That’s Not The Red Pill: MRAs and the Matrix

Something really pissed me off this morning. I was reading a Cracked article about some hard truths of the so-called Men’s Rights Advocates (or MRAs). One of the affiliated forums on Reddit (called subreddits) is r/TheRedPill, which advocates some hard-line misogyny.

I’ve stayed out of this fight so far because 1) many people have explained what’s wrong with the MRAs better than I can and 2) I don’t want to draw attention away from the people who need to be heard right now.

However, I really need to call out these people on r/TheRedPill for a few reasons.

First, I’m both a feminist (yes, men can be feminists too, Pharrell Williams!) and a fan of the Matrix franchise. I feel like a Generation X-er born in a Millennial’s body sometimes, and The Matrix is partly¬†responsible for me getting into programming. So I’m very invested in these movies.

Second, there’s a lot of argument over whether the Matrix films are feminist. I think they are, with some caveats, as this article points out. However, I would confidently argue that the films are, generally speaking, very counter-cultural, taking strong stances against authority and promoting diversity of expression. I’ll get back to this point.

Third, MRAs have been co-opting terms and concepts used by both feminism and civil rights movements for their own ends. They call themselves “activists,” say they are “victims” of an oppressive matriarchy. They’ve taken the arguments of feminists and turned them on their heads into the “mirror universe” versions of themselves.

Given this, it’s no surprise that the MRA movement would appropriate The Matrix. It’s a counter-cultural work that’s still accessible to white, straight males (like myself!), with a high degree of applicability, interpreted as everything from a modern-day Gnostic text to a criticism of¬†blockbuster cinema. It fits their pattern of “embrace and extend” perfectly.

Well, I’m none too happy with that. While I think a work should be interpreted freely by its audience, the use of that work for hate speech — and yes, the MRAs are engaging in hate speech, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center — is beyond the pale.

Dudes, when you join the Men’s Rights Movement, you’re not taking the red pill. You’re becoming an agent, a tool of the establishment — the real establishment, not the “matriarchy” you think you’re opposing — that is only making the world worse. Don’t do it.