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What is a woman?

Updated: Feb 28

Poster of Matt Walsh's documentary:

Since Elon Musk decided to promote Matt Walsh’s “What is a Woman?” documentary on twitter this week it has been all anyone is talking about. Wherever I go I can’t escape it. I even chatted to my Dogs about it during a long walk over the North Downs. They made a lot of sense. My 8-year-old Labrador said that he felt Walsh could have probed a bit further but that he liked his beard, and my 1-year-old Beagle said that she liked the Psychiatrist Miriam Grossman who spoke against the terrible mutilation of children at the hands of gender zealots. I always had my suspicions that the Beagle was a transphobic, right-wing Bigot, and now I know.

These are the kind of accusations routinely levelled at Walsh who, considering the ways in which the transgender movement has sought to eradicate women, decided to make a documentary asking, “what is a woman?”.

It seems like a simple enough question. One might wonder how to get 1 hour and 35 minutes’ worth of footage from this one question. I asked it of my dad and only managed to get 8 seconds. My sister-in-law gave me even shorter shrift. I would have liked to have asked my mum who was assigned female at death, but she was busy turning in her grave.

Walsh, however, did manage to fill the time. He spoke to medical experts, social studies professors, child psychologists and ordinary folk on the street. The response he received from one group of women was “Hmm that is hard, it’s a stumper”, and they weren’t joking.

Nobody was joking. They were all deadly serious.

The extent to which large swathes of western elites have swallowed a pack of lies about the human person and the created order is diabolical.

“I’m really uncomfortable with that language of getting to the truth” was a chilling but telling

response from none other than a university professor, in a place where truth should be the foremost pursuit.

It was hard not to feel sorry for him, but it became easier when we saw the extent of the damage being done to our children.

This collective madness has led to a monumental increase in the number of young people who feel a dissociation between body and soul, who believe that they have a male soul living in a female body or a female soul living in a male body and who are told that some bodily tinkering will make it all fit together better. Kerching!

It seems to me that the drastic surgery that many of these confused young people need is not of body, but of soul. Not earthly, but heavenly.

In answer to Walsh’s question, it is not enough to say that a woman is an adult human female, since this suffers from the same problem of declaring that ‘love is love’, it begs the question, what is female?

As Christians we can say that a woman is a created being naturally ordered by God for gestation, and a man is similarly naturally ordered by God for impregnation. One humanity, two binary opposites necessary for life to exist. God is life giving and we are co-creators.

We do not have to mutilate our children in order to wedge them into a socially constructed lie from which they cannot escape. Instead, we must open a conversation about the true meaning of terms that have long since been perverted and then systematically hammered into them. Terms like truth, freedom, tolerance and conscience.

Christians are well placed to respond to the chaos. Increasingly, young people are beginning to discover that relativism or subjectivism is intellectually shallow and socially corrosive. As Bishop Conley said in his address at Harvard University “They are tired of seeking self-fulfilment in a wilderness of mirrors. They are tired of having profound questions turned back on them as unanswerable. In short, they want truth”.

This documentary, though watched by hundreds of millions, will have been futile if it does not move us to act. Catholics must use it as a launchpad to initiate a dialogue with others, to help them discover the fullness of truth as taught by the church.

What should we expect to find as we begin this journey?

Almost 40 years ago Allan Bloom, a professor at the University of Chicago wrote “The Closing of the American Mind”. His critique began with the assertion that “There is one thing the professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative”. Though otherwise diverse in their backgrounds and worldviews, a belief in the relativity of truth and the evil of supposed “intolerance” united them all.

Bloom dismissed the idea that these students were looking to be radical or rebellious, he instead thought that they were adhering to a principle in which they had been indoctrinated, the principle that all opinions must be regarded as equally valid in order to ensure freedom and equality.

“What is a Woman?” exposes the extent of the indoctrination that began when philosophers such as Hume and Kant sought to prove that religious truth lay beyond the scope of human knowledge, thus opening the way for an assault on our moral foundations by the likes of Bentham, Marx and Nietzsche.

What it also exposes is the incoherence of the whole project.

Catholics and other Christians have an important role to play in reorienting the broader culture, toward the pursuit of truth. This is the sort of powerful accompaniment of which Pope Francis speaks. It is not about a culture war that we can either choose to engage in or not, but rather about the perennial spiritual battle that we already find ourselves in. By virtue of our baptism we are in “Team God” and, unlike PE class, it really doesn’t matter which order we were picked in, what matters is that we are on the team.

As the true horrors of the dominant subjectivist viewpoint are laid bare in documentaries such as this, the frustration will grow. It will arise amongst those who do not consider themselves religious, among those who are not sure what is true but understand on a visceral level that something must be. It will arise in the hearts and minds of those who are struck by life’s beauty, by its significance and its mysterious depths. We, Catholics, have a solemn duty to meet such people where they are and draw them towards truth which is the same “Yesterday and today and forever”.

Witnessing the scale of the lies exposed by “What is a woman?” offers a fertile ground for us as Catholics to answer the call of the New Evangelisation, and we all have a role to play.

As St John Henry Newman meditates “God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission – I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next”.

God uses some unexpected vehicles to do His work, it seems that on this occasion Musk is one of them, all we have to do drop our prejudices against white male billionaires, pick up the baton and run towards truth.

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