By Meaghan Richens. Photo is a screenshot.
A screening of the documentary The Red Pill at the Mayfair Theatre on Dec. 4 was cancelled and relocated to Ottawa City Hall after pressure from the theatre’s sponsors.
The film looks into men’s rights activism through the personal lens of Cassie Jaye, its filmmaker and a self-identified former feminist. Jaye has said she was inspired to make the film after discovering the movement while researching rape culture. In the film, she talks to men’s rights activists about male victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence, male suicide rates, and male education.
The film screening was organized by the Ottawa branch of the national non-profit organization Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE). CAFE describes itself as engaging in “public education and public policy initiatives related to ‘men’s issues,’ including health, family law, suicide, education, safety, [and] social misandry.”
But critics of the organization say it promotes misogyny and toxic masculinity.
Prior to the cancellation at the Mayfair Theatre, Julie Lalonde, a feminist activist, took to Twitter to criticize the theatre’s decision to allow CAFE to screen the film. She said the organization obtained charitable status through fraudulent means.
Lalonde was also critical of screening the film so close to the anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre, which happened on Dec. 6, 1989 and took the lives of 14 women.
“You’re not only giving these people money but you’re screening it during the #16Days of activism on violence against women? Disgusting,” one of her tweets read.
Holly Rachelle Price, a Mayfair customer, left a negative review on the theatre’s unofficial Facebook page and wrote that the theatre was “fostering misogyny.” Price has not seen the film, but said in an interview with The Charlatan that the premise bothered her.
“Following a ‘former’ feminist who sees the light and recognizes that feminism is a conspiracy against men is ridiculous and insulting to the hard work of feminists to create and build on equality structures within society,” Price said. “Discrediting women and their work is misogynistic.”
The Mayfair released a statement apologizing to its friends, patrons, and community, and said it had rented its screen room out without understanding the film’s content.
“Upon learning of the film’s subject and message, we should have acted more quickly and decisively to cancel the screening and reject any association with the so-called ‘men’s rights movement.’ We deeply regret that it took us as long as it did,” the statement read.
But not everyone sees The Red Pill as an issue.
Annette Sandy attended the screening with her 16-year-old son, and said she didn’t immediately understand why the film screening had been relocated.
“I didn’t even realize there was an issue,” Sandy said.
She added she wished the documentary had talked more about education.
“I really feel that the education system is geared towards girls now. And it’s almost like we’ve done a huge shift to make sure girls have equality and we’ve forgotten about the boys,” Sandy said.
After the screening, Jaye participated in a Q&A session over Skype with attendees. Jaye talked about the film, the men’s rights movement in general, and the cancellation of the screening at its original venue.
“There’s a lot of general deflection from the people that inspired the theatre to cancel the event,” Jaye said. She added she believed her film had been censored.
“The feminist protesters were saying ‘well we didn’t cancel the film, look at the theatre,’ and the theatre’s saying ‘well we were getting threats to our safety,’ or hearing whatever lies they heard about the film or CAFE. So no one’s taking ownership of the censorship happening,” Jaye said.
The Charlatan reached out to the Mayfair owner Lee Demarbre and CAFE founder Justin Trottier for comment, but did not receive a response.