Thursday, December 18, 2008

Favreau Did Worse Than Imus: Comparing Hate Speech

The photo of speechwriter Jon Favreau and his friend sexually grabbing a Hillary Clinton image is hate speech ( Hate speech is wrong. Favreau should be fired for this act of hatred against 51% of our population.


First, remember women and girls are the most oppressed group in the world ( Men dominate women politically, economically, and socially. That is wrong. Women have a long way to go before we achieve political equality with men. Thus, lowering the status of women politicians in general is wrong.

The Favreau photo lowered Hillary Clinton's status in a vicious, cruel, and extremely disrespectful way. I believe most people would agree that portraying a politician as a sex object does lower the status of the politician. It reduces them to just a sexual being which takes attention away from or blots out entirely the mental part of the politician, the part that sets policy, that makes decisions, that creates a vision for our nation’s future. The mental part of a politician is extremely valuable and is largely responsible for the politician’s high status. Thus, by blotting out the mental part of a politician, the hate speech perpetrator seeks to lower the politician’s status in the eyes of the viewer.

But the Favreau photo didn’t just harm Hillary Clinton; it harmed women politicians in general. Hillary Clinton is a member of an oppressed group. This is self-evident since Hillary is a woman and men dominate women in society. Women are currently striving to raise their status to the level of men. I believe most people would agree with that because the existence of feminist organizations is well known and the purpose of feminist organizations is to raise women’s status higher towards equality with men, to give us equal power. Even women who don’t identify as feminists are often trying to raise their status to the level of men. Hollywood, the news, our friends and relatives are constantly telling us stories of women who fight sexism. Hillary Clinton is a role model woman striving towards equality with men: she’s an international figure who has promoted women’s equality throughout the world, she broke the glass ceiling of first women NY senator, first woman to win a primary, and first woman to get the most primary votes. When a pioneer woman breaks through a glass ceiling like Hillary has done, she is not just helping herself, she’s helping all women and girls. If she wins, we all win; yet if she loses, we all lose.

Thus, when Favreau humiliated Hillary Clinton, he humiliated all women and girls. As Obama’s speechwriter, Favreau fought against Hillary Clinton during the primaries. The Obama camp won the nomination with the help of the sexist media and DNC sabotaging Hillary Clinton. After his camp won, Favreau and a male wearing an Obama shirt publicly humiliated Hillary Clinton by creating a horrid tableau in which they grab her image by the hair and breast and shove a bottle in her mouth similar to a gang rape scene. Andrew Breitbart of the Washington Times said on December 8th that the Favreau photo was like “the early stages of the barroom rape scene of "The Accused" with Jodie Foster” ( The Obama supporters' sexual humiliation of their defeated opponent mirrored the common act of soldiers raping women of the country they have conquered. It was not about sex, it was about power. In describing the current problem of military rape in the Congo, Anneka Van Woudenberg of Human Rights Watch said, "This is not rape because soldiers have got bored and have nothing to do. It is a way to ensure that communities accept the power and authority of that particular armed group” (

Similarly, Favreau’s sexual humiliation of Hillary Clinton was apparently acted out to show the power and authority of the victorious Obama camp over the defeated Hillary Clinton camp. And since if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency it would have helped free women from male domination, Favreau’s domination of Hillary Clinton was by default men’s domination of women. Thus, the Favreau photo is hate speech against women because it promotes male domination of women.

Furthermore, hate speech is defined by Wikipedia as:

a term for speech intended to degrade, intimidate, or incite violence or prejudicial action against a person or group of people based on their race, gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, language ability, ideology, social class, occupation, appearance (height, weight, hair color, etc.), mental capacity, and any other distinction that might be considered by some as a liability. The term covers written as well as oral communication and some forms of behaviors in a public setting (

I’ve read many people saying Favreau’s action and photo degrades women so just by that definition it is hate speech according to Wikipedia. Furthermore, the basic principle of sexism is treating one gender group different and in a worse way. Women politicians are more often portrayed as sexual and less mental than men politicians, so that establishes that they are treated differently. For example, during the 2008 election Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin were often portrayed sexually but their male counterparts almost never were ( And this different treatment, sexualization, lowers women politicians’ status. Therefore, since this practice creates an environment where women are treated differently and in a worse way (lowers our status) it is prejudiced against women. The lowering of women’s political status decreases women politicians’ power, which means it makes it harder for them to get support, to raise funds, to get positive media, to get votes, etc. Thus, sexualizing women politicians incites people to treat them in a prejudiced way. And according to Wikipedia speech that incites prejudicial action against a group is hate speech.

Also, photos are considered speech as are actions, thus the sexist photo of sexist action is speech.

A lot of people looked at the Favreau photo and immediately thought it was hateful. I read commentary about it and dozen’s of people have written that it is hateful against women and girls. Sexism takes many forms and has different levels of severity, but it is the same stuff. Sexist hate speech leads people to believe women/girls are inferior to men/boys and that leads to violent hate crimes, hate crimes that kill women and girls every day.


Favreau should be fired for his hate speech against Hillary Clinton and every woman and girl. People are often fired for hate speech. For example, when actor Isaiah Washington used the word f****t in regard to his Grey’s Anatomy coworker T.R. Knight who had announced he was gay ABC fired Washington for hate speech against homosexuals. Though Washington publicly apologized, went through counseling, met with officials from the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and filmed a public service announcement in which he said "words have power" to hurt or heal, nevertheless his hate speech was deemed too damaging to allow him to continue working for the Grey’s Anatomy series. Shonda Rhimes, the series creator, issued a statement saying ""I speak for all the executive producers here at ‘Grey's Anatomy’ when I say that Isaiah Washington's use of such a disturbing word was a shocking and dismaying event” (


While Isaiah Washington spoke hate speech in private, Don Imus spoke it on air. When Imus mocked the Rutgers women’s basketball team by saying that in comparison to their “cute” competitors the Rutgers women were “nappy-headed hos” (frizzy-haired prostitutes) he was perpetuating prejudices against women, blacks and the lower classes. Most of the talk about the incident was about racism but both the Rutgers team and their Tennessee competitors were mostly black. Thus, since both teams were mostly black Imus wasn’t just making a racist comment as some believed; he was commenting negatively about lower-class culture and women. By saying the Rutgers team were “rough girls” with tattoos, Imus implied they were low-class compared to their Tennessee competitors. On the radio, Imus and others compared the Rutgers team to low-class “Jigaboos” and their competitors to lady-like “Wannabees” (

And by referring to the allegedly low-class Rutgers women as prostitutes (“hos”) Imus was representing low-income women as prostitutes. Since almost all prostitutes are from the lower classes, lower class women are often falsely cast as prostitutes. For example, women are often referred to as hos (prostitutes) if they wear low-class clothing and makeup. Yet, lower class men are almost never referred to as prostitutes if they wear low-class clothing even though a significant percentage of prostitutes are men and boys. Thus, false charges of prostitution against women simply because they’re lower class is sexist because men are almost never attacked that way. Thus, for all the above reasons when Imus called the Rutgers women “nappy-headed hos” it was hate speech against women, blacks and the lower classes.

Imus’ hate speech had consequences. NBC News immediately announced it was dropping MSNBC's simulcast of Imus in the Morning. The next day CBS said it fired Imus. Staples and Miralus Healthcare pulled their ads from Imus's MSNBC show, while Procter & Gamble took its ads off of all MSNBC daytime. Imus publicly apologized for his hate speech.


It is important to note that several presidential candidates publicly denounced Imus’ remarks because that relates to the Favreau hate speech. For example, Obama was the first candidate to say Imus should be fired:

…there's nobody on my staff who would still be working for me if they made a comment like that about anybody

It was a degrading comment.

Insults, humor that degrades women, humor that is based in racism and racial stereotypes isn't fun,

And the notion that somehow it's cute or amusing, or a useful diversion, I think, is something that all of us have to recognize is just not the case (

Favreau’s hate speech was also referred to as amusing and people who complained against it were referred to as silly on the news ( Today Washington Post writer Eli Saslow implied Favreau did nothing wrong, yet the first photo of Favreau illustrating the article belies Saslow's opinion. The photo shows two men looking at Favreau, one with a serious look on his face the other smiling at him. Look at the woman: She is turned away from Favreau with look of disgust. She crossed her arms in front of her breasts (to prevent Favreau from humiliating her by groping or looking at them?). The Favreau hate speech runs deep and has had a profound negative effect on men and women. So far it has shown men that they can treat women like scum sexual objects and the highest levels of government may protect the sexual harasser. And based on what I've read and seen it has made women frightened and defensive and lowered our already very low status. Yet as Obama noted people can try to mask hate speech as fun and amusing but it is not, it is hate and hate is a serious problem.

Favreau’s hate speech is much worse than Imus’ hate speech so of course what goes for Imus should also go for Favreau but more severe. As it’s said, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” and Favreau’s humiliation of a women’s rights international figure by sadisticly portraying her in a gangbang scene is an attack against not just Hillary Clinton but against all women. In describing Imus hate speech Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer explained the hate speech didn’t just harm Rutgers women it harmed all woman:

It’s more than the Rutgers women’s basketball team. It is all women athletes. It is all women. Have we lost a sense of our own moral fiber?

Gender-based hate speech, like other hate speech, has a particular psychological and emotional impact which extends beyond the original victim. Thus, this attack on Hillary Clinton was an attack against me. It was a dishonorable, cruel, hate-filled attack against all women and girls.

It’s important to note that Don Imus and Isaiah Washington worked in the entertainment and sports industries and these industries are not specifically designed to promote social good. Yet even though social good is not their main goal they enforced good anyway by condemning hate speech by firing those who inflicted hate speech. If entertainment and sports organizations take strong action against hate speech, how much more important is it that the government whose primary purpose is to promote social good take even stronger action against hate speech? Allowing a man who has committed extreme hate speech against women to work at a high level in government sends the following message: women are inferior to men.

The government should not be promoting the idea that women are inferior to men. If sexist speech is allowed to continue without even the bare minimum of a public apology to its victims then sexist hatred will continue. The government must stop it in its tracks. Hate speech encourages the subjugation of women and girls which is harmful to our society.

It makes no difference whether the hate speech was done using cardboard, film, a live performance, or a combination of these things. Hate speech is wrong regardless of what media is used for the hatred. It is wrong regardless of whether it is one word or a picture worth a thousand words. Favreau must stop hiding and turn and face his victims and speak words of apology to begin the healing process of the enormous damage he inflicted on women and girls.