A documentary about men's rights activism will be screening in Ottawa today, but not at the venue organizers originally intended. Ottawa's city hall has picked up the booking, but a theatre owner says that hasn't stopped an army of online trolls from insulting staff and declaring rights have been violated.
A men's rights group called the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) rented out the Mayfair Theatre to show The Red Pill this Sunday, December 4. Mayfair co-owner Lee Demarbre told VICE he first heard from women's advocates from Carleton University about the host group's history.
The documentary follows filmmaker Cassie Jaye as she listens to men inside the movement, some of whom compare feminism to white nationalism. MRA leaders tell her about health and domestic abuse issues from the perspective that men face greater discrimination than women, and are punished and ridiculed for voicing those concerns. The film shares a name with a Reddit forum in which men vent rage against women and discuss strategies for pushing women into submission.
Jaye told CBC venues in Australia also canceled the film. "I've noticed that most of us are very quick to laugh and scoff at men's issues but if the genders were reversed that would be hateful, hate speech, sexist, misogynist," she said.
Demarbre said students accused CAFE of spreading hate and homophobia on campus. But from the group's online presence, he says he couldn't find evidence that hate was their primary motive. "I said if somebody can prove the organization is spreading hate, it would be worth taking it off the screen," he said. From there, theatre members and advertisers echoed complaints.
Women's advocate Julie Lalonde weighed in on Twitter Thursday. She pointed out the event was scheduled two days before the anniversary of the l'École Polytechnique de Montréal shooting that killed 14 women in 1989. The day has become a national day of remembrance and action on violence against women. She added that CAFE had received charitable status through what she called fraudulent means.
"All I did was send a couple of tweets," Lalonde told VICE. "I never told them to cancel it."
A few days before the screening, the Mayfair decided to pull the film from its Sunday lineup, and give the group a full refund.
Demarbre said he then got his proof in the form of a 48-hour avalanche of hateful insults. Both Lalonde and Demarbre both say they have received death threats from supporters of CAFE and the film, many claiming censorship. "All these women who said these guys spread hate and homophobia—now I've seen that it's true," Demarbre said.
"If there was an ounce of 'Oh, I'm sorry guys' before, that went away quickly," he told VICE. "I don't like it. I've lost sleep, I've felt unsafe at my place of business, and I've felt unsafe at home." VICE reached out to CAFE, but did not hear back.
Demarbre said he even felt physically intimidated when he returned the film to CAFE members. He stressed the film itself was not part of his reason for canceling the screening.
"This whole decision had nothing to do with the movie, and everything to do with the CAFE society,"he said. "I don't want those guys in my building."
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