Monday, 3 April 2017

To the management of the Plaza Theatre in Calgary

UPDATE: Success! The screening is back on. The Plaza changed its mind. Yay!

To the management of the Plaza Theatre,

My name is Karen Straughan. I’m a men’s advocate located in Edmonton, and am featured in the movie The Red Pill, which was to be screened at your theatre tomorrow evening. I am told that you’ve changed your mind, in part because of feedback such as this comment written by Felicity Hart on Facebook.

To The Plaza theatre;

As a fan and long time patron, I am concerned at the upcoming rental of your theatre to Father’s Rights Alberta for the screening of The Red Pill. The film claims to be supporting mens rights but is in fact created and promoted by Mens Rights Activist groups, which actively seek to get rid of equal rights for women and minorities, and are considered a hate group by the southern poverty law centre; an organization which tracks hate groups such as soldiers of odin, the kkk and nazi and fascist organizations in North America.

It is deeply concerning that your venue would care more about revenue than the safety of those attending your theatre, and of women in general in Calgary. Not only can I and my friends and family not in good conscience ever attend a venue which supports hate speech, but I know I and other women cannot feel safe in a venue that plays host to men who actively advocate for rape, brutalization, and violence against women (examples of this behaviour can be found on the southern poverty law centre website, or by googling mra abuse, or Paul Elam, who is the main subject of the film you are screening).

While I understand the group is obscure and the theatre may not have known, they are a hate group, and I doubt the theatre would host the KKK or a holocaust denier group.
I encourage you to cancel the screening instead of supporting hate and abuse against women, and look forward to being able to safely attend the theatre in the future if this is the case.


I’m writing to you to ask you to reconsider cancelling the screening. I am unsure whether people like Ms. Hart are intentionally lying, or simply repeating falsehoods they’ve read on blogs and elsewhere with the sincere belief that they are true. I must inform you that whatever the case, a great deal of what Ms. Hart says in her comment is simply untrue.

The Southern Poverty Law Center did indeed publish some articles pointing out examples of “misogynistic” content on several websites in what they described as the “manosphere”. However, they were forced to post a clarification after feminists and others took these articles as an official listing of these websites as “hate sites”, and the broader men’s rights community as a “hate group”. They have repeatedly indicated that 1) they made no such claim that these groups are hate groups, nor have they made any such claim in the interim; 2) that websites such as A Voice for Men, despite some objectionable content, highlight very serious issues of injustice and discrimination faced by men and boys. 

“It should be mentioned that the SPLC did not label MRAs as members of a hate movement; nor did our article claim that the grievances they air on their websites – false rape accusations, ruinous divorce settlements and the like – are all without merit. But we did call out specific examples of misogyny and the threat, overt or implicit, of violence.”

I have been involved in this movement since 2010, and have spoken at and attended many events hosted by various organizations and groups within the movement. Without exception, the individuals at these events are warm, kind, decent people with genuine concern for fairness and justice. 

During my tenure as a leading voice in the movement, I have seen the movement slandered in social media, on blogs and in the mainstream media, via false associations with mass murderers like Elliot Rodger or white nationalist groups. 

Rodger was described as being influenced by the men’s rights movement by a single, pseudonymous blogger/journalist at The Daily Kos, despite there being no evidence he was even aware of the movement. The rest of the mainstream media took the claim at face value and ran with it. Pretty soon, the claims being made all over social media were that Rodger was an active MRA. While this may be a case of the media being careless with fact-checking, the next example cannot be described as such.

ABC’s 20/20, in advance of a planned in-depth expose on Paul Elam, published a “teaser article” in which a viciously misogynistic comment glorifying violence was quoted and described as “commonplace” on Elam’s website. The only problem is that the only place on Elam’s website where that comment existed at the time the article was written was in a post where Elam used it as an example of the types of comments that would not be tolerated, wherein he warned readers that any such talk on his site would get the culprit permanently banned. ABC was forced to print a clarification regarding the quoted comment. 

Please note, the only place the authors of the teaser article could have gotten that quote was from an article by Paul Elam describing it and similar comments as completely unacceptable and a bannable offence. That’s not a journalist too busy to fact-check. That’s a journalist engaging in obvious dishonesty. 

When Wild Rose on Campus attempted to hold a screening of The Red Pill in Calgary not long ago, the screening was cancelled amid a media furore over the phrase “feminism is cancer”. A Women’s Studies professor at UofC, Rebecca Sullivan, was invited onto a CBC Calgary news program to “inform” the public about what MRAs are really all about.

Some interesting quotes from her interview:

“[Describing MRAs] ‘If only we could just have sex with whoever and whatever we want, whenever we want, then maybe we wouldn't have to rape you’… They are banking on decent Canadians not understanding what they are saying and we need to understand what is being said.”

I certainly know that when I am arguing in favor of legally protecting boys from genital cutting the way we protect girls, or that we need to deal with the decline in educational attainment for boys, what I really mean is that I want any man who walks by to have the right to have sex with me, right then and there in the dairy section of my local Safeway if he wants to. I know when I’m arguing for shared custody following divorce, or for preserving due process in criminal courts, what I’m really saying is that any and all men deserve the right to sex with my daughter when she’s walking home from the bus stop. 

Professor Sullivan’s claims were so patently ridiculous, it would be jaw-dropping to me if I wasn’t so accustomed to it. And the fact that the interviewer never once challenged Sullivan on any of her outlandish and, frankly, slanderous assertions would have completely annihilated my trust in the mainstream media if I had a single shred of it left. That this woman is considered an “expert” on gender issues, employed by a university to teach this drivel to students is, in all honesty, horrifying to me.

I am a mother of three children, two of them grown and one in his teens. I would never support a movement interested in oppressing or marginalizing my daughter, let alone act as a leader within such a movement. I would never support a movement advocating to take away my own rights. 

You are in a difficult position here, I realize. The men’s rights movement is controversial, and this particular film is controversial because of that. 

But if you are going to cancel a screening of a movie that received three awards, including Best in Festival, at the Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema, a film produced and directed by a feminist woman, I want you to know exactly what you are basing your decision on: lies, ignorance and blatant fear mongering. 

Oh, and just for your information, here is the director/producer discussing the film. Just so you know exactly who has these boycotters in a state of terror: