A model for cool, liberated, feminist men

Howard Levitt, an expert in employment law, says Jian Ghomeshi won’t be working in broadcasting again.

Before his fall, Jian Ghomeshi was a model for cool, liberated, feminist men. That image was left in tatters when he was fired from the CBC and the resulting stories quickly reached public attention.

The question now being roundly asked is whether he will be able to return to the CBC after last week’s acquittal? The simple answer is no. In my crisis management work, I look at the prospect of rehabilitation from the perspective of the client’s perceived image before the infraction.

A public figure or executive can be rehabilitated only if the person’s “infraction” is not inconsistent with their public image.

Levitt gives a couple of examples of politicians who got in trouble with driving and alcohol but carried on in their careers unscathed, contrasted with one who got public outrage.

Why the difference? The offences committed by Lévesque and Klein were not inconsistent with what the public already believed about them. Campbell, on the other hand, was seen as someone who thought he was better than everyone else. The public was delighted to see him get his comeuppance.

That doesn’t seem like an ideal arrangement. All you have to do to get away with being an asshole is be widely seen as an asshole already. Hmm.

Anyway, he says Ghomeshi was seen as hip and lefty and feminist, and that won’t work any more. Again, that seems odd to me, because surely it’s pretty well-known that lots of hip lefty men who consider themselves feminists actually act like sexist assholes – isn’t it? And surely it’s also pretty well-known that lots of hip employers and organizations turn a blind eye to gross sexism in their hip popular star employees – isn’t it? Bill Cosby anyone?

But there is the little matter of other CBC employees. That part seems less odd.

He was fired because his sexual practices were antithetical to the CBC’s (and his own) brand and would cause the broadcaster considerable market damage if he had remained. The law permits employers to fire for cause employees who commit acts fundamentally antithetical to their brand.

It is noteworthy that, while this criminal trial (and the upcoming one), advanced quickly, we have heard nothing from his union, which has the exclusive right to represent Ghomeshi in any dismissal case. I suspect — though I have no inside knowledge — that the union has not taken the case and will not.

For one thing, it would put the union in conflict with other members who may not wish their funds to be used to prosecute Ghomeshi’s case and may even be testifying against him. That is largely the union’s choice, for which Ghomeshi would have little effective recourse if it decided not to.

Those non-male employees could be the ultimate barrier.

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