Are a Protective Father and a Sexual Harasser Equally Sexist?

In light of the recent #MeToo movement of women claiming to have experienced sexual harassment or assault—a movement whose members TIME magazine just collectively named its Person of the Year—one would think that Americans had united behind a crystal-clear moral perspective on such behavior. One would think that this perspective would recognize the obvious difference between men who are predators (bad) and men who are protectors (good). But then The Washington Post saw fit to post an opinion piece whose author declared that a father who sees himself as his daughter’s defender is objectifying her just as much as the pervert he wants to defend her from.

In her morally muddled piece, “Paul Ryan and Harvey Weinstein are both ‘fathers of daughters,’” Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg says that when men begin a public condemnation of sexism with some variation of the phrase “As the father of daughters…,” it indicates that these fathers think they have some special appreciation for women because they have girl children, but they actually do not see women—even their own daughters—as “three-dimensional people worthy of respect and care.” Instead, they view them as prized possessions whose honor and virginity must be kept intact. “The focus is ever on her body parts, used or unused, available or protected,” writes Ruttenberg.

As an example, she takes Speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan, who recently commented on the tsunami of sexual harassment accusations sweeping the country involving power players from Washington, D.C. to Hollywood.

Ryan stated that he wanted his 15-year-old girl to grow up in a country “where she is empowered and respected.” Had this perfectly reasonable and unobjectionable statement come from the mouth of a Democrat—say, Barack Obama, also the father of daughters—it is difficult to imagine Rabbi Ruttenberg calling him out for it. But her contempt for Ryan the Republican is palpable. She claims that his voting record demonstrates that his “respect for women does not actually extend very far.” She lists all the current false feminist tropes about the “patriarchy” and conservatives like Ryan trying to deny women health care, equal pay, and “reproductive rights”—i.e., abortion, which Ruttenberg and her feminist ilk apparently do not find as dehumanizing to unborn girls as fatherhood.

She then proceeds to conflate him—astonishingly—with film producer Harvey Weinstein, a sick man at the center of some of the most disgusting examples of the recent sexual harassment revelations. “Ryan’s paternalism,” she asserts, “involves as much objectification of women as does the abuse by the men he claims to be condemning.” [Emphasis added]

If Ruttenberg sincerely believes that fathers see their daughters only as sexual property that must be protected and not as “women human beings worthy of autonomy and selfhood,” then I seriously question her wisdom and ability to counsel others as a rabbi. I cannot fathom why anyone, especially a woman, would fault a father for protecting his daughter—of any age—from sexual predators, much less equate the father with the predator. This is such a perverse, hateful interpretation of a parent’s instinctual concern that I wonder what happened in her own life to warp her perspective on this. But I suspect I know what happened. Feminism happened.

The rabbi’s perspective is likely the result of half a century of radical feminism driving a wedge between girls and women on the one hand, and their fathers and families on the other. “Third-wave” feminism is not, after all, about equality—it is a cultural Marxist weapon to upend traditional sex roles, eradicate masculinity, and undermine the family unit. Notice that Rabbi Ruttenberg never mentions the fact that mothers of daughters also have intensely protective instincts; that’s because men are her target. What her article is really about is diminishing fatherhood as inherently sexist and dehumanizing for the daughter.

Ruttenberg declares that fathering a daughter does not necessarily confer upon a man the “capacity to engage women in the fullness of their humanity,” which in many cases is sadly true. She notes that Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Garrison Keillor, and others caught in the sex scandal net all have daughters. But to take Paul Ryan and the far more numerous fathers who possess natural and righteous instincts to protect their daughters from predation and lump them in with that sleazy gang is unconscionable.

Ruttenberg has contempt even for a dad who gives away his daughter at her wedding, for God’s sake. I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority of brides want their fathers to walk them down the aisle; this tradition is meaningful for both father and daughter. But for Ruttenberg, it is simply more evidence that the father does not accept his daughter’s autonomy and humanity. Absolute nonsense.

The rabbi’s position reflects contemporary feminism’s condemnation of men whether as predator or protector equally. This is morally senseless, but consistent with the aim of cultural Marxism to deconstruct traditional moral norms and sever the bonds of family relationships.

I am the father of three daughters under the age of eight. I reject Rabbi Ruttenberg’s insulting suggestion that I do not value their full humanity, or that I see them only as virginal prizes whose sexuality is mine to control. I do, however, proudly accept my parental responsibility to protect my daughters at any age from the vile intentions of the Harvey Weinsteins of the world.

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