Based on a paper by: Kelly Tomlinson
Summary by: Elise Gaudreau
French fashion company, Christian Dior, faced a major scandal in 2011, when their head designer was accused of making anti-Semitic remarks to women. John Galliano, head designer, had a history of addiction, abusing both drugs and alcohol. During a few evenings of heavy alcohol consumption, he allegedly tossed racist and anti-Semitic insults towards women at the bars he frequented. These incidents were no longer alleged when a video went viral of John drunkenly declaring his love for Hitler and worshiping the Holocaust, spouting, “I love Hitler and people like you would be dead today. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be f***ing gassed and f***ing dead."
Galliano was charged with "public insults based on origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity", however, he plead that he had no recollection of these incidents. He also apologized, and said that his values did not align with those he declared while intoxicated, and that his addictions had got the best of him. Galliano paid out damages to each of the victims he verbally assaulted, as well as five anti-racism groups which he offended through his outburst that went viral via this video caught on a mobile phone.
According to the four major theories including Individualism, Utilitarianism, Kantianism and Virtue Theory, John Galliano’s actions were mostly unethical.
The theory of Individualism focuses on egoism and rights-based constraints. To expand on that, everyone has the right to make their own choices and pursue self-interests, and as such we must respect that right of our fellow man so we can live how we want. John’s actions were not entirely unethical in his pursuit of making his choice to get drunk and shout his self-interests, including anti-Semitic remarks in a bar. What makes them unethical is his lack of respect that his fellow men and women have the same right as him to make their own choices and pursue self-interests in practicing the Jewish faith and upholding tradition. Also, two questions must be answered: Do these action's bring any profit to the company? and Were these actions illegal? The answer to the first question is no. John's reckless actions brought shame and misfortune on the French fashion house, as they had to terminate employment of one of their most notorious designers. To answer the second question, John's actions were illegal, due to laws that are similar to those we have protecting people from unfair discrimination here in the United States. That is why his actions were unethical.
The heart of Utilitarianism is to maximize the overall good that is serving the greatest amount of people. In considering this theory, one must consider the stakeholders involved in this case. The stakeholders include John Galliano, the company itself (Christian Dior), the lawyers involved, the women Galliano verbally attacked, as well as anyone who was offended by Galliano's comments, such as the anti-racism groups, people of the Jewish faith, or those whose family suffered due to the Holocaust. To add to the emotional damage Galliano caused, the face of Dior, Natalie Portman (another stakeholder) was of the Jewish faith. Needless to say, his actions caused near devastation to the company when she spoke out against his actions, to which she found incredibly repugnant. As applied to this theory, Galliano’s actions were definitely unethical. In fact, it is known he verbally harassed numerous women on multiple occasions, and the damage caused by the video of him glorifying the Holocaust and Hitler is practically infinite. In conclusion, Galliano’s actions quite obviously did the exact opposite, by maximizing the overall suffering to the greatest number of people.
The Kantian approach to ethics represents rational actions, good will, and respect to all autonomous beings. Accordingly, Galliano’s actions were unethical in that his actions were extremely disrespectful to those he offended. Spouting anti-Semitic remarks is not an act of good will towards a fellow human being. However, he was not in a “rational” state of mind, being that he was heavily intoxicated.
Virtue Theory emphasizes four main values of character including courage, honesty, temperance, and justice. In alignment with this theory of ethics, Galliano’s actions are questionable. His “courageous” actions were bordering more on the side of rashness; however, he was standing up for his ideas at the time. At the time, he was being blatantly, and brutally honest of his feelings, which no one can deny. However, he was completely lacking self-control during the incident. Lastly, his offensive actions to declare his strong beliefs were not provoked; therefore he lacks the element of justice. Therefore, his actions were mostly lacking virtue and unethical.
Note: These facts and analyses are based on an original research paper by Kelly Tomlinson, "Head Designer of Christian Dior Makes Anti-Semitic Remarks to Women" (2011).
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