lives.

The Red Pill may be hard to swallow but it needs to be seen and engaged with, and as Paul Elam said, some men need to be “heard, even in their anger”. What was less palatable from some voices was the feeling and some campaigning that women’s services and funding should be reduced in order to fund men’s services. Whilst men’s DASV support, and numerous other services absolutely need funding, it should be in addition to the already cut back women’s services. It should not be a battle of the sexes or the services, or the public/charity sector money pot, but the putting of people before profit, health before gender, ending violence and abuse before stereotyping one sex as the aggressor and the other as victim.

Are Men or Women Funniest? Germaine Greer & Ghostbusters

Germaine Greer once said women weren’t as funny as men. Paul Feig who directed Ghostbusters seems to think it’s men who aren’t funny. Are either of them doing a disservice to the sexes? The BBC now has female comic quotas on its panel shows to prevent all-male line-ups. Victoria Wood and Caroline Aherne were both great wits and are sadly missed. Sarah Silverman‘s acerbic tongue certainly does not hold back because she is a member of the “gentler sex”! Come and debate men, women, film, comedy, sexism, stereotypes, misandry, misogyny and Germaine Greer for good measure at Norwich Millennium Library GAS group Tuesday 2 August, 6-7pm.

Germaine Greer on Comedy & Gender

Germaine Greer was in Norwich last week talking about the “disappearing woman”, she didn’t have in mind the lack of leading female comedians, although she did say in 2009 that women were not as funny as men.

“The phenomenon of men’s dominance of the comedy realm is so conspicuous that all kinds of cod explanations have been given for it. According to one cracker-barrel psychologist, the pleasure generated by a response to a gag is patterned on the male orgasm rather than the female. Another wiseacre has convinced himself that making people laugh is exerting some kind of power over them. In my version, the man who opts for the role of joker in the male group is not looking for power but for acceptance; the other roles in the group are not accessible to him, perhaps because he is weaker or poorer or less imposing than his peers. His audience has, as it were, the power of life and death over him; if he fails to get his laugh, he “dies”. Men’s dominance of standup has even been attributed to the phallic character of the microphone, absurdly enough.” – Germaine Greer, Guardian

Sexism in Stand-Up

“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for another act. Now, it is a girl, so be nice because she could be a bit … well, crap.”

“No, it’s not a comedy routine, but a true introduction I’ve been given on stage before my act. It’s an attitude female standups have come to expect from insecure, chauvinistic hacks with little talent. But from Germaine Greer?” – Tiffany Stevenson-Oake, Guardian

Ghostbusters and Funny Women

In the rebooted film Ghostbusters, director Paul Feig disagrees and loves funny women, despite the film being initially panned as the most hated film trailer on YouTube ever with 1 million dislikes from 38 million views.

“Hollywood, start hiring these funny women and giving them movies, please.” Feig discussed Hollywood’s women problem with MTV last week, saying the industry was “having a very hard time catching up with the modern world.” – Daily Telegraph

“Why Men Aren’t Funny” Paul Feig’s Guest Article for the Hollywood Reporter:

“In the original movie, the bad guys weren’t actually the ghosts — everybody loves Slimer and the Marshmallow Man. No, the bad guys were the clueless bureaucrats in the government, who set off a supernatural crisis through bumbling and red tape.
In this film, by contrast, the enemy is all men, while the government ends up playing dad. Every man in the movie is a combination of malevolent and moronic…It’s an overpriced self-esteem device for women betrayed by the lies of third-wave feminism. Despite pandering to the kind of woman who thinks misandry is a positive lifestyle choice, Ghostbusters is remarkably unkind to its female leads.”

Sexist Stereotypes?

“Compare the female Ghostbusters with my favorite female character of all time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy’s feminine qualities are part of her strength. She saves the world using her female vulnerability, not in spite of it. In fact, her femininity is the only thing that makes her capable of heroic feats.
The petty, two-dimensional feminist posturing of Ghostbusters is demeaning to all four of its leads, particularly when you consider how complex and interesting the film could have been with someone like Joss Whedon at the helm.” – Breitbart

Women’s Representation on Comedy Shows

Since 2014 the BBC has stopped panel shows such as QI , Have I Got News For You, and Mock the Week from having all-male line-ups. “All the regular comedians on the most recent series of Mock the Week were men and only five of the 38 guest panellists were women.” – BBC. But comedian Jason Mansford says they should not have announced the quota-based change publicly.

“I think that’s a boys’ game that works for boys,” Caitlin Moran said. “It’s not like they built it to screw women over, it’s just that boys built it so they made it to work for boys. If I go on there as a token woman, it’s not going to work for me,” she added.

Diversity, Equality & Authenticity in Film portrayal & representation

The Norfolk Gender & Sexuality (GAS) Discussion Group meets at the Norwich Forum Library, 6.30pm Jan 5, to debate “Gender & Sexuality, Diversity, Equality & Authenticity, in Film”. (Facebook event)

2015 has seen the female-led Hunger Games end, a black Hermione announced, along with a black stormtrooper and strong-female roles in the new Star Wars (sadly erased by Hasbro’ Action Figures). It also has a cis-male actor playing an intersex-trans woman in The Danish Girl, a film which also features a trans woman playing a cis-role. Can Doctor Who regenerate as a woman? Could James Bond be black? Do diversity and representation matter or does acting trump accuracy? Has 2015 been the year of film equality, and if so for whom?

“2015 was the year everyone called ‘a benchmark’ for women in film. Rey to Imperator Furiosa, Cinderella to Katniss Everdeen. The powerhouse performances of Carol’s Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, or Joy’s Jennifer Lawrence. 2016 – Ghostbusters: the female-fronted movie of the year” – The Independent

Thelma & Louise film poster 1991
Thelma & Louise film poster 1991

Geena Davis has had swashbuckling and assassin female roles in Cutthroat Island and The Long Kiss Goodnight, been the eponymous and iconic Thelma in Thelma & Louise and been the US President in Commander in Chief and is not a woman to be messed with if her screen roles are anything to go by. In 2005 she helped launch a venture aimed at balancing the number of male and female characters in children’s TV and movie programming and in 2007 founded The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media:

“for every one female-speaking character in family-rated films (G, PG and PG-13), there are roughly three male characters; that crowd and group scenes in these films — live-action and animated — contain only 17 percent female characters; and that the ratio of male-female characters has been exactly the same since 1946. Throw in the hypersexualization of many of the female characters that are there, even in G-rated movies, and their lack of occupations and aspirations and you get the picture.” – Geena Davis

Tomorrowland film 2015
Tomorrowland (2015)

Tomorrowland (2015) had not one but two strong female leads who talked to each other, and not about men or sex at all, easily passing the Bechdel Test – popularized by Alison Bechdel’s comic Dykes to Watch Out For, in a 1985 strip called ‘The Rule’. A test that has come in for its own criticism for failing women and feminism.

The film’s main lead was originally written as male though:

“There is a completely false perception of, “Well, our main character is interested in space travel, so it’s gotta be a boy,” but the first time I said, “Well, what if it was a young girl …

It just felt like it was exactly right for us. I also think that if you have a female lead, people suddenly go, “Oh, there has to be a romantic entanglement.” Like, if you’re doing Hunger Games, it’s not enough that you’re dropped into an arena and everyone’s trying to kill you — there has to be not one, but two romantic entanglements! So Brad and I thought, What if she doesn’t get distracted by romantic entanglements? What if her “romance” is with the future?

It’ll be nice in 10 or 15 years for this not to be a thing anymore. I think we’re now in this post–Hunger Games, post-Twilight, post-Insurgent era where these movies make tons of money, you don’t even think twice about it, and they’re great characters. But for us, it was always more interesting — particularly the energy for Frank to be pulled along, kicking and screaming, by these two young women.”

Does film give us the opportunity to experiment and fantasize? We’ve had more female Presidents of the USA in film and TV than in reality (none) and 2016’s forthcoming Independence Day sequel “Resurgence” is to portray another woman as POTUS.

Star Wars

Star Wars was one of the original gun-toting films for Sci-Fi fantasy as Princess Leia was less a princess and more an armed rebel leader, despite the other sort of fantasy scene where she is chained as a sex slave for Jabba the Hut. Well Han Solo also got encased in carbonite… The prequels Epsiodes I-III feature a strong Amidala, Queen of Naboo, despite impossible outfits to battle in, and in the latest release The Force Awakens, we have Rey, a female lead, though she has been completely erased by Hasbro action figures and the new Star Wars Monopoly set.

Meanwhile Carrie Fisher felt it was sexist that film pressure, fans, twitter and social media commented excessively on her age, beauty and weight, not on any of the returning male stars.

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence has written about gendered pay equality in Hollywood, despite being the highest-paid female actor of 2015 and in the upcoming film, Passengers (2016) is paid more than her male co-star:

“When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with dicks [in American Hustle], I didn’t get mad at Sony,” she writes. “I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early. I didn’t want to keep fighting over millions of dollars that, frankly, due to two franchises, I don’t need.”

She writes that a need “to be liked” and the fear of seeming “difficult” or “spoiled” kept her from demanding more money.

“This could be a young-person thing,” she writes. “It could be a personality thing. I’m sure it’s both. But this is an element of my personality that I’ve been working against for years, and based on the statistics, I don’t think I’m the only woman with this issue … Could there still be a lingering habit of trying to express our opinions in a certain way that doesn’t ‘offend’ or ‘scare’ men?”

Lawrence joins a long list of actors including Patricia Arquette, Cate Blanchett Meryl Streep, and Emma Thompson, who have hit out about misogyny and inequality in Hollywood’s film industry.

Chris Rock has responded by suggesting they try being a black woman if they really want to experience inequality.

Can Cis Actors play Trans or Intersex Roles?

Transparent features a cis-male playing a trans woman and an older trans actress playing a cis-role. Boy Meets Girl features a trans actress playing a trans woman, hailed as a breakthrough in the UK, yet she also plays a cis-gendered female nurse in The Danish Girl – the trans/intersex lead of which is played by a cis-male actor, Eddie Redmayne – but originally offered to Nicole Kidman. Rebecca Root has shed light on the film’s consulting of trans people and casting of some in. Redmayne had played Viola in Twelfth Night before, one of several Shakespeare genderbending roles, of course, originally, all female parts in Shakespeare were played by men and boys.

Intersex activists have complained about Redmayne’s character’s historical intersex erasure as too have the trans activists!

There is a lack of opportunity for trans actors in cis and trans roles. Director, Tom Hooper, explained that:

“Lili is presented as a man for two-thirds of the movie, and her transition happens quite late on, so that played a part in coming to a decision.” Hooper also said that the production had reached out to the trans acting communities in the cities where they shot – London, Brussels and Copenhagen – and ended up casting “40 or 50 trans supporting artists” [in 2 roles]. He said: “I’m pleased we achieved what we did, but I’m sure there’s more to do.””

heteronormativity also most certainly shapes what Hooper, the film’s director, refers to as the problematic lack of “opportunity for trans actors to play cis and trans roles.””

Orange Is the New Black has featured a trans actress playing a trans role, and her brother playing her pre-transition, and has now added a non-binary genderfluid actor, Ruby Rose, to its groundbreaking cast.

Acting is acting though and ability should trump lived-experience surely, unless telling a true story, perhaps.

We don’t automatically look for disabled actors to play disabled roles, nor even gay to play gay and straight to play straight. In the past gay actors played straight roles and vice versa, but is that still acceptable now?

Can Doctor Who regenerate as a woman?

Could/should the Doctor regenerate as a woman? We’ve had a sex-change Time Lord and Master/Missy.

“In ‘The Doctor’s Wife’, the Doctor mentioned that The Corsair was sometimes a bad boy…or girl depending on his mood. Apparently Time Lords/Ladies can change their gender at will.”

Do we need a female Doctor when the companions continue to evolve into feisty intelligent scene-stealers and Missy and River Song put the Doctor in his place so easily?

Should Sherlock or Watson change sex or Moffat be more feminist?

As with Doctor Who there is much fanfic around a female and or gay Sherlock Holmes or John Watson, but we already have a female Joan Watson in Elementary.

Some people think Moffat is a ‘feminist writer’ because he writes *strong female characters*. This article…pretty much proves Moffat’s views of feminism:

“Moffat, unsurprisingly, doesn’t agree. “In the original, Irene Adler’s victory over Sherlock Holmes was to move house and run away with her husband. That’s not a feminist victory.” He says he found Jones’s argument “deeply offensive”. “Everyone else gets it that Irene wins. When Sherlock turns up to save her at the end it’s like Eliza Dolittle coming back to Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady: ‘OK, I like you, now let me hack up these terrorists with a big sword.’”

Moffat has bizarre views on what is feminist or unfeminist…”

Is Sherlock a “misogynistic throwback…you’ve got to worry when a woman [Irene Adler as dominatrix fantasy rather than female adventurer] comes off worse in 2012 than in 1891″, “In Moffat’s hands the power of Irene Adler, Sherlock Holmes’s female adversary, was sexual, not intellectual. A regressive step” – Jane Clare Jones, Guardian

Can Harry Potter’s Hermione be Black?

Canon: brown eyes, frizzy hair and very clever. White skin was never specified. Rowling loves black Hermione”

“Is Hermione Granger black? This is the question prompted by the casting of a black actor, Noma Dumezweni, as Hogwarts’ cleverest pupil in an upcoming theatre production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The answer is twofold. First, why the hell not? Second, what a stupid question!

A better one to ask is whether Hermione – or indeed any fictional character – is necessarily white. The answer is no. The decision to cast Dumezweni, an Olivier-award winning actor currently performing at the Royal Court in a lead intended for Kim Cattrall, challenges our assumption that characters are white unless we’re told otherwise.”


Can James Bond be Black?

Could Bond be black? for example, Idris Elba, Denzel Washington or Chiwetel Ejiofor. He was only made Scottish after Sean Connery played him, whilst David Tennant dumped his Scottish accent to play an ‘English’ Doctor Who.

The reasons why and why not are a battle of story versus bottom line. The issues include those of “the power of the default” and the power of “commercial argument”.

Historically, we had blacking-up in film, now considered a no-no (despite Anthony Hopkins in Othello, 1981, and more recently Ridley Scott’s white cast in Exodus) with the range of BAME actors now available, perhaps the question should be availability of quality actors with appropriate experience, but acting skill and character research/consulting with represented people groups for better accuracy and understanding, as with The Danish Girl.