What Is a Woman? takes on transgenderism. By JACK WOLFSOHN
Matt Walsh’s hilarious yet hard-hitting documentary, What Is a Woman?, addresses an issue that is at the center of the culture war: transgenderism. Throughout the film, which premiered on June 1 exclusively for Daily Wire subscribers, Walsh struggles to find anyone who can answer what would appear to be a simple question. But given that incoming Supreme Court justice Ketanji Brown Jackson dodged the same question during her confirmation hearings, claiming she was unable to answer it because she was “not a biologist,” it appears the question is indeed a complicated one.“
I first started asking this question, ‘What is a woman?’ because it occurred to me, just like it has occurred to plenty of other people, that it’s a question that the gender ideologues can’t answer and it kind of brings down the whole façade of gender ideology,” Walsh said in an interview with National Review.
In one of the documentary’s finer moments, Walsh speaks with Dr. Michelle Forcier, professor of pediatrics at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, who argues with him over what makes a biological organism such as a chicken male or female.
What Is a Woman? has also brought an intense amount of backlash from the Left. Walsh tweeted on June 6 that he had received death threats and that the police had become involved. However, as Walsh told National Review, “The one thing the Left isn’t doing is actually, of course, watching the movie.” When NR asked him why he believes he received this response, Walsh answered:
We just know that any time you say anything unpopular in society, these days, you’re putting yourself in line for the pitchfork mob to come after you . . . [Transgenderism] is like the sacred cow, and trans activists in my experience can be particularly vicious. This is not just in my experience, but talk to anybody who’s dealt with them, opposed them or confronted them. I think they feel almost entitled to say whatever they want, treat you however they want. Because, according to their sort of doctrine you’re the lowest of the low that you would question it — you’re the worst kind of blasphemer, and we know what we’re supposed to do with blasphemers.
In the film, Walsh speaks with Scott (Kellie) Newgent, a transgender person and founder of TReVoices, a group that opposes medical transition for children. In the film, Newgent tells Walsh that the suicide rate for transgender people is highest seven to ten years after sex-change surgery. Walsh told National Review what he learned from Newgent:
One of the most disturbing things I learned just from interviewing Scott Newgent, who is one who transitioned to, as she says, “appear like a man” but is not actually a man, is about the actual reality of what a quote unquote sex-change surgery entails and the fact that there is no standard of care for this stuff. It’s all totally experimental, and when they do this to people, those people are left maimed and disfigured and with all kinds of medical complications. There’s nowhere for them to go. There’s no one to help them.
The documentary delves into the history of gender ideology, which it traces back to the controversial research of Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey and psychologist John Money of Johns Hopkins University. Walsh speaks to people on both sides of the transgender and gender-ideology debate. It is an issue that has recently been front and center in the Democrats’ agenda. Asked why transgenderism is regarded by the Left as such an important issue, Walsh told NR, “This is really an assault on truth itself. This is relativism. That’s the ultimate goal here . . . They want to kind of rid society of any notion of a shared reality or shared truth.”
The transgender movement has gained significant momentum recently. One of President Biden’s first executive orders paved the way for transgender athletes to participate in sports teams of the gender with which they identify. In many circles, acceptance of transgenderism is an indication of one’s good character. Moreover, transgender ideology and its tenets amount to an orthodoxy that most will not challenge. The making of the film speaks to this reality.
“There’s a whole lot of ‘man on the street’ interviews that we didn’t put on the air or people that just walked away,” Walsh told NR. “They didn’t want to talk to us because they told us that if they talked about this in front of the camera, they could lose their jobs. They could lose their friends, they could have problems with their family. I mean, it’s just they feel totally trapped.”
The Left and the Right are sharply divided over how to help those with gender dysphoria. While many on the left believe in giving those suffering from the condition what is euphemistically termed “gender-affirming care,” many of those on the right believe that those diagnosed with gender dysphoria should be treated with psychological counseling, as is recommended for people with any other mental-health problem.
“I think we [should] treat it the way that it was largely treated up until a few decades ago,” Walsh suggested. “And that is counseling and psychological assistance. We have to realize that the actual number of people who really have gender dysphoria, in that they have a mental condition where they feel like they’re in the wrong body, is a very small number of people. The good news is that because it’s a small number of people, there should be plenty of resources available to help them.” But Walsh then made a critical point: “This rise in transgender identification is not because of gender dysphoria. That’s the social contagion part of it and the kind of fad that we have turned into an identity.”
Most critics have refused to review What Is a Woman? because of the stance Walsh takes on gender ideology, transgender surgeries, and puberty blockers. Walsh shared some of the responses from critics who were invited to critique the film by Alyssa Cordova, a public-relations executive at the Daily Wire. One critic said, “Hard f***ing pass. I won’t give that transphobic bigot a platform on my site. Never email me again.” Another responded, “Absolutely f***ing not. He’s a bigot and you should be ashamed to be associated with him.”
On the Rotten Tomatoes website, the current audience score for the documentary is 96 percent (of more than 1,000 viewers). Yet only one critic, Christian Toto of Hollywood in Toto, who is conservative, reviewed the documentary. Evidently the woke elite won’t even get near it.
Forecasting the future of this ideological clash, Walsh maintained that while the Left’s momentum is building on the issue for now, the fight is winnable: “I think gender ideology can be beaten because it cannot withstand any scrutiny at all. And so all it requires is us to have a little bit of boldness, to look at it in the face and ask some basic questions.”
In his latest movie, Matt Walsh begins with one.