MPAA Rating: Not rated at the time of this review (for adults)
CNS Rating: Not rated at the time of this review (for adults)
Reel Rating: 4 out of 5 reels
The title of this new documentary, written by and starring The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh, is the question he continually asks through the course of ninety minutes. The solution is simple: a woman is an adult human female. Thus, the real crux involves a more complicated matter. If the answer is so obvious, why do otherwise intelligent, capable people fight or flight when confronted with the problem.
What is a Women? examines many aspects of the transgender phenomena, illuminating dimensions that are often overlooked or downright censored. Despite cruel and unfair accusations, it is a call for compassion backed by both science and the Catholic faith against a narrative of fear, domination, and pride.
Confronting transgenderism is nothing new for Walsh. He was briefly the #1 bestselling LGBT+ author on Amazon after publishing Johnny the Walrus, a satirical children’s book about a boy forced to live in a zoo after pretending to be aforementioned aquatic mammal. Walsh begins the film by interviewing several prominent proponents of trans ideology. They are surprisingly candid given Walsh’s repudiation but when asked to define the term “woman” become suddenly tongue tied. Ultimately, they all settle on the meaning of the word as “someone who identifies as a woman.” When Walsh rightly demonstrates their circular logic, they become malicious. Congressman Mark Takano, for example, who usually never misses an opportunity to flaunt his LGBT credentials, could not last one question before storming away.
The second half of the documentary finds several people who can define their terms and more. Walsh goes to Africa and visits the Masai tribe, finding that they easily outline the gender roles in society and express bewilderment when presented with this debate. “There is no such thing here,” the chief says. There are other medical professionals who outline the frightening origins of this movement and the devastating effects on those who alter their bodies.
It becomes apparent that the central problem is not sexual but epistemological. Transgenderism cannot exist without relativism. “I’m looking for the truth,” Walsh asks Michele Forcier, a pediatrician. “Whose truth?” she asks. “Just, the objective truth… reality,” he responds. She shoots him a look of utter disgust. Dr. Patrick Grzanka, a Professor of Gender Studies, goes even farther, labeling truth “transphobic.” The Masai have no problem acknowledging the obvious, that women give birth to children and men do not. They are in constant contact with God’s natural order; they hunt their own food, find their water every day, raise the crops that produce the cotton for their clothes, which they weave from scratch. Most Americans, however, live in a world increasingly disconnected from objective norms, filtered through screens and a political/cultural intelligentsia.
Most frightening is the recent push towards children. Dr. Marci Bowers freely admits to performing sex assignment surgery on minors. Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, located in my home state and widely considered one of the nation’s top pediatric hospitals, recommends genital binding for young boys. Forcier insists puberty blockers are completely safe and reversible. When Walsh points out the same drug is used to chemically castrate sex offenders, she objects to him using the correct term “drug” as unnecessarily combative.
At this point, Walsh introduces the most compelling figure in the documentary, Scott Newgent of TreVoices, who transitioned as an adult and now fights against the procedure. She illustrates the horrific consequences of these treatments, including cancer, infections, and increased rate of suicide. “This surgery has a 60% complication rate in adults, much less kids,” she illustrates. “They say the patient is told the risks, but they aren’t. I wasn’t.” Like the abortion industry, the unspoken motivation is money. A full transition can cost hundreds of thousands. If one includes later consequences such as therapy and medical maintenance, it is north of a million.
There is little doubt this film will be labeled transphobic, bigoted, and all other kinds of fashionable buzzwords, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Not a single person in the documentary disbelieves those who struggle with their sexuality or deny their dignity. Quite the opposite, they are compelled to help them as current methods are incredibly destructive. Rather than leading to a robust and fair debate, as is necessary in science and logic, the response of trans activists has been censorship, intimidation, and even violence. In Canada, it is illegal to refrain from constructed pronouns. Walsh interviews a father whose teenage daughter, against the father’s will, was given puberty blockers by the government. Yet in the first twenty-four hours after going live, What is a Woman? was hit with multiple cyber-attacks. Such methods are not indicative of confidence in one’s opinion but demonstrate anger in one’s mistake.
If I must find fault in an otherwise outstanding documentary, it would be with the presenter. (Walsh is a familiar figure in my household; my wife is an active member of his quasi-cult, the Sweet Baby Gang.) Walsh has been a conservative commentator for various networks since 2011. Sarcastic, grating, and fearless, he gleefully accepts his title as “king of the trolls.” Like Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock, he puts himself front and center but lacks their tack and experience. I was pleasantly surprised by his restraint when he interviewed those whose beliefs he clearly loathed. But Walsh cannot help occasionally letting a snarky comment pass. There’s a good argument that society needs such a rebellious spirit to shout that the emperor has no clothes, but it could have been done with a little more prudence…and with less plaid shirts.
When I was a sophomore in college, my psychology professor invited a trans man to speak to the class about going through his transition to a “woman”. This was meant to affirm his decision, but it unintentionally illuminated several aspects of his experience. He had a long history of sexual privation; his father was distant and angry. Later, he discovered his wife was having a lesbian affair. He tried to save the marriage by inviting this third party into their bed, but it only made things worse. He was honest about the intense pain that lasted months after his reassignment surgery. “I was on painkillers and constantly felt like I had to take a s—,” he explained. “My doctor told me this was my pelvis attempting to expel the residual parts of my penis from my vagina cavity.” His body knew what his mind did not. Many trans people recognize later in life such actions were a mistake, but are not given an alternative.
Most people, especially in adolescence, struggle in some way with his or her sexuality, often not feeling man or woman enough. Society comes up with new terms all the time to explain these experiences in more and more specific detail. The one we need is “a child of God.” Our health, our joy, our meaning, our identity can only be found in Him. When we give our lives to Him, the healing will come, and it won’t cost us a dime and the rewards are priceless.
• Related at CWR: “Matt Walsh’s film What is a Woman? is both valuable and incomplete” (June, 3, 2022) by Amy Welborn
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