Red Pill director says men's rights issues being drowned out by mudslinging

The creator of the controversial documentary The Red Pill says legitimate concerns about men's rights are being drowned out in "tit-for-tat" mudslinging.

The 2016 movie follows U.S.-based filmmaker Cassie Jaye as she interviews those involved in the men's rights movement and spends time discussing some of its issues, including child custody, suicide rates, workplace deaths and domestic abuse against men.

"Anyone who does work in the field of men's issues, any one of these dozens upon dozens of men's issues, that is their big concern, that the conversation has devolved into this tit-for-tat mudslinging. Who has it worse: women or men?" said Jaye on CBC Calgary News at 6.

"I don't think that's what any rights movement should be about, about who has it worst. It should be looking at their issues and looking for solutions."

The controversy stems from the premise taken by many in the movement that feminism is responsible for an erosion in the rights of men, as well as statements made some of the movements' leaders that have been criticized as anti-women.

In Canada, some screenings of The Red Pill have been cancelled amid complaints that it was "misogynistic" and public backlash, including in Ottawa. In Calgary, an initial screening was cancelled after an email from the Wildrose on Campus club promoting the film equated feminism with cancer, although a screening is now planned for April.

Jaye says she used to describe herself as a feminist but no longer does so after making the film.

She says she hopes people will keep open minds when they watch it.

"I hope this film inspires more open dialogue and wanting to go beneath the surface, because all we really hear in the mainstream media is this tip of iceberg about the men's rights movement and a lot of it is really misleading, misinformation, and I hope to debunk a lot of those myths," said Jaye.

Men more likely to die from suicide, workplace-related fatalities

Alberta is hardly immune to the issues highlighted by the men's rights movement activists in the film.

Men in the province are much more likely to kill themselves than women. In 2016, 353 men killed themselves, versus 107 women, according to the Centre for Suicide Prevention.

The highest number of suicides occur in men between the ages of 40 and 60.

When it comes to workplace deaths, the disparity is even more striking.

In 2015, there were 120 workplace-related fatalities for men versus five for women — and the gap was even larger two years earlier, in 2013, when 177 men died and 11 women, according to Occupational Health and Safety.

Looking at domestic violence, Calgary police say men were the victims in almost one in five domestic dispute calls in 2015.

Controversial figures in film

Although Jaye says she wants her film to get past the inflamed rhetoric and concerns some people have with elements of the men's rights movement, she does interview some of its most controversial figures.

One of the most prominent voices in The Red Pill is American Paul Elam, who gained widespread fame and/or notoriety after launching the website A Voice For Men in 2008, which evolved into a broader online community for the men's rights movement.

A strident anti-feminist, Elam has repeatedly sparked controversy with comments such as ones questioning whether any rape trials should end in conviction. He contends the system is stacked in favour of the complainants.

In fact, in Canada, statistics show the accused are less likely to be convicted in sexual assault trials compared with other crimes.

In the U.S., where Elam lives, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network says it's difficult to come up with conclusive data, but based on Department of Justice figures, estimates say out of every 1,000 rapes committed, only 310 are reported to police, with just six of those leading to a conviction.

Another key voice in The Red Pill is Harry Crouch, president of the National Coalition for Men, which bills itself as the oldest men's rights group in the United States.

Among its more controversial moves, Crouch's organization has sued dozens of women's groups for excluding men from their functions — including one for holding a mixer to help more women start their own businesses and another to get more women interested in golf.

They argued — successfully — that such events violated a civil rights law in California that outlaws discrimination based on sex, race, age, race or disability.

Crouch often rails against the "feminized" state and the takeover of institutions by radical feminists and blames the pay gap on decisions made by women rather than wage disparities.

"It's definitely not the thing to blame for all their issues, but they certainly have criticisms of feminism, largely because when they do try to organize, have men's rights meetings, they are shut down by radical feminist protestors," Jaye said.

'Feminism is cancer' email controversy

The Red Pill was the centre of controversy in Calgary recently when the Wildrose on Campus student group at the University of Calgary sent an email saying "You and I both know that feminism is cancer" in order to promote a screening of the documentary.

The controversy that followed continued to grow, with the club apologizing and blaming the email on a shadowy communications director that may or may not exist, and others blaming the implosion of the club on a takeover by supporters of newly minted PC Leader Jason Kenney.

Jaye said she would never equate feminism with cancer, but wouldn't react in anger to an email like that.

"If I were a listener, or someone reading that email, I would be curious why do they think that and I would want to learn more about it rather than shut down a screening," she said.

The Red Pill is now scheduled to air at the Plaza Theatre in Calgary on April 4 from 6-9 p.m., presented by the group Fathers Rights Alberta.