What a week it’s been for high-profile men to play the Daughter Card.
When news broke that Matt Damon helped bury a story in the New York Times more than a decade ago that exposed Harvey Weinstein’s serial sexual abuse, Damon rushed to defend himself.
You see Golden Boy Matt couldn’t possibly have been involved in protecting Weinstein — thereby enabling the Hollywood producer to continue to abuse countless more women for another ten years — because he has daughters.
“[A]s the father of four daughters, this is the kind of sexual predation that keeps me up at night. This is the great fear for all of us. You have a daughter, you know…” he said in an interview with Deadline.
Ben Affleck, who, like Damon, owes much of his career to the patronage of Weinstein, also pulled the Daughter Card out of the Nothing To See Here deck.
In a statement on Twitter Affleck denied any knowledge of Weinstein’s predatory behaviour, saying “We need to do better at protecting our friends, sisters, co-workers and daughters.”
And New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who has decided he’s going to keep Weinstein’s political donations, wants everyone to know that he has three daughters. As Alex E Jung tweeted: “i have a daughter” is getting up there with “thoughts and prayers”.
It’s not the first time high-profile men have used their daughters to demonstrate that they couldn’t possibly be party to sexist or predatory behaviour. When Trump boasted about his pussy-grabbing past on the now infamous Access Hollywood tape, high profile men such as Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush pulled the Daughter and Granddaughter Cards to denounce him. And daughters were used once again when Fox CEO Roger Ailes was accused of serial sexual harassment.
Aside from the fact that the Daughter Card is starting to look a bit tattered from all the overuse, you have to ask: do these men have any capacity for empathy?
Do they really need a girl bearing their surname and genetic code in order to make the empathetic leap to understand that women are people and not sex toys?
You might say that when it comes to men’s moral awakening about gender equality, that it’s better late than never. But if having daughters really does prompt men to abhor sexual violence against women and denounce harassment and assault, then why haven’t they done it before now? Why hasn’t one single father of a daughter in the decades that Weinstein has been sexually abusing women publicly taken a stand against it?
Are we expected to believe that not one dad who claims to worry about the safety of girls knew about the Weinstein secret, that was so open you could Google it and read all about it?
As actress Jessica Chastain said: “I was warned from the beginning. The stories were everywhere. To deny that is to create an environment for it to happen again.”
In 2013 when Seth Macfarlane congratulated the five actresses nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars by saying “You no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein,” did all the dads of daughters in the room simply not get the “joke”?
It’s increasingly looking like the Daughter Card isn’t an indication that men have reached the sunny upland of enlightenment when it comes to gender equality. On the contrary, it’s more likely just another example of men using women in an ornamental way to protect their own interests.
“As a father of daughters” is the excuse de jour that distances powerful men from the crimes of other powerful men — even, in some cases, where they benefited from those men.
Let’s be clear: using daughters as a means to do some hasty personal brand hygiene management isn’t nearly as bad as sexually abusing women, but it exists on the same spectrum of men exploiting women.
Playing the Daughter Card is just another expression of men feeling entitled to use women for their benefit. In one case, women are a device for men’s sexual conquests. In the other, they are used as a device for men’s public relations strategies.