What Is a Woman?
|What Is a Woman?|
|Directed by||Justin Folk|
|Narrated by||Matt Walsh|
|Edited by||Jarrod Leesland|
|Distributed by||The Daily Wire|
What Is a Woman? is a 2022 American online film about gender and transgender issues presented by conservative political commentator Matt Walsh, released by conservative website The Daily Wire, and directed by Justin Folk. The film features Walsh asking various people "What is a woman?" Walsh said it was made in opposition to "gender ideology". The definition "an adult human female" is given by Walsh's wife at the end of the film.
The film was released to subscribers to The Daily Wire website on June 1, 2022, at the beginning of Pride Month. Walsh's approach was praised by conservative commentators, but criticized by some experts in the field of trans medicine and others who described it as transphobic. Trans activists said Walsh had tried to trick people into participating in the film under false pretenses. Walsh's tour to screen the film on college campuses set off protests.
The film features Walsh asking "What is a woman?" and related questions to a variety of people. The film discusses sex reassignment surgery, puberty blockers, transgender youth, and transgender athletes in women's sports.
Those interviewed include politicians, a pediatrician, a gender studies professor, a psychiatrist, a gender-affirming family and marriage therapist, a transgender opponent of medical transition for minors, a surgeon who specializes in gender-affirming surgery, a father of a 14-year-old transgender boy and media personality, psychologist, and author Jordan Peterson. Walsh also discusses the terms "non-binary" and "transgender" with a Maasai tribe in Kenya and talks to a gay man practicing public nudity in San Francisco. Walsh incorrectly attributes the concept of gender identity to the psychologist John Money and discusses his nonconsensual sex reassignment and abuse of David Reimer as an infant.
The film features a speech given by Walsh at a meeting of the Loudoun County School Board in Virginia (he is from Tennessee) that was called so people could express their opinions on Policy 8040, which instructs staff members to use the preferred name and pronouns of transgender students and allows the students to use school bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity. During the speech, Walsh says: "You are all child abusers. You prey upon impressionable children and indoctrinate them into your insane ideological cult, a cult which holds many fanatical views but none so deranged as the idea that boys are girls and girls are boys."
At the end of the film, Walsh's wife defines a woman as "an adult human female," and, handing a jar to her husband, says "who needs help opening this."
Walsh said he made What Is a Woman? because he did not think anyone had been able to answer its titular question after a tweet he had made four years prior.
In February 2022, Eli Erlick, a transgender activist, said that Walsh had invited dozens of people to participate in the film under false pretenses. Kataluna Enriquez, Fallon Fox, and several other transgender public figures corroborated the account. Walsh created a group called the Gender Unity Project, which the activists said attempted to lure them into participating in the film. The Gender Unity Project's Twitter account and website were taken down shortly after the allegations were made. Erlick said there were at least fifty other recruited interviewees, including a 14-year-old transgender girl.
What Is a Woman? was released for subscribers to The Daily Wire website on June 1, 2022, to coincide with the beginning of Pride Month.
The Daily Wire said it was hit with a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack during the premiere. An article by The Daily Dot cast doubt on the DDoS claim, noting previous technical problems with the website.
On June 14, Walsh published a book and self-narrated audiobook based on the film, titled What Is a Woman?: One Man's Journey to Answer the Question of a Generation, through DW Books, The Daily Wire's publishing branch.
In May 2022, a transgender man said that Walsh used a topless image from his Instagram account in What Is a Woman? without his permission. Twitter refused a request to take down a trailer containing the image.
In September 2022, The Daily Dot reported that event management website Eventbrite was refusing to allow users to use its platform to show the film, citing violations of its community guidelines, including the prohibition of hateful content regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. On September 7, Walsh accused the website of refusing screenings since July and said: "It is absolutely ludicrous and indefensible to categorize our film as 'hate speech'". Many fans of Walsh accused Eventbrite of censorship. Walsh also accused Eventbrite of hypocrisy for permitting the screening of drag shows.
Walsh screened the film on his What Is a Woman? college tour at the University of Houston on October 13, 2022. Police estimated that 435 people attended, with 400 protesters (including transgender rights activists) and counter-protesters outside. A screening by Walsh at the University of Wisconsin also was met by protesters.
In May 2023, The Daily Wire entered into a distribution deal with Twitter. In early June 2023, The Daily Wire CEO Jeremy Boreing complained that Twitter had canceled a distribution deal and said that the video was being suppressed because of misgendering. Twitter CEO Elon Musk removed all restrictions and personally recommended the video, writing, "Every parent should watch this." Chiefs of Twitter's trust and safety division, Ella Irwin and A.J. Brown, left the company on the same day.
According to AJ Eckert of Science-Based Medicine, the film "has been widely advertised by pundits, traditional media, and social media platforms opposed to gender-affirming care and especially the use of pronouns, restrooms, and locker rooms" aligning with trans people's gender identities.
Texas state representative Matt Schaefer, a Republican, promoted the film, encouraging his Twitter followers to "ask your Senator or Representative if they have watched".
Professor Alex Byrne at Massachusetts Institute of Technology noted that the film incorrectly attributes the term 'gender identity' to John Money.
Rich Lowry of National Review wrote that, while he had only watched clips of What Is a Woman?, they were "mesmerizing and extremely disturbing." Rod Dreher of The American Conservative argued that the film shows that Walsh had "the courage to ask the questions and demand the answers" from his opponents. Kaylee McGhee White of the Washington Examiner said that the film reveals "the effort to erase the female identity and objective truth ... harming individuals, their families, and communities." Leor Sapir of City Journal compared the film to other books and movies that "sparks a demand for social reform", such as Ralph Nader's Unsafe at Any Speed, and said that it "has been virtually ignored by the left-of-center media." Karol Markowicz of the New York Post praised the film for "expos[ing] the lunacy of pro-trans extremism", calling it "a cross between Michael Moore's 1989 documentary Roger & Me where the filmmaker pursued General Motor's CEO Roger Smith, and the Borat movies in which Sacha Baron Cohen pretends to be clueless journalist Borat Sagdiyev from Kazakhstan making films about American culture." Author and journalist Matt Taibbi said that Walsh "tries and fails to get trans activists, academics, and medical professionals to offer a definition of womanhood" and in doing so, he "pranks the pants off America's silliest intellectuals." Transgender YouTuber and political commentator Blaire White praised the film in The Spectator Australia.
Laura Dodsworth of The Critic argued that the film's "success lies in its determined pursuit of the answer to one question", but criticized it for not "interrogat[ing] the meaning of gender as much as it could". Debbie Hayton of The Spectator argued that it shows "the naivety of the gender identity brigade", but said that "while Walsh is critical of gender identity ideology, he did not explain why such a bizarre idea has captivated society." Nina Power of Compact said that "The documentary presents a searing and unforgettable indictment of today's gender ideology that should rouse action across the political spectrum.", but added that "Walsh's framing doesn't always do justice to the possibilities of such a cross-partisan alliance in defense of woman, man, and reality." Jo Bartosch of Spiked called it "a must-watch documentary" that "captures a strange moment in time when politicians, clinicians and the corporate world are gleefully promoting the lie that humans can change sex", but criticized it for ignoring the contributions of feminists who have been critical of the transgender movement.
Movieguide called it "lively, provocative, informative, and brilliant" with an entertainment rating of four stars. Samuel Sey of The Christian Post called the film "both hilarious and haunting" and "truly fantastic", adding that "Walsh's infamous ability to maintain an impeccable level of satire and seriousness is what makes [the documentary] so compelling." Erika Ahern of CatholicVote.org said that "While [the documentary] is about exposing the culture of 'sexual justice' for what it truly is, it is more profoundly a film about Pilate's last question to Christ, 'What is truth?' And it's about what happens when we answer, 'I am my own truth.'" Amy Welborn of The Catholic World Report called the film "well-produced, amusing, and frustrating", but said that Walsh "fails to drill down into the more potent questions for his topic". Mathew De Sousa of The Catholic Weekly said it "provides a fair scope of both leftist and conservative beliefs on core gender issues", but that it "could be a more robust resource for Christians if a little more time was given to those arguments against gender ideology and the transgender agenda." Brett McCracken of The Gospel Coalition praised it for a "basic but brilliant narrative concept", but added that "a bit more empathy could have strengthened Walsh's case", criticizing his "name-calling" of transgender people as "not a great tactic in persuasion, nor in evangelism."
Ann Schneible of the National Catholic Register gave the film a B+, praising "how easily it breaks through the cognitive dissonance exhibited by supporters of gender ideologies and their inability or unwillingness to answer the simplest questions on this topic", and opined that "Walsh's interview style works well in this context", but criticized the film for its "stylistic and narrative choices", and criticized The Daily Wire for limiting its distribution by putting it behind a paywall on the Daily Wire site, while also opining that doing so "gives the appearance that they intend to be exclusionary".
Kai Burkhardt of the German newspaper Die Welt called Walsh a "conservative Michael Moore" and praised the film for stirring up America's "gender war" by efficiently asking seemingly effortless questions to supposed experts in the field, who are unable to answer.
Both Hayton and Bartosch wrote that the film would have benefited from interviewing gender-critical feminist critics who have also looked askew at similar gender concepts over the years, such as American feminist Janice Raymond, English writer Julie Bindel, Irish journalist Helen Joyce, British philosopher Kathleen Stock, American journalist Abigail Shrier and WDI USA president Kara Dansky.
Claire Goforth of The Daily Dot called What Is a Woman? transphobic and argued that "duplicity is central to the creation of this documentary". John Kendall Hawkins of CounterPunch called the film "more conservative silliness", concluding that it "just adds to the relentless white noise we can't seem to escape and adds nothing to our humanity. The film is not worth watching, but its posture is worth noting." Malcolm Harris of Intelligencer argued that the film is a part of "the right's dangerous 'just asking questions' anti-trans campaign", concluding that "the plan is working: this year's Pride month looks to have a casualty count. If Walsh and his ilk are successful, next year's will be higher. They're begging for it." Nathan J. Robinson of Current Affairs argued that the film shows "conservative ignorance" and treats "cruel, mindless prejudices ... as 'common sense'", concluding that "debunking this stuff is easy.", but that "slick propaganda like What Is A Woman? will cause real harm to trans people, and while I generally consider censorship counterproductive, we should not understate the toxicity of a film like this." Katie Kadue of Gawker opined: "For Walsh and other patrollers of the gender boundary, trans women are a contamination risk. They stand accused of infiltrating not only physical women's spaces like bathrooms and locker rooms but also the clean conceptual space of the category 'woman': they are, according to this transphobic logic, men who fraudulently claim to be women."
AJ Eckert of Science-Based Medicine called the film "every bit as much of a science-denying propaganda film disguised as a documentary as antivax films like VAXXED or the anti-evolution film Expelled!, and such films tend to be potent messaging tools", concluding that "Walsh clearly did not set out to honestly seek answers to a perplexing question, even if they are complex. Instead, he started with a conclusion and then sought out sources to support that conclusion, no matter how dubious the source, making this film an exercise, not in honest truth-seeking but rather motivated reasoning."
Erin Rook of LGBTQ Nation called the film "propaganda" that is "full of transphobic lies", adding that "Walsh paints a frightening image of mutilated children and confused professionals – of an immoral ideology threatening the Western Christian way of life", and that it "provides ammunition for those who seek to deprive transgender people of access to affirming and life-saving healthcare." Gwendolyn Ann Smith of the Bay Area Reporter and co-founder of the Transgender Day of Remembrance argued that "the point of the film, of course, is to paint transgender people and those who support us as deluded, foolish, or both", concluding that "people like Walsh want to paint us as monsters rather than people." Eli Erlick, founder of the organization Trans Student Educational Resources, told Rolling Stone that "to believe what's in [the documentary] requires a fantastical hatred of trans people" and that it shows an "appalling lack of research on the trans community".
Dimitrije Vojnov of Radio Television of Serbia said that Walsh could become the American Right's equivalent of Michael Moore, and just as biased. Sasha Stone of Awards Daily said that the documentary is "more or less a profile of Matt Walsh" that "reflects his past year of asking the question to activists, 'what is a woman' since apparently this is a difficult thing to explain."
Jennifer Graham of Deseret News said that Walsh "may be trolling all of us with the film," but that "he could be asking the question that turns the culture war." Jason Whitlock of Blaze Media called the film "great" and its ending "clever", but criticized it for not mentioning God or Christianity, saying that "it fights a spiritual war on secular terms" and that "before we answer 'what is a woman,' we need to relearn the meaning of being Christian." Adam Zivo of the Canadian newspaper The National Post praised the film for "reveal[ing] activist absurdity", but said it "ultimately fails" because "Walsh seems more interested in capturing 'gotcha' moments with his interviewees" and argued that Walsh used "bad-faith storytelling to rile up audiences while oversimplifying complex issues." Zoran Janković of the Serbian magazine Vreme praised it for acting as a "complementary counterpoint" to films on the other side of the LGBT debate and praised Walsh's presentation, but also argued that it was "in its ... essence a propaganda work".
- Transgender rights in the United States
- Anti-gender movement
- Johnny the Walrus, a children's book written by Walsh which allegorically compares being transgender to pretending to be a walrus.
- When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment, a book critical of the modern transgender movement by socially conservative philosopher Ryan T. Anderson.
- ^ a b c Flaherty, Colleen (August 19, 2022). "UC Santa Cruz grad student targeted for trans activism". Inside Higher Ed.com. Retrieved November 14, 2022.
- ^ a b c d e Graham, Jennifer (June 5, 2022). "Perspective: 'What is a woman?' Why most people couldn't answer Matt Walsh". Deseret News. Retrieved June 5, 2022.
- ^ a b c d e Eckert, AJ (July 14, 2022). "In What Is a Woman?, Matt Walsh asks a question, but doesn't like the answers". Science-Based Medicine. Retrieved July 17, 2022.
- ^ a b Parsons, Vic (February 10, 2022). "Anti-trans troll Matt Walsh 'tried to trick trans people into fake documentary'". PinkNews. Retrieved July 6, 2022.
- ^ a b Ketterer, Samantha (October 13, 2022). "Hundreds of transgender rights allies protest Matt Walsh's 'What is a Woman?' speech at UH". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved October 19, 2022.
- ^ a b Thibert, Audrey (October 25, 2022). "Matt Walsh visit to UW campus elicits protest, contention". The Badger Herald. Retrieved November 19, 2022.
- ^ a b Vojnov, Dimitrije (June 9, 2022). "Rod, pol i žene gledane očima američke desnice" [Gender, sex and women seen through the eyes of the American right]. Radio Television of Serbia (in Serbo-Croatian).
- ^ a b James, Dante (June 10, 2022). "What Is A Woman?". Film Threat. Retrieved September 20, 2022.
- ^ a b Rafter, Darcy (June 2, 2022). "Matt Walsh's 'What Is A Woman?' doc kicks off Pride Month". HITC. Retrieved June 2, 2022.
- ^ a b c Williams, Kori (June 3, 2022). "A New Documentary Is Asking: "What Is a Woman?"". Distractify. Retrieved June 5, 2022.
- ^ Wolfsohn, Jack (June 7, 2022). "Matt Walsh Stumps the Left with One Simple Question". National Review. Retrieved June 8, 2022.
- ^ Kearns, Madeleine (June 10, 2022). "A Significant Concession". National Review. Retrieved June 17, 2022.
- ^ a b c Robinson, Nathan J. (June 15, 2022). ""What Is A Woman?" Is a Feature-Length Exploration of Conservative Ignorance and Prejudice". Current Affairs. ISSN 2471-2647. Retrieved June 16, 2022.
- ^ a b Bartosch, Jo (June 7, 2022). "The mad, bad and sad world of gender ideology". Spiked!. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
- ^ a b Zivo, Adam (June 10, 2022). "Adam Zivo: 'What is a Woman' doc reveals activist absurdity, but ultimately fails". National Post. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
- ^ a b Byrne, Alex (June 5, 2023). "The Origin of "Gender Identity"" (PDF). Archives of Sexual Behavior. doi:10.1007/s10508-023-02628-0 – via Springer Nature.
- ^ a b Kadue, Katie (September 6, 2022). "What Is a Woman?". Gawker. Retrieved September 9, 2022.
- ^ "Anti-Trans Matt Walsh tries to lure Trans people into fake documentary". Los Angeles Blade. February 8, 2022. Retrieved February 8, 2022.
- ^ a b Collman, Ashley (February 10, 2022). "Trans activists accuse conservative podcaster Matt Walsh of trying to lure them into participating in an anti-trans documentary". Insider. Retrieved July 6, 2022.
- ^ Collman, Ashley (February 15, 2022). "Conservative film crew continues to try and trick trans activists into appearing in mysterious documentary, Miss Nevada USA says". Business Insider. Retrieved February 19, 2022.
- ^ a b Fallert, Nicole (February 8, 2022). "A Group Tried To Dupe Transgender People Into Giving Interviews For An Apparent Anti-Trans Film Project". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
- ^ Baragona, Justin (February 8, 2022). "Far-Right Troll Tried to Dupe Trans People Into Joining His Anti-Trans Documentary". The Daily Beast. Retrieved July 6, 2022.
- ^ a b c Goforth, Claire (June 3, 2022). "Did the Daily Wire actually get hit with a DDoS attack during the launch of its transphobic new documentary?". The Daily Dot. Retrieved June 4, 2022.
- ^ Walsh, Matt (2022). What Is a Woman?: One Man's Journey to Answer the Question of a Generation. Nashville, TN: DW Books. ISBN 978-1956007008. OCLC 1322213918.
- ^ Goforth, Claire (May 20, 2022). "Matt Walsh used trans people's Instagrams in his transphobic documentary—it's already sending hate their way". The Daily Dot. Retrieved May 20, 2022.
- ^ Goforth, Claire (September 8, 2022). "Matt Walsh fans are trolling Eventbrite for cancelling screenings of his transphobic documentary". The Daily Dot. Retrieved September 9, 2022.
- ^ Villarreal, Daniel (September 9, 2022). "Anti-trans troll Matt Walsh is upset that Eventbrite won't allow screenings of his film". LGBTQ Nation. Retrieved September 30, 2022.
- ^ Sessions, Kennedy (October 11, 2022). "Conservative Commentator Matt Walsh's Upcoming Appearance at Texas Campus Sparks Backlash". Texas Signal. Retrieved October 12, 2022.
- ^ "Students gather to protest conservative filmmaker Matt Walsh's appearance at University of Houston". ABC13 Houston. October 14, 2022. Retrieved October 19, 2022.
- ^ "Elon Musk's response to anti-trans video sparked day of chaos at Twitter". NBC News. June 2, 2023. Retrieved June 3, 2023.
- ^ a b Rook, Erin (June 8, 2022). "The dangerous deception of Matt Walsh's documentary "What is a Woman?"". LGBTQ Nation. Retrieved June 8, 2022.
- ^ Lowry, Rich. "You'll Never Think of a Chicken Crying the Same Way Ever Again". National Review.
- ^ Dreher, Rod (June 9, 2022). "Courage & 'What Is A Woman?'". The American Conservative. Archived from the original on June 9, 2022. Retrieved June 9, 2022.
- ^ White, Kaylee McGhee (June 8, 2022). "Inside the effort to erase the female identity and objective truth: A review of Matt Walsh's What is a Woman?". Washington Examiner. Retrieved June 8, 2022.
- ^ Sapir, Leor (June 10, 2022). "Transgenderism and the Therapeutic Attitude". City Journal.
- ^ Markowicz, Karol (June 13, 2022). "'What is a woman?' exposes the lunacy of pro-trans extremism". New York Post. Retrieved June 13, 2022.
- ^ White, Flat (June 7, 2022). "Blaire White on 'What is a Woman?'". The Spectator Australia. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
- ^ Dodsworth, Laura (June 8, 2022). "What is a woman?". The Critic. Retrieved June 8, 2022.
- ^ Hayton, Debbie (June 17, 2022). "'What is a woman?': the disturbing film about trans rights". The Spectator. Retrieved June 17, 2022.
- ^ Power, Nina (June 14, 2022). "Trans Barbarism". Compact. Retrieved June 16, 2022.
- ^ Gaduh, Gaby (June 10, 2022). "WHAT IS A WOMAN?". Movieguide. Retrieved September 20, 2022.
- ^ Sey, Samuel (June 7, 2022). "'What is a Woman?' (review)". The Christian Post. Retrieved June 7, 2022.
- ^ Ahern, Erika (June 2, 2022). "The Question: What is a Woman?". CatholicVote.org. Retrieved June 15, 2022.
- ^ Welborn, Amy (June 3, 2022). "Matt Walsh's film What is a Woman? is both valuable and incomplete". The Catholic World Report. Retrieved June 6, 2022.
- ^ Sousa, Mathew De (June 7, 2022). ""What is a Woman" Review". The Catholic Weekly. Retrieved June 7, 2022.
- ^ McCracken, Brett (June 11, 2022). "Review: 'What Is a Woman?' (Walsh) and 'Eve in Exile' (Merkle)". The Gospel Coalition. Retrieved June 11, 2022.
- ^ Schneible, Ann (July 27, 2022). "'What Is a Woman?'". National Catholic Register. Retrieved August 6, 2022.
- ^ Burkhardt, Kai (August 29, 2022). "'Die einfache Frage, die Amerikas Gender-Experten in die Verzweiflung treibt'". Die Welt. Retrieved August 31, 2022.
- ^ Jo Bartosch. "The Mad, Bad, and Sad World of Gender Ideology: Matt Walsh's What is a Woman? exposes the delusions of the trans lobby". Spiked Online. Retrieved June 3, 2023.
What is a Woman? does have its blindspots. It builds upon the work of feminist writers and academics – including Helen Joyce and Kathleen Stock in the UK and Abigail Shrier and Kara Dansky in the US – but Walsh does not reference their contributions. Nor does he mention the groundbreaking work of Janice Raymond, who warned of the threat posed by transgenderism way back in 1979 in her book, The Transsexual Empire.
- ^ Debbie Hayton. "What is a woman? The trans film that makes for harrowing viewing". The Spectator. Retrieved June 3, 2023.
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. ... 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?
- ^ Hawkins, John Kendall (June 14, 2022). "The Mixed-up, Muddled-up, Shook-up World". CounterPunch. Retrieved June 15, 2022.
- ^ Harris, Malcolm (July 6, 2022). "The Right's Dangerous 'Just Asking Questions' Anti-Trans Campaign Is Working". Intelligencer. Retrieved July 10, 2022.
- ^ Smith, Gwendolyn Ann (July 17, 2022). "Transmissions: What is a woman?". Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved July 17, 2022.
- ^ Mendez II, Moises (June 10, 2022). "Why Are Social Media Companies Taking Ad Money From a Right-Wing Transphobic Doc?". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
- ^ Stone, Sasha (June 8, 2022). "What is a Critic? The Curious Case of No Reviews for "What is a Woman"". Awards Daily. Retrieved June 22, 2022.
- ^ Whitlock, Jason (June 6, 2022). "Whitlock: Matt Walsh's 'What Is a Woman?' is great, but America must first relearn 'What Is a Christian?'". Blaze Media. Retrieved June 8, 2022.
- ^ Janković, Zoran (July 6, 2022). "Film: The Janes i What is a Woman?". Vreme (in Serbian). Retrieved September 20, 2022.
- 2022 films
- 2022 documentary films
- 2022 LGBT-related films
- Transgender-related documentary films
- LGBT-related controversies in film
- LGBT-related controversies in the United States
- Film controversies in the United States
- Conservative media in the United States
- Films shot in Kenya
- Films shot in San Francisco
- 2020s English-language films
- 2020s American films
- American LGBT-related documentary films
- Transphobia in the United States