Matt Walsh’s documentary poses a simple question which baffles our politicians
What is a woman? A question like this might seem like a strange premise for a 90-minute documentary. But we live in unusual times when primary school children can answer a question our leading politicians struggle to get to grips with. Matt Walsh’s film shows that ordinary people are often baffled too. His interviewees responded with confusion, obfuscation and prevarication when asked to define the word ‘woman’. A professor of women, gender and sexuality studies at the University of Tennessee was stunned into silence by the slightly harder task: ‘Can you define the word woman without using the word woman?’.
Walsh’s wife at least knew the correct answer. ‘An adult human female’, she replied – as she worked in the kitchen – adding, ‘who needs help opening this (jar)?’ Throughout the film, Walsh’s claim was that sex was real, and sex was what matters when it comes to defining womanhood. But that vignette from his home suggested that gender may also play a part, in Walsh’s life at least.
Walsh’s documentary has gone down badly. His demolition of gender identity ideology – the idea that we all have an innate gender identity – has upset the usual suspects. Rolling Stone magazine quoted the founder of the grandly sounding Trans Student Educational Resources organisation who suggested that ‘to believe what’s in (the film) requires a fantastical hatred of trans people.’
I watched it and I can’t say I agree with the hyperbole. Walsh’s interlocutors might not have been able to answer his question – perhaps because they feared being seen as unkind – but surely trans people like me deserve to be challenged like anyone else? It’s not kind to ignore the contradictions in gender identity ideology if it encourages trans people to build our lives on fantasy.
And there was much fantasy in the first half of the film. A gender affirming therapist told Walsh that: ‘We now know that sex and gender are so much more than just this binary; some women have penises, some men have vaginas.’ She explained that she had learned that from transgender people, as if we are a priestly class with special knowledge about the human condition. Spoiler: we aren’t and we don’t.
Disappointingly, Walsh didn’t consult the British and Irish writers and speakers who know more than most about what it means to be a woman, or indeed what it means to be a man. ‘A blindspot,’ according to Spiked’s Jo Bartosch. Helen Joyce’s Trans and Kathleen Stock’s Material Girls are superb commentaries. Those two authors – distinguished in journalism and academia respectively – are walking antidotes to the gobbledegook, but neither were featured. And how could any commentary on transgender nonsense fail to cite Julie Bindel who was ploughing this furrow when Walsh was still at school?
That niggle aside, Walsh’s film is a must watch. The naivety of the gender identity brigade is breathtaking. ‘When someone tells you who they are, you should believe them,’ the gender studies prof told us before claiming that a woman is a person who identifies as a woman. His reasoning may have been circular but his body language spoke volumes as he squirmed in his chair; he had been poleaxed by a simple question and he knew it. I wonder how much his students pay to attend his classes?
Democratic Congressman Mark Takano was similarly uncomfortable when Walsh asked him how he might respond to women who don’t want to see penises in their spaces:
‘I think a person who wants to use a woman’s bathroom who identifies as transgender really does think of themselves as female.’Congressman Mark Takano
His logic crumbled as he waffled about respecting ‘their (transwomen’s) basic right to live’. I wonder what his female electorate in California made of that?
But if this first half of the documentary was excruciating, the second was terrifying. Walsh moved onto the impact of gender identity ideology on children and adolescents, some of whom have been persuaded they need hormones and surgery to ward off the risk of suicide.
Transman Scott Nugent didn’t fudge and responded with brutal honesty, ‘I am a biological woman that medically transitioned to appear like a male (but) I will never be a man.’ Nugent spoke passionately about the complications of surgery; ‘six inches of hair on the inside of my urethra for seventeen months’. But Nugent’s main concern was youngsters. ‘We are butchering a generation of children because nobody is willing to talk about anything,’ Nugent warned.
Walsh spoke next to Dr Marci Bowers, a transwoman who has performed over 2000 vaginoplasties (male-to-female sex change operations). ‘What is the youngest patient you’ve operated on?’ Walsh asked? ‘Sixteen’, Bowers replied.
Let’s be clear what this means: a child too young to have a tattoo had their testes removed and their penis filleted and turned inside out. We look back now with horror on some of what was seen as suitable medical treatment in years gone by, but what will future generations make of our time? Walsh didn’t mince his words:
By imposing this vile nonsense on students to the point even of forcing young girls to share locker rooms with boys, you deprive these kids of safety and privacy, and something more fundamental too, which is truth.’Matt Walsh
Love him or hate him – Walsh probably won’t care too much either way – this documentary raises awareness of the truth. That is a good thing. But while Walsh is critical of gender identity ideology, he did not explain why such a bizarre idea has captivated society. Why are so many people – particularly the young – identifying as transgender or non binary? If we explain that, we might well return society to the truth, and restore the safeguarding of children.
Debbie Hayton is a teacher and journalist.
* This article was first published by The Spectator on 17 June 2022: ‘What is a woman?’: the trans film that makes for harrowing viewing.