Gender Wars: Journalist explains how Channel 4’s controversial doc misses the point entirely

Kathleen Stock during a video call.

Journalist Patrick Strudwick has examined how Channel 4’s upcoming documentary film Gender Wars “fails women, fails trans people and fails at journalism”.

In a one-hour tour of the so-called trans debate that has dominated social and political discourse for the past few years, Gender Wars claims to explore the “conflict” between “both sides of the debate” – trans people and gender-critical feminists – and answer the dog-whistle question “what is a woman?

The documentary has already been steeped in controversy after the trans and non-binary participants shared a joint blog post claiming they were “misled” and “misinformed” about the film’s direction.

Promotional material for the documentary has now made it clear that the focus of the film is on trans-exclusionary professor Kathleen Stock, who resigned from her position as a philosophy professor at the University of Sussex in 2021, following protests about her views on gender self-identification.

In the blog post, the trans and non-binary contributors said they would “not have agreed to take part in any documentary focused on Kathleen Stock”, while trans campaigner and academic Dr Stephen Whittle, who also contributed to the documentary, said it had become “The Kathleen Stock show”.

Gender Wars documentary
Dr Stephen Whittle is one of the people on a blog claiming that transgender and non-binary participants in Channel 4’s Gender Wars weren’t informed of Kathleen Stock’s involvement. (Getty)

Now, Strudwick, who covers LGBTQ+ issues for The i newspaper, has broken down exactly where and why the film fails to add anything worthwhile to the increasingly toxic conversations around gender identity.

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In an opinion piece written for iNews, and in an accompanying Twitter thread seen by more than 400,000 people, Strudwick began by highlighting that the basic premise of Gender Wars is already five years behind the times. The documentary focuses on the same questions that have been wielded against the trans community for years, such as should trans women be able to use women’s toilets. 

Strudwick argued that the opportunity to create a documentary that focuses on the deeper issues connected to the so-called gender debate, such as what caused it to explode during the 2010s, and where it is leading women and the LGBTQ+ community, has been abandoned.

In terms of where the “debate” is headed, Strudwick points to “how the far-right, Republican, and Conservative-Christian movements have pounced on so-called gender-critical ideas”, such as trans people being a danger to women, or children not being able to identify as trans – and are using them to constrict rights for women and LGBTQ+ people.

In the US, for example, Florida governor and presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis is just one of the politicians using gender-critical narratives to curb LGBTQ+ rights, while using his power to ban abortion in the state for anyone who is further than just six weeks along in their pregnancy.

Patrick Strudwick in a black shirt, in a still taken from a BBC investigation into conversion therapy.
Journalist Patrick Strudwick is critical of the Channel 4 documentary. (BBC)

Strudwick also pointed to the fact that some “women who don’t conform to traditional notions of femininity (butch lesbians, for example) are being marched out of public toilets” because they are assumed to be trans by those who want trans people to be excluded from the bathroom that aligns with their gender.

“Footage of these incidents is now going viral on TikTok. Did the filmmakers not look or not care?” Strudwick asked.

One of his final points questioned why Gender Wars didn’t address the issue of men assaulting cisgender women who they believe to be trans.

Just last week, a man from Donegal, in Ireland, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for a savage attack on an 86-year-old woman with dementia, whom he believed was a trans “predatory pedophile”.

Rounding off his argument, Strudwick underlined that by failing to scratch below surface-level arguments that have been chewed over for years, and omitting any exploration of the resulting impact the “debate” is having on the wider LGBTQ+ population and women, Gender Wars fails everyone it supposedly represents.

Gender Wars airs on Channel 4 tonight (30 May) at 10pm.