The Athena principle: Ivanka and Donald Trump

The “Mattei Athena,” a first century B.C./A.D. Roman marble copy of a fourth century B.C. Greek work attributed to Cephisodotos or Euphranor. Musée du Louvre.

The “Mattei Athena,” a first century B.C./A.D. Roman marble copy of a fourth century B.C. Greek work attributed to Cephisodotos or Euphranor. Musée du Louvre.

A patron at a restaurant I frequent finds Donald Trump’s relationship with his older daughter, Ivanka, peculiar. He seems to be closer to her than to his wife, Melania, she has said.

Jill Filipovic – a lawyer and journalist who’s the author of the forthcoming “The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness,” offers an explanation: A man wants a nurturer in a wife, who will care for his needs, and an independent-minded, strong woman in a daughter, who, after all, reflects him. I myself saw this with my own father and I’ve seen this with every man I’ve known who had daughters. Whether or not he was a feminist, married or divorced, gay or straight, he always wanted his daughter or daughters to succeed and thus women to have opportunities and pay equal to that of men.

You don’t need a study to show you this, but that’s what studies will tell you: Men with daughters are more sympathetic to women’s rights. And yet, we’re still ambivalent about those rights. Hence the need for wives who remain hubby-centric.

Even the 2014 photo The Times chose for Filipovic’s essay in the print version is a perfect illustration of this thinking. It shows a typically grumpy Donald , walking, on the left. Melania, center, is close by his side, looking in his direction, while Ivanka, at right, walks somewhat apart – her rapt face to the wind.

Call it the Athena principle. In Greek mythology, Athena – the goddess of wisdom, crafts and war in a just cause – sprang full-blown from the head of her father, Zeus, king of the gods. (He had an affair with the smart-as-a-whip goddess Metis, but fearing she would bear children who would be brainier and thus might supplant him, he swallowed her whole, unaware that she was pregnant.)

The child of his mind as well as his body, “Dear Gray Eyes” – as Athena was known – remained Zeus’ favorite offspring, one who managed to get along easily with Hera, the quarrelsome wife he regularly betrayed.

Athena never married, hence one of her nicknames, Parthenos, or “unmarried woman,” which the West has interpreted to mean “virgin.” And hence her famous temple atop the Acropolis in Athens, the Parthenon. (In her book “Women’s Mysteries,” Jungian analyst Esther Harding writes that whether or not you interpret the virgin goddesses to be physical virgins, they remain psychological virgins, one-in-themselves.)

In Jungian parlance, Athena – who was always on hand to aid Achilles, Odysseus and other heroes – also represents the male-identified woman who needs to reclaim the mother in herself. But as a daughter, she represents the feminine – in terms of feminine energy, not effeminacy – in the male.

While it’s doubtful that Trump sees women as more than sex objects, at least by recognizing Ivanka for her business smarts balanced by her mothering skills, he is unwittingly acknowledging the feminine energy in himself.