A review of “What is a Woman?” (Directed by Justin Folk, NR, 94 minutes, Daily Wire)

Womanhood on Trial

In the second installment of the “Back to the Future” trilogy, Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) is taken aback by Marty McFly’s (Michael J. Fox) selfish and corrupt reasons for wanting to time travel. Bad things could happen if the time machine gets into the wrong hands, he insists. Exasperated, Doc tells Marty that all this time hopping needs to stop. “The time traveling is just too dangerous,” he explains, “Better that I devote myself to study the other great mystery of the universe: Women!”

In former times people understood, without taking offense, that the great mystery surrounding women had something to do with their interior lives in relation to men, who were trying to understand them in order to, well . . . get them. Courting has changed, to say the least, but up till today people did not find in that a reason to question the biological reality of simply being a woman. 

In 1985, who could have suspected that we would be at a point in our society where we found ourselves arguing with a rather small minority of people about whether men have penises and women have vaginas. But, to use a formulation popular on Twitter, “here we are.”

In a new documentary directed by Justin Folk, “What is a Woman?Daily Wire columnist Matt Walsh explores this question by interviewing an array of experts. The documentary, which is also produced by the Daily Wire, often takes a comical approach to answering the question, and this is especially seen in Walsh’s personality when he interviews proponents of transgenderism. Most of the time, they don’t appear to be aware of his irony and sarcasm, which makes the situation even more humorous, but also odd. (One wonders how they agreed to appear in such a production.) Walsh remains highly restrained in his questioning, however, and genuinely wonders at the tenets and conclusions that transgender ideology demands. 

“What is a Woman?” covers many subtopics within the main subject. Walsh interviews Patrick Grzanka, a professor of gender studies, and attempts to get an answer to the question. But academic and circular logic continuously evades the, er, “straight” answer. Walsh is dismissed as transphobic for even asking such a question. In this case, Walsh and Grzanka are operating in different intellectual universes. Walsh deals with obvious, physical reality, whereas Grzanka relies on ideology and theory. His academic vocabulary has nothing to do with the regular, non-jargon-laden speech of ordinary people, and thus the conversation quickly comes to a halt. 

Walsh also interviews gender confirmation surgeon, Dr. Marci Bowers (who is also a transsexual). The doctor deems a biological definition woman an antiquated concept. It’s a “dinosaur” that’s already extinct and we need to embrace that just because you have a penis, it doesn’t follow that you’re a man. 

Bowers is proud of the number of people assisted in gender transformation surgery but when Walsh brings up that there are many cases of people regretting their decision (as well as having grave physical problems), Bowers dismisses him, insisting that the number is very small. 

Not only is this statement incorrect, it also reveals something about the doctor’s position: Bowers is willing to sacrifice the lives of those who end up regretting the decision to “transition” to press on with surgeries for others. It is essentially a utilitarian view. 

The question of children and transgenderism has become prominent and controversial because many parents are taking their children’s confusion about gender as a green light to offer them puberty blockers and even finalize the process with the surgery. Walsh interviews Michelle Forcier, a pediatrician who apparently is so concerned with children that she’s “helping” them by doling out puberty blockers, which have been found to affect children’s bones and result in osteoporosis, a criticism she evades. She apparently has not considered the mental aftereffects of taking hormones (which cannot be reversed) or tampering with organs. 

The damage is grave. Walsh speaks with Scott (Kellie) Newgent, a woman who transitioned into a man. Newgent not only regrets her decision but has started an organization, Trevoices, that helps people find their way out of this physical and metaphysical mess. Newgent talks to Walsh not only about her own mental problems following the surgery but also speaks frankly about the dangerous (and inevitable) physical problems, which are too often taken lightly or completely ignored. 

There are two interviews that stand out the most when it comes to superb and intelligent analysis of our current predicament. One is with Dr. Miriam Grossman, a psychiatrist who works with people who suffer from gender dysphoria. Grossman is completely against sex reassignment surgery, even though she affirms the “nightmare” in which people with gender dysphoria are trapped. They need help out of their nightmare, not methods to enable a condition that is threatening their lives. 

Grossman also makes an excellent and vital point about the origins of the transgender movement, namely the work of sexologist, Alfred Kinsey, whose reputation as a sex experimenter is known. Kinsey’s bizarre and unethical ways of gathering data on human sexuality make Wilhem Reich look normal by way of comparison. According to Kinsey, society needs to be free of all norms when it comes to sex. But it turns out most of his research had a single source: one male pedophile. 

Another important man in this disturbing enterprise Grossman mentions is surgeon John Money, who used twin boys for his own set of transgender and pedophiliac experiments. Later in adulthood, the brothers died: one by drug overdose, the other by suicide. 

Another interview that deserves attention is with Jordan Peterson, who makes a crucial point about sexuality and identity. He deems the word “gender” utterly useless, and instead talks about masculine and feminine aspects of both men and women. This is not a matter of gender but of “personality” and “temperament,” Peterson states. I wish Walsh had engaged more with this idea because Peterson correctly asserts that men and women can have masculine and feminine temperaments that often don’t correspond to their male or female sex. Just because a girl is a tomboy, it does not follow that this girl needs to take puberty blockers or have a surgery to become a boy. 

With “What is a Woman?” Folk and Walsh straddle the line between exploring the question at a deeper, intellectual level and a mainstream exploration of the topic that involves everyone. In this documentary, people will discover more about transgender ideology, not only as theoretical construct but, most importantly, in its physical manifestation. Often, Walsh plays the role of a comical devil’s advocate in certain interviews that would have been served better if he had handled them with the appropriate seriousness, especially when the subject of the interview is someone with whom he agrees. But this is a minor criticism. Overall, Folk and Walsh bring the several aspects of the transgender ideology and movement into one convenient place, and this is an excellent start to any further exploration and discussion.

Although it is not mentioned in the documentary, my own view of  transgender ideology is that it is fundamentally an anti-procreative movement. Naturally, it attacks and negates family structure, and seeks to topple reality. The problem comes down to two things: utilitarianism and relativism. We are living under the dictatorship of both. 

At this point, transgenderism isn’t merely a cultural phenomenon because it has reached another stage: tampering with the physical bodies and minds of human beings. We must start taking it seriously because this is a bioethical problem.

This is a Western problem, too. Walsh travels to Africa and meets with the Masai. When he explains to them what transgenderism is, they are confused and they burst out laughing. “What is a woman?” Walsh asks. The answer may be surprising to the current warped, Western mind because it doesn’t deal with any narcissistic feelings. The Masai speak about men and women in terms of duties

Perhaps if Western society thought a little bit more in terms of what we do and not in terms of what we so narcissitically feel, we would be in a different place. Be that as it may, we have before us a society straight out of Brave New World that is obsessed with starting from zero in every sphere of life, and so we have to continue fighting to preserve any rational order of things. 

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About Emina Melonic

Emina Melonic is an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness. Originally from Bosnia, a survivor of the Bosnian war and its aftermath of refugee camps, she immigrated to the United States in 1996 and became an American citizen in 2003. She has a Ph.D. in comparative literature. Her writings have appeared in National Review, The Imaginative Conservative, New English Review, The New Criterion, Law and Liberty, The University Bookman, Claremont Review of Books, The American Mind, and Splice Today. She lives near Buffalo, N.Y.

Photo: Daily Wire