Backlash against Damon's comment

A father of four daughters, actor Matt Damon and his wife Luciana Barroso are seen here at the premiere of Thor: Ragnarok at the El Capitan and TCL Chinese Theaters in Hollywood, California, earlier this month.
A father of four daughters, actor Matt Damon and his wife Luciana Barroso are seen here at the premiere of Thor: Ragnarok at the El Capitan and TCL Chinese Theaters in Hollywood, California, earlier this month.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON • A-list actor Matt Damon has provoked a strong backlash, after addressing the scandal that enveloped Harvey Weinstein, the mogul who had helped launch his career.

"As the father of four daughters," he said in an interview last week, "this is the kind of sexual predation that keeps me up at night."

One Twitter user snipped in a tweet that got 14,000 likes: "Keep in mind that women are not only 'wives' and 'daughters', but also, in fact, people."

Another said: "Men humanise women only when things affect women in their lives."

For his critics, Damon seemed to be denouncing sexual violence merely because he is a father. "You don't need a daughter to feel guilty about working with a man who preys on young women," wrote Hunter Harris for New York magazine. "You just need a conscience."

The blowback from the familiar phrase seems to have made it a taboo.

A year ago, when Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell denounced then presidential nominee Donald Trump, who was exposed on tapes bragging about groping women, he said: "As the father of three daughters, I strongly believe that Trump needs to apologise directly to women and girls everywhere."

After Fox News founder Roger Ailes was accused of sexual harassment, the company's commentor, Geraldo Rivera, also spoke out as "the father of three daughters".

Politics and intentions aside, research has shown that having a daughter can, in fact, change how a man treats other women.

Studies have found that men with daughters are less attached to traditional gender roles; male CEOs with firstborn daughters pay their employees more; male judges with daughters are more likely to rule in favour of female plaintiffs in cases involving employment discrimination; and male venture capital managers with daughters hire more female partners.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2017, with the headline 'Backlash against Damon's comment'. Print Edition | Subscribe