When a car dealer posted a sign in front of his lot, he thought passersby would get a good laugh. Instead, outrage ensued over his “sexist” message. Rather than kowtow to his critics as complaints poured in, however, he posted two more signs intended to further ruffle feathers.
John Mellish, the manager of Mellish Motors in Prince Edward Island, Canada, became the center of a big controversy with his small used car lot, thanks to a sign he posted. Although Mellish said he was only having a bit of fun, not everyone was laughing after reading what he posted. “Women are like snowflakes. They can’t drive,” Mellish’s sign read.
Positioned on the business’s lawn, right along the highway, it was easy for passersby to see. It was also easy for someone to get a photo and head to social media to complain. After being taken aback by the sign, Chelsea Ling, owner of Papercakes Pretty Salon & Boutique in Charlottetown, posted a picture of it, which she simply captioned, “Well PEI friends…” Although there were those who defended the sign, it wasn’t long before others were offended and decrying the “sexist” message.
“If we didn’t have social media, people would get a chuckle out of my sign and their day would carry on,” Mellish said. But, we do have social media, and outrage ensued over the “misogynistic” message that claimed women “can’t drive.” But, rather than back down or apologize for his politically incorrect display, Mellish doubled down with additional signs for the complainers, telling them exactly how Mellish felt about their criticism.
“I’ve put up signs about men, teachers, myself, kids, et cetera,” Mellish told CBC News. “I do like people to be talking. Good or bad, it does get attention,” he added, explaining the post was meant to be taken “in good humor.” Ling, however, felt much differently. Although she claimed to support free speech while speaking with CBC News, she said that she didn’t believe Mellish used “common sense” when posting his “joke.”
“I’m very much for businesses doing what they want and not for people saying, ‘Oh, they run a business, they can’t do that,’ but I think there should be a common-sense line of what’s hateful and what’s funny,” Ling said, adding that she wouldn’t want her sons to see the sign. “Just because jokes like this and misogynistic things like this are so deeply ingrained in our society, a lot of people don’t see it as a problem, and that in itself is the problem,” she furthered. “Just because it is normal in society, I don’t believe it’s okay.”
Others seemed to agree, taking issue with Mellish’s marketing strategy and accusing him of “alienating” half of his potential client base. “So, you’re going to go out of your way … to install a sexist comment on your sign that alienates at least half of your potential clientele and for what?” one disapproving social media user wrote. “A cheap chuckle at an EPICALLY lame ‘joke’? #marketingfail.” But, rather than cave to the criticism, Mellish doubled down.
Mellish explained that, while he doesn’t normally get on social media, he did follow the comments about his sign. After doing so, he came up with what he felt was an absolutely perfect way to deal with those who were offended by it. He posted another sign, this one reading, “Sensitive women, don’t read this sign,” in response to the outcry. But, he didn’t stop there.
After that change wasn’t well-received by some, Mellish fired back again. On that same sign, he added, “You know who you are,” but he still wasn’t done having “fun.” While others chose to “hide behind social media,” according to Mellish, he wasn’t one of those people. He once again changed his sign. “Attention drama queens. Auditions for today have been canceled!” it read.
“When people arrive at work, the very first thing they discuss is, ‘What did Mellish have on his sign?'” John Mellish said. Unapologetic over the controversy the messages created, he told the local news he didn’t have any intention of stopping with his “funny” signs, regardless of what other people had to say about them.
Honestly, no matter how much you watch what you say, there’s still the potential to offend someone. Maybe the solution isn’t insisting that no one offends you, but rather choosing how you respond to being offended. Perhaps giving someone free publicity isn’t the answer. Often, you’d be better off ignoring them rather than drawing attention to their “offensive” behavior. In this case, whether you agree with John Mellish or not, it only seemed to encourage more of the same, proving people will say what they want. It’s up to us how we react to it.