‘The most important movie I watched with my husband was also the most unexpected.’

One recent Monday night, my husband and I sat down to watch a documentary on men’s rights.

The film was The Red Pill, and we’d been hearing about the ‘scandal’ surrounding the film for months: an Australian premiere planned in Melbourne last year was cancelled after a petition calling the film ‘misogynistic propaganda’ collected over 2,300 signatures.

Sydney University pulled its funding for a student screening of the film, on the grounds that the film promoted violence against women and would put female students on campus at risk.

The Red Pill movie poster
The Red Pill is one of the most controversial documentaries of the decade. Image via

In early January, Queensland police investigated threats of violence against a Men's Rights group during a planned event for the film. One Twitter user wrote they hoped "someone shoots up that event ­Batman movie premiere style — dead MRAs (men's rights activists) — cool!"

So when it appeared on the homepage of our iTunes store that fateful night, I'd be lying if I said we weren't curious to see what the fuss was about.

So we pressed 'rent' and paid our US$4.99. Then, the adventure begun.

Little did I know, The Red Pill would pave the way for one of the most intense conversations my husband and I had ever had.

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jess josh clark
"The film paved the way for one of the most intense conversations my husband and I had ever had." Image via Instagram.

The documentary has a running time of 117 minutes. It took us over three hours to get through it.

Almost every 10 minutes, we had to pause the film so we could process, and discuss, what we were watching unfold on the screen in front of us.

It's worth noting that my husband and I have been together for over 10 years. We've been married for half of that time. We're both feminists. We've had countless discussions on feminism and our roles as 'provider' have flip-flopped over the years.

Five months ago, I dragged him to the other side of the world - to New York City - for my job, even though visa restrictions meant he couldn't work for the first three months we were here.

We've had endless discussions about why we're not ready for children, namely because it means I have to take time out of my career and I'm just not sure I'm okay with that at this point in my life.

I handle all of our finances and 'life admin', while he is 100 per cent the 'emotional backbone' of our little family of two.

We've talked about sexual assault and why I hate walking alone at night. We've talked about how he is instantly more privileged than so many others because he is a white male living in Western society.

We've talked about the fact that just because I have a vagina, I am automatically viewed as the submissive, vulnerable one in our relationship by a lot of outsiders.

But, through watching this film, there was one thing we had never discussed: how important and necessary feminism, and the women's rights movement, is for him.

Jess and Josh Clark
My husband and I have talked endlessly about feminism for the past 10 years. But this was new ground for us. Image via Instagram.

It sounds counterintuitive, I know, and I get why some might be outraged at my statement. Do we really need to make feminism about men?

But that's not what I am saying, and I do believe it's a crucial part of the feminist conversation we have been missing for so long.

The Red Pill is largely infuriating, tone-deaf and offensive in its focus on Men's Rights, with those interviewed by filmmaker Cassie Jaye claiming that women "don't want equality" between the sexes and instead want "special privileges for women and girls".

Nonetheless, I was left with this unexpected, overwhelming feeling that I had ignored one of the most important parts of being a feminist.

Traditional gender roles have, of course, been detrimental for women throughout history.

But I never realise how these assumed roles may have also been impacting on my husband and, yes, other men, too.

Our conversation about the assumed role of 'man as the breadwinner' - a stereotype the documentary argues is equally as oppressive as the one that says a woman's place is in the home - was the most eye-opening for me.

Cassie Jaye Red Pill doco
Cassie Jaye directed the controversial documentary about the Men's Rights movement. Image via Gravitas Ventures.

Even though I would strongly argue that my husband and I have made a conscious effort to ensure our relationship has never fallen within this stereotype, his confession that he still feels an enormous amount of pressure to provide for me stopped me in my tracks.

"But I've never asked you to do that!" I said.

"We always 'take turns' on who makes the most, even if it's by pure accident, and I've never demanded of you that you make more than me or take control of our finances."

"It doesn't matter," he responded.

"The world thinks that because I am a man, I need to take care of you. To provide for you and to protect you.

"And when I feel like I'm not doing that, or if I'm not doing it enough, it's extremely stressful."

LISTEN: How to teach your son it’s okay to cry, and other lessons for raising a feminist boy.

I guess I'd just never really realised that the limitations placed on me as a woman and my expected role in a household was also negatively affecting how he viewed himself, too.

It's an uncomfortable thought: that maybe, just maybe, there's more to feminism than advancing the rights of women.

That maybe, in proudly labelling myself as a feminist, I am not only working for a better future for myself and my female friends and my daughters and her daughters, but hoping that, in the process, things will also be better and easier for my husband and sons, too.

By 'being' a feminist, I am of course advocating for the rights of women. But I do so on the basis that I can be viewed as my husband's equal.

That I can be seen as more than just a wife and a mother. And that he can be viewed as more than my protector and provider, too.

The Red Pill leaves a lot of issues undiscussed, and yes, I can see exactly why there has been outrage at the film's overall message.

But it did open a line of communication between my husband and I that we'd never had before. And for that, I can only recommend you watch and discuss for yourself.

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