A billboard between Winston-Salem and Greensboro has caught the eye — and the ire — of some who think it is a slam on gender equality.
The sign reads, “Real men provide, Real women appreciate it.”
The billboard, on Interstate 40 Business West, has garnered strong reactions from those who think the message is misogynistic and outdated. Winston-Salem business owner Molly Grace said the sign’s message is an attempt to silence women who want to be seen as equals to men.
“It does not say anything that suggests that men and women are equal role players in the home,” said Grace, 30, who owns the boutique Kleur in downtown Winston-Salem.
Grace has organized a peaceful protest Sunday at 11 a.m. to show disapproval to what the sign represents. A location for the event has not yet been determined.
Grace said she interprets the sign to mean that men provide and that women should be thankful.
We don’t endorse the message that’s there. We’re just the messenger.
Bill Whiteheart, Whiteheart Outdoor Advertising
“We are protesting the way that this patriarchal way of thinking still exists and that it’s perpetuated and it’s embraced,” she said. “It really marginalizes and hurts people.”
The billboard belongs to Whiteheart Outdoor Advertising, a company operated by Bill Whiteheart. He is a former Republican member of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners and was known for being socially and fiscally conservative, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
The billboard was purchased by a company that wishes to remain nameless, Whiteheart said. It went up Friday and will remain for about 30 days.
A Whiteheart billboard costs about $2,000, he said.
Whiteheart said his company’s job is to convey a message, not to take sides on it.
It’s not the sign, it’s the thinking, it’s the sentiment behind the sign that hurts and marginalizes many people that see it as offensive.
Molly Grace, Winston-Salem business owner
“We don’t endorse the message that’s there,” he said. “We’re just the messenger.”
Grace said her displeasure with the sign is not partisan.
It takes a stand on a social issue that many people are talking about, she said, pointing to women’s marches across the nation as an example of how people are expressing themselves.
She also said the sign’s language was intentionally vague, so it can mean different things to different people.
“It’s not the sign, it’s the thinking, it’s the sentiment behind the sign that hurts and marginalizes many people that see it as offensive,” she said. “If that does not apply to you, then move along.”
Since speaking out on the sign, Grace said she has received messages on social media and seen posts on message boards that are derogatory, or accuse her of having a “liberal agenda.”
“They’re calling me all the b-words and c-words that you can possibly think of,” she said. “It’s just another example highlighting what I’m talking about.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.