This Rabbi Says Stop Slut-Shaming Stormy Daniels

“She’s every bit as human as the rest of us,” says Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, who is tired of seeing the same tired tropes used against the adult film actor

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A side by side photo of Stormy Daniels and Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg

Left, Stormy Daniels (Photo: Getty); Right, Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg (Photo: Courtesy of Ruttenberg)

It was a Wednesday night like most for Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, save for the fact that she couldn’t stop thinking about Stormy Daniels.

After a busy workday with back-to-back meetings, Ruttenberg had just finished dinner with her family. “I was doing the dishes, and I don’t know what triggered it,” says the Chicago-based rabbi-in-residence at , a Jewish social justice organization. “I couldn’t get her out of my head, so I decided to get my thoughts out of me and onto the internet.”

Ruttenberg grabbed her phone and started tweeting. She didn’t anticipate creating a larger thread—and certainly not one that would go viral—but once she began firing off her thoughts, the tweets kept building. “I want to say a thing about the slut-shaming language I’ve seen around Stormy Daniels,” she wrote. “Yes, I’m really a rabbi.”

I want to say a thing about the slut-shaming language I’ve seen around Stormy Daniels.

A few words about why what she does for a living doesn’t matter in this story, and then a few more on when it does.

Yes, I’m really a rabbi.

— Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg (@TheRaDR)


Stephanie Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels, is the adult film actor currently embroiled in a legal dispute with U.S. President Donald Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen. It’s alleged that Trump and his surrogates paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in hush money to silence Daniels about an affair she says she had with Trump in 2006. Trump’s spokespeople have denied the claims.

It’s not surprising that Ruttenberg would wade into a conversation about an adult film actor. She’s been engaged in progressive sexual education since high school and has edited . “I was a sex-positive feminist before I was a religious Jew,” she says. “None of this particularly surprises me. Not judging people, and giving people the benefit of the doubt, these are things I will continue to talk about because they are important.”

Why do we care about Stormy Daniels’s day job?

Take one look at , and it’s obvious she hasn’t been given the benefit of the doubt. After she came forward with her story, Daniels started quote-tweeting the vitriol lobbed at her from faceless Twitter accounts: insults that range from “,” “” and “” to “” and much worse.

“She’s a human being with inherent dignity, and the nature of her work doesn’t have any real bearing on the merits of her case,” says Ruttenberg. “In an age when we should be so much more aware—this post-MeToo era, when we are ostensibly more woke—we shouldn’t be using the same tired tropes to talk about her.”

For Ruttenberg, the problematic language about Daniels isn’t limited to insults on social media. She’s concerned with the discussions across various media outlets and between talking heads on TV. “What bothers me about the way people are talking about Stormy Daniels is that it erases some of her humanity,” says Ruttenberg. “She’s not necessarily being portrayed as a three-dimensional person with hopes and pains and her own story. But she’s every bit as human as the rest of us.”

How privilege plays a part in the discussion

The emphasis on Daniels’s career choice over Trump’s purported conduct concerns Ruttenberg. “Our society is really, really excellent at giving passes to people who have privilege,” she says. “The willingness to continue to reinforce culpability on people who are oppressed and to implicitly create a narrative of innocence around people who have privilege is staggering.”

In fact, Ruttenberg couldn’t care less about whether Trump cheated on his wife— “that’s none of my business as his constituent,” she says—but she does take issue with the hypocrisy of Trump’s touted Christian values. “If my president was a practising Buddhist, of course we wouldn’t be saying, Oh, I can’t believe he may have violated the 10 Commandments. But if a person self-identifies as Christian, and makes a lot of noise about how important Christianity is to them, then there’s a hypocrisy to their not living up to those values—and that should be available to us for discussion.”

More to the point, the silence of Trump’s party—which she says has weaponized women’s sexuality and staked its claim in a certain kind of morality—is particularly deafening. “And it’s just as relevant to this discussion because of the party’s absolute complicity here,” she says. “When I think about the ways that they put Bill Clinton through a cheese grater for his sexual impropriety, and then I think about how there’s just crickets now with Trump. Clinton’s behaviour was problematic—I’m not saying it wasn’t—but there’s a difference in the noise and in the crickets from basically the same leadership.”

The problem with casting women as good or bad

Ruttenberg wants everyone to be more mindful of the way they talk about women. “We have, since the very beginning of patriarchy, separated women into two different categories: that women are either coded as pristine, virginal, pure, acceptable; or, they are not coded in this way and are instead denigrated by our society,” she says. “It’s about dividing them up, and both are impossible positions that strip people of their humanity: the pure, good girl is just as limiting as a the bad, fallen woman.”

“By separating women into these categories, it reinforces the idea that there are good women we should listen to and bad women with no credibility. And that isn’t true,” says Ruttenberg. “We’re all messy and complicated.”

As a rabbi, Ruttenberg understands what it’s like to be judged—albeit not in the same fashion as Daniels. “For rabbis, certainly, there are a lot of issues with how we’re perceived as public figures,” she says. “There’s a lot of judgment about how we look, and how we hold ourselves and how we present ourselves—especially for women rabbis.” She also notes that a lot of her colleagues of all genders in the pulpit are currently dealing with criticism that they’re either talking too politically about the current administration—or not enough.

Stormy Daniels is human, too

In order to make some real progress as a society, Ruttenberg wants to break that binary between the way we tend to categorize women. “We need to talk about Stormy Daniels as a human being who does work just like the rest of us,” she says.

For Ruttenberg, this progress begins with being more aware of the language we use—and just being a little less judgemental. And that’s where she leans on the teachings from the Torah. “I would hope that everyone can learn to model what it means to try give people the kaf zechut, the benefit of the doubt,” she says. “In Pirkei Avot, it says we should judge everyone with the benefit of the doubt. There is certainly a trend in our current culture in which people in the public eye are up for consumption in the media 24/7. On social media a lot of people are judged harshly and not engaged with in open curiosity to really understand their differing points of views. We’re missing that conversation today.”

Stormy Daniels is a person made in the image of God, just like you and me.

Talk about her with respect.

— Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg (@TheRaDR)

If she had the chance to talk to Daniels, Ruttenberg knows exactly what she’d say: “Thank you. Really.”

“Someone observed on Twitter today that Stormy is in a position to put herself out there in a way that many other women can’t, because the ways in which people in power like Trump and their lawyers can go after a person’s career leave them vulnerable to having their lives destroyed. And since Stormy is in this position that is coded as ‘outside’ in our culture, she is in many ways able to go after him. So I’d really just want to say thank you to her for her bravery. I imagine that she is paying a serious personal price for going up against someone so powerful, and it has the potential to have an impact on America.”

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