American director and self-described “former feminist” Cassie Jaye has incited fierce debate in Australia while promoting her new documentary The Red Pill, about the controversial men’s rights movement.
Banned by several Australian cinemas after opponents of the film threatened boycotts, protests and social media campaigns against movie-house chains, the film goes “down the rabbit hole of gender politics” to explore “the various ways men are disadvantaged and discriminated against”.
After making the film, Jaye, a “staunch feminist” for 10 years, left feminism because she realised the flaws of its “limiting perspective”.
On Thursday, Jaye appeared on The Project on Thursday and set tongues wagging when she said the tragic case of Australian of the Year and domestic violence victim Rosie Batty proved there were “male victims of domestic violence”.
Jaye said she was surprised and confused by the negative response the film and received Down Under.
“We’ve had a lot of success in other countries, so Australia is really the only place we’ve had protests and petitions and banning like this,” Jaye said.
“I’m curious what is different about Australia that makes this topic so polarising, so fearful to people that they actually want to shut it down and silence it … I’m not sure why there’s so much resistance in Australia.”
Panellist Carrie Bickmore suggested Batty, a mother whose son was murdered by his father, her estranged husband, had a lot to do with Australia’s pro-female stance.
“It was her son that passed?” Jaye asked.
“It was her son that was killed by his father,” Bickmore explained.
“I didn’t know about that but that is interesting, because it shows that there are male victims of domestic violence,” Jaye replied.
“Sorry, that’s the lesson you took from that?” panellist Waleed Aly interjected.
“The point a lot of people take from that is that the violence was perpetrated by a man … as it overwhelmingly is.”
Jaye tried to defend her perspective, saying domestic violence was a “touchy subject”.
“We have to distinguish between victims and perpetrators,” she said.
While The Project panel appeared gobsmacked by Jaye’s comments, she received plenty of support on social media for remaining levelheaded despite the “condescending” interview.
— #TheProjectTV (@theprojecttv) June 8, 2017
This was not the first time Jaye’s views have divided public opinion – her film has been the target of widespread protests and boycotts across the country.
A Brisbane screening was held in secret when organisers received death threats, the student union at the University of Sydney dumped a screening after protests and Sydney’s Dendy Cinema Newtown ditched the film from its roster entirely.
Palace Cinemas also cancelled the film’s Melbourne premiere last year after a petition to ban it received more than 2300 signatures.
Criticisms of the film include that it was partially funded by the men’s rights movement and features interviews with figures like activist Paul Elam, who is often regarded as a rape apologist.
The film takes its name from Reddit’s “red pill” thread, a forum dedicated to “discussion of sexual strategy in a culture increasingly lacking a positive identity for men”.
That, in turn, gets its title from The Matrix in which Keanu Reeves, playing Neo, is offered a choice between a red pill, representing reality and truth, and a blue bill, representing comforting lies.