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What is a Woman?
It's not just Matt Walsh who has to learn how to be funny on the trans lunacy
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As I said on Twitter a couple of days ago, I think Matt Walsh’s What is a Woman? film is well done, although I’m glad I didn’t pay for it. The Daily Wire made it free, and Elon Musk promoted it, which meant the world and his wife saw it. As far as I can tell, it’s still free to watch on Twitter.
I promised a few further reflections, and—in no particular order—here they are.
Matt Walsh would clearly like to mock the trans lunacy. He also appears to have some undeveloped comedic talent—the early scene where his kids cover him with silly string is pitch-perfect—but he doesn’t seem to know how to go about using it.
Don’t get me wrong. What is a Woman? is better and more disturbing than I expected, in part because Walsh does have his “innocent abroad” act down pat. That said, his visit to Kenya was a bit gimmicky and the Maasai tribesmen he talks to come out at the end of the whole exercise with considerably more dignity than Walsh.
Some time after the film came out, Walsh tried to be funny again in a short rant-to-camera about trans influencer and sinker-of-Bud Light advertising prop Dylan Mulvaney. His profit on this was a dogpile from his own side for meanness and, in some quarters, humourlessness. He bit back—hard—in response to this, making rhetorically overblown arguments with roots in his religion, Catholic Christianity.
Convincing the other side is not my objective. This is the core difference between you and me. I’m not looking to reach an understanding with these people. I’m not interested in compromise and dialogue. For those who castrate children, and attack the very concept of truth, and erode the foundations of human civilization, my goal is to defeat and humiliate and demoralize them.
Okay, I wanna destroy everything they stand for.
FWIW, part of me suspects that the only fix for trans lunacy (and a lot of other nonsense, like the “obesity is healthy” movement) is to mock it. A reasonable response to ugly or unhealthy people who think they’re beautiful or healthy is mockery: for them to be held up to ridicule and contempt. It’s one thing that will assuredly put them back in their box. And I do think “human deepfake” has definite comedic potential.
So in that sense, I have some sympathy for Matt Walsh, even though he failed.
Why did he fail?
Walsh failed because he’s a Christian, and Christianity is a weak shield against Wokery. Wokery is a Christian heresy. Christians need to own the extent to which Big Victim Inc in the modern world has roots in what Australians would call the religion’s “sookiness”.
Whole books have now been written about this historical and theological reality. The most famous is classicist’s Tom Holland’s Dominion. Holland piles up so much evidence over 600 + pages printed on Bible paper as to be overwhelming.
Equality in the eyes of God is a core tenet of the Christian tradition. It’s something that marks Christian societies off from the great civilisations that came before them. To a pagan Roman, if you were beautiful, or clever, or brave, you were a better person. And if any of those traits happened to be coupled with Roman citizenship, even finer. But they need not be. As political scientist Samuel Goldman observes, for the ancients, “the majority of human beings were born to serve.”
The Romans are your dad saying, life is not fair.
The twin beliefs that victims qua victims have special insight and that the oppressed deserve moral regard also have Christian roots. Neither existed in classical polytheism and when confronted with them, Roman pagans found them variously weird, intellectually soft, or silly. Holland praises them and argues they’re why we have welfare states. He can even quote the last pagan Roman emperor, Julian the Apostate, on point: “the impious Galilaeans support not only their own poor but ours as well; everyone sees our people lack aid from us.”
However, like most religious myth, the story of the inherently good and perceptive victim is false. There are no guarantees victims of a terrible wrong can turn the lead of “lived experience” into golden understanding. The downtrodden do not pledge to evince decent behaviour and moral goodness. Something more is needed. The Soviet Army liberated tens of thousands of prisoners from Auschwitz in 1945. Only one of them, Primo Levi, became a titan of post-war literature. Erich Honecker spent ten years in a Gestapo prison; that experience does not excuse his subsequent deeds as the DDR’s dictator.
One of the things that came out of the UK’s National Conservatism conference when I covered it was how many Christians now realise the extent to which their religion opened the door to Big Victim Inc. Half a dozen clearly deeply religious people admitted to me that they didn’t even have the vocabulary to resist Wokery when it presents them with a victim.
One evangelical bloke from West Australia said the DEI trainer at his company brought in a trans woman who was perfectly pleasant and had not only been treated terribly by others but was also both desperately ugly and internally miserable.
“And all the Christians—even the really conservative ones—wanted to help her. We all wanted to make it better”.
The holdout who said it was all just whinging and that other people weren’t responsible for her unhappiness or her operations-gone-wrong? A leading hand who had grown up in the Kimberley, in a remote Aboriginal community, and who was—for want of a better phrase—an indigenous pagan.
How, then, do we mock?
To mock is going to be difficult; our satirists are going to have to reach back through two thousand years of Christianity to a mindset very different from our own. We may need to bring some pagan writer back from the dead to pull it off.
If you want a writer to do a sustained and funny mockery of someone’s physical appearance and entitled sookiness, I nominate Juvenal.
No-one has written like Juvenal for the best part of two thousand years. It wasn’t that when the Romans made him, they broke the mould. It’s that only Romans could make someone like that. There were other vicious Roman satirists; he’s simply the most famous. His oeuvre is also well preserved.
I talk about Juvenal quite a bit in a forthcoming episode of’s Maiden Mother Patriarch podcast. The interview was pre-recorded to coincide with the publication of one of Louise’s features, so rather than translate a Juvenal highlights reel here, I’ll hold off and write a dedicated Substack when my interview with Louise airs.
Until then, my point is simple. If Matt Walsh wanted to do a Juvenal, he’d have to lose his religion. That doesn’t mean become an atheist, although the most Juvenal-like writer our post-Christian world has produced was an atheist—I’m referring, of course, to Voltaire. Juvenal wasn’t an atheist—few Romans were. Mind you, their religious sensibilities could be very thin.
A Juvenal-like writer has the ability to be distant from the human deepfake, to not be like it, because too much similarity and fellow-feeling draws the Evil Eye towards oneself. Walsh, by stepping back and commenting, is doing what Juvenal did when he mocked people for their appearance. He’s saying “I am not that and I have no sympathy with that”. He’s half-way there, half-way to paganism and pagan humour about sad, ugly weirdos.
Like Juvenal, Matt Walsh took a trip to the Uncanny Valley. Unlike Juvenal, he only opened the door and didn’t step through it. He didn’t look long enough to make the rest of us laugh about it on his return.
As I discuss with Louise, however, we have to decide as a culture whether we want to step through that door and explore the valley beyond. Ancient Rome was an awesome civilisation in an older sense of the word: great, and terrible, and cruel.
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