Jon Favreau is a valued member of Barack Obama’s staff, and is responsible for crafting the speeches Obama used to inspire many people. His ability to deftly weave lofty ideals and to evoke admirable values seems incongruent with the nature of his pantomimed joke, the punchline of which portrayed a sexual assault on a cardboard cutout of Hillary Clinton. In addition to the offensive nature of his act, his behavior reflects a lack of judgment that could haunt the Obama presidency, as each inspirational speech may now be increasingly associated with the image of him groping Hillary, by proxy.
So, should he be fired?
Not necessarily. Jon Favreau demonstrated a deplorable lack of sensitivity to the prevalence of similar acts towards actual women, but what if he were given the opportunity to demonstrate commitment to redressing his offense? Would it be possible for him to publicly reform himself?
Were Jon Favreau to demonstrate a commitment to heightened awareness of the victimization of women, and make a public expression of remorse, perhaps he could.
First, he should be made to volunteer at a battered women’s shelter for two months, where he would have an opportunity to familiarize himself with victimization, its prevalence and its impact. He could educate himself about the connection between casual remarks or jokes about women and violence against women. He could demonstrate his newfound awareness of the offensive nature of the joke he was making in that picture, and that he understands what he was communicating, whether intended or not, and what the implications of that message are for women.
Firing Jon Favreau will only serve to reinforce the irrational notion that public figures must be inhumanly virtuous, and that evidence of their embarrassing shortcomings or offensive lapses in judgment reveal a mortal character flaw that renders them unfit to provide service to our country. But putting the problem aside without further discussion or consequence to Favreau is unsatisfactory, and there are many who will be unprepared to let the matter drop.
The public nature of Jon Favreau’s offense reinforces a culture that abets the victimization of women. A public course of redemption could not only counteract this impact, it provides an opportunity for vicarious learning, with at least the potential to foster public awareness in a manner his summary dismissal never could.