I watch bad movies so you don’t have to | Wender Mind Kids

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The right wing has ruled that its ticket to Congressional control scares people about sex. They’ve been doing this for ages, but they’re nothing unless they’re committed to the classics. The current iteration is fueling fears about transgender people, particularly those transitioning from male to female. In her fevered imagination, women’s bathrooms are places of extreme danger, with sex-obsessed men in dresses waiting to attack any precious and fragile white woman who needs to pee outside her house. Exactly what laws are required to deal with this catastrophe is left to the imagination.

One of the most recent and badass entries in this space comes from Matt Walsh, who made a “documentary” around him asking various people the question “What is a woman?”. Walsh himself has one long history of to hate Women to have any public existence. He

It begins with videos of young children’s birthday parties with a voiceover of him talking about being a father. All boys wear blue and all girls wear pink. The boy gets a soccer ball and the girl gets a tiara. He says: “I gave my son a BB gun and that’s all the emotional support he needs. My daughter, on the other hand…” This is the perfect distillation of Walsh’s extremely hard-edged gender essentialism. Men and mindless gun freaks and women are unfathomable masses of complexity. He backs this up by quoting Steven Hawking: “Women are an absolute mystery.” He follows up with clips from 1950s sex education films and an uncomfortable vignette in which he does a terrible job fishing.

At this point he begins the interviews. The interviews follow a pattern: Walsh is in a room with the interviewee, identified by text at the bottom of the screen. That’s all. He never explains why he chose the people he interviews or provides any other context for what they say. Are some of these people recognized experts in their field? Did they publish anything? What made you choose these people? There are no answers to this question. They are freaks demonstrating that anyone who doesn’t believe in strict separation between men and women is gross. Whether viewers are convinced of his view depends entirely on whether viewers see “gross” as a prominent factor in determining public policy.

On the pro-trans side are Gert Comfrey, a Tennessee-licensed family therapist; dr Marci Bowers, a sex reassignment surgeon; Michelle Fournie, pediatrician; dr Patrick Grzanka, Professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Tennessee; Rodrigo-Hang Lehtinen, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality; Rep. Mark Takano, Democrat, 14th congressional district of California. The gist of all of these interviews is that respondents refused to say that being a woman is a matter of biology.

Walsh stages his interviews with the pro-trans people to emphasize the freak show aspect, particularly Dr. Fournie and Mr. Lehtinen. Each of these interviews takes place on an almost empty set, in front of a wall with large windows. Walsh and the interviewee sit opposite each other on stools or short chairs with a large blank wall between them. dr Fournier has blue hair and wears what appears to be a Jedi robe. At the end of a long metal tube on the wall behind them is an electrical outlet, clearly separating the screen between Walsh and the doctor. Mr. Lehtinen wears an ill-fitting shirt and blazer and sits in such a way that his stomach and not his face is in the center of the shot. Since Walsh never bothers to explain why he spoke to these particular people, the strong implication from the images is that these are strange people whose opinions can be ignored.

The “trans advocates are freaks” aspect grows stronger with his series of Person on the Street interviews. He asks random people in New York and San Francisco his title question and gets some vague answers. Once he asks a naked man in San Francisco what his gender is and gets a hostile reply. It’s never made clear why Naked Dude’s opinion matters, except as an example for the freaks in the evil city.

The much more insightful interviews relate to the anti-trans side of things. There are three groups of these: people presented as experts; Individuals who have been involved in conflicts related to transgender issues; and a group of Maasai.

The first of the victims is Don Sucher, owner of a famous Star Wars store in Aberdeen, WA a confrontation with a city councilman in his town over a sign in his window that reads, “If you’ve got a dick, you’re not a chick.” Walsh gives Seeker a sympathetic portrayal. When Seeker asked how Seeker knew he was male, Walsh replied, “Because I have a dick.” The one question Walsh doesn’t ask is why Seeker put the sign up in the first place? Why was that important to him? Sucher’s shop sells memorabilia from a range of children’s space fantasy films. Why would he use a slang word for male genitalia in his shop? Are Star Wars fans unusually attracted to retrograde gender roles?

The second alleged victim is Scott Newgent, a trans man who regrets his move. Newgent describes the health issues he has suffered since his transformation and shows these scars on his arm from phalloplasty surgery. Newgent – notice his name, New Gent – claims drug companies make a “million dollars” on every person who undergoes a medical transition. Walsh does not challenge or support this claim. However, he interrupts the interview with Dr. Fournier and asks her about Lupron, a transition drug. This is the extent of his analysis or investigation of Newgent’s claim.

The third alleged victim is an unidentified Canadian who appears on camera as an “unknown caller” on an iPhone. The unidentified caller claims he is on child molestation charges in British Columbia for “misgendering” his daughter and opposing her medical transition. This is the most egregious example of Walsh’s tendencies. Since this person is anonymous, it is not possible to verify their statements. We are expected to believe this man’s claim to be true without even being able to verify it.

The longest “victim” segment is for female athletes who are alleged victims of competitive transgender competition. He doesn’t present anything at all about trans men in athletics. Walsh interviews one of Lia Thomas’ teammates, a Connecticut girl who lost track events to two trans women. Lehtinen appears in this column as an advocate for trans athletes. Walsh overlays Lehtinen’s voice over a montage of Lia Thomas and various other trans women athletes holding trophies and awards. (Note: One of the images features Minna Sveard from Texas A&M Commerce in my hometown. Minna did quite well and is definitely not trans.)

It’s particularly interesting that Walsh has spent so much time with female athletes since then he Has along History of hostility towards female athletes. He doesn’t give that story away in this film.

The experts are presented much like the trans advocates: interviewed in rooms or offices, with their names and titles in the text at the bottom of the screen. As in the attorney interviews, he provides no context to her views or explanations as to why he chose her. He presents medical experts as well as a theologian and Jordan Peterson.

What is most interesting about the experts is that they all admit that there is a deeply subjective aspect to gender identity. Peterson admits that there are masculine women and masculine men. Miriam Grossman, an anti-trans psychiatrist who says “sex is biological,” also admits that gender is a subjective feeling.

By far the most offensive part of the whole presentation is Walsh’s trip to Kenya to ask the Maasai his title question. This part starts with footage of him driving on a dirt road, big animals in the savannah and trying to throw a spear. (For those of us of a certain age, this part is especially rad, since “spear-chucker” is an old racial term for black people. I’d be very surprised if Walsh didn’t know this.) Then he goes to interview some men in plaids Robes in front of a mud hut that emphasize the aspect of the “prehistoric people”.

The Masai men agree that “a man is one who takes on the role of a man”. They describe the “role of a man” as fathering and caring for children. In case Matt didn’t realize, half of that description is a social role, not a biological one. A better interviewer might have thought further, but Walsh isn’t interested in nuance or study. He’s here to show the chic white men in the cities that even primitive tribesmen know what women do. Had he been a slightly better researcher, he would have looked at it Complexity of gender roles in traditional African societies. He might even have interviewed someone on the street in Mombasa. Instead, he chose to be The Great White Visitor at African Disneyland.

He never gets an answer to his question. He never wanted an answer. Walsh believes in a rigid and brutally enforced gender hierarchy with men at the top and women as a permanent underclass, forever assigned to the shitty domestic work. Women only exist as pregnancy machines. In his view, fathers exist Earn money. Men and women share nothing in his world, which makes me wonder why he ever got married and required him to share space with something as boring as a woman.

He could have focused on what the current research says about the effects of puberty blockers, what the medical standards are for children’s transition, how to make athletic competitions fair for everyone. Instead, he puts on a freak show for the suckers.

I’ll come back later with some thoughts on why Walsh did that crap.

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Is Walsh arguing in bad faith?

I don’t know of any right winger who has ever argued in good faith