On a lovely day this weekend, I went for lunch at an outdoor waterside bar in a small town in Northern Maryland where my mother lives. Part of the, uh, decor comprised three signs, all hung on the bar within a few feet of each other.
L: pinup-style drawing of smiling, apparently topless woman from collar bone up with text that reads “MEN, no shirt no service, WOMEN, no shirt free drinks!”
C: silhouette of animal featuring large antlers with text that reads “EVERY HUNTER LOVES A BIG RACK.”
R: “WANTED: Good Woman, Able to Clean, Cook, Sew, Dig Worms And Clean Fish. Must Have Boat and Motor. PLEASE SEND PICTURE OF BOAT AND MOTOR.”
Now I get kitsch, I really do. And I love pinup art, especially my friend’s photography. And I’m not exactly humorless—well, at least not for one of those horrible feminists, anyway.
But here’s the thing.
One gets the distinct sense that these signs are not meant to be taken with a wink and a nod to kitsch.
For one thing, the theme of this bar and restaurant is “tiki.” You know: fake palm trees, thatched roofs, rum-based cocktails, pirates and shit. These signs have nothing to do with any of that (with the possible exception of the sign on the right, but that’s…stretching it). And strangely, this establishment displays no signs that mock or objectify men, at least none in plain view that I could see. I wonder why that is?
No, I do not wonder why that is.
I think it’s safe to conclude that some douchebro (or an empowered minion) thinks these signs are clever and funny, taken at face value.
That is, this messaging is not intended to celebrate women or femininity; instead it demeans, stereotypes and objectifies them. It punches down, not up. Unapologetically, purposefully, bluntly and intentionally.
In social justice circles we talk a lot about microaggressions, but I’m not sure these signs would qualify. In this context, they’re just plain aggressions, here to explicitly remind women of their appropriate roles and limited uses in abject service to men, and to reinforce men’s expectations and entitlement to same.
Hey, I’m thinking maybe there is something to this “humorless feminist” stuff after all? Because I am definitely not laughing. I have a different response.
Have a nice day.