Model/Anti-Model Advocacy Responses to Hospitality Industry Sexual Harassment

Model/Anti-Model Advocacy Responses to Hospitality Industry Sexual Harassment

Jeffrey D. Brand (University of Northern Iowa, USA) and Gayle M. Pohl (University of Northern Iowa, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3473-1.ch119
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Abstract

This chapter explores a case study in the restaurant industry by evaluating accusations against John Besh, a celebrity chef, and his organization, the Besh Restaurant Group (now BRG Hospitality). Applying the work of Perleman and Olbrechts-Tyteca and their identification of model and anti-model argumentation schemes, this study reveals how organizations and industries can address accusations against members (anti-model) and also propose and advocate for changes (model) to improve symbolic and material conditions for their industry, their employees, and their stakeholder communities. By evaluation of the discourses by leaders and members of the restaurant industry, celebrity chefs, and the mass media for their responses to sexual harassment and assault accusations; the opportunity for this movement and protest to serve as a catalyst for change and action might be understood. This case study, related to the restaurant industry, is also intended to illustrate how cases in other industries revealed through the #MeToo movement may also be catalysts for change.
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Introduction

In 2006, Tarana Burke, an African-American civil rights activist, started a nonprofit organization, Just Be Inc. to aid survivors of sexual harassment and assault. She named the movement “me too” and began a campaign to help survivors, especially young women of color from poor communities to begin to heal from their experiences (Me Too, 2018). Actor Alyssa Milano used the #MeToo hashtag to promote the effort to recognize and give a voice to sexual harassment and abuse victims as the first accusations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein were revealed across social media in 2017. That tweet quickly went viral and helped to launch the #MeToo campaign.

Since April 2017, other victims of sexual harassment and assault have spoken up around the country and the world to reveal their experiences and to expose their attackers. More than 263 people; including leaders and celebrities, in fields such as arts and entertainment, media, business, technology industries, politics, religion, education, hospitality services, and others; have been the subject to allegations of a variety of inappropriate and illegal activities including sexual harassment and assault (North, 2019).

These cases have revealed some challenges to effectively responding to these accusations. On the one hand, the individuals accused must be confronted and their specific behaviors and consequences identified and acted on. Many of those accused have been publicly shamed, their private lives and relationships damaged, others have lost their jobs, criminal and civil charges have been filed, and they have had careers and reputations ruined. At the same time, these cases have been held up as representative of larger problems in a variety of industries and institutions; including arts and entertainment, hospitality, media, business and technical organizations, politics and government, sports programs, and more. Identification and punishment of transgressors can only be a starting point for reforming the recurring and systemic conditions responsible for these actions. Transformations of organizational culture, institutions, and social expectations are necessary. Organizations have the opportunity to learn from these accusations and improve themselves and their industries.

The ongoing discourse surrounding the identities of people accused of harassment and other actions, along with efforts to address these issues within the organizations where these offenses have occurred, call for a scholarship that will extend beyond describing and categorizing accusations. Scholarship that should identify how this movement and its victims might see changes in the institutions and industries that created and allowed conditions for these behaviors to become “normalized.” Advocacy that is capable of transforming these institutions is necessary and can be identified in cases where accusers and institutions have made responsible efforts to change.

This chapter explores a case study in the hospitality industry by evaluating accusations against John Besh, a celebrity chef, and his organization, the Besh Restaurant Group (now BRG Hospitality). Applying the work of Perleman and Olbrechts-Tyteca (1969) and their identification of model and anti-model argumentation schemes, this study reveals how organizations and industries can address accusations against members (anti-model) and also propose and advocate for changes (model) to improve both symbolic and material conditions for their industry, their employees, and their stakeholder communities. Three objectives are established for this chapter. First, provide an evaluation of the discourses by leaders and members of the hospitality industry, celebrity chefs, and the mass media for their responses to sexual harassment and assault accusations. Second, reveal how the hospitality industry can employ model and anti-model arguments to advocate for changes in their industry and practices. Finally, identify the strategic purpose for using model and anti-model argumentation as an alternative to other reputational repair strategies for any organization facing accusations of wrongdoing.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Hospitality Industry: An industry encompassing food and drink venues, entertainment sources, travel and tourism, lodging and recreation services.

John Besh: A celebrity chef and restaurateur accused of inappropriate sexual harassment and abuses by employees.

Dissociation: An argumentation process that separates one set of actions or behaviors from another.

Anti-Model Argument: An argument identifying unacceptable behavior or messages the advocate wishes to discuss.

Organizational Crisis: Any event that threatens an organization’s reputation or credibility due to actions by employees or leadership of the organization.

#MeToo Movement: A movement responsible for revealing sexual harassment and abuses against women and other disadvantaged individuals by persons in power and influence. The movement has advocated for change in many industries and fields, both in the United States and worldwide.

Model Argument: An argument identifying the accepted behavior or messages that the advocate wishes to promote.

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