Your Family BBQ Restaurant and Sexism

This image of two signs at an area restaurant captures so much of what characterizes our culture and arguably of what is wrong with our nation today. When I saw them tonight, I was immediately offended and surprised, and then I took a picture in anticipation of writing a blog about them. 

These signs celebrate guns; praise male-dominated, chauvinistic mores and rhetoric; suggest women are property; and contain grammar errors (when referring to people use “who” not “that”!). Reading further, these signs speak from a male-is-default point-of-view, emphasize capitalism (or perhaps what we might call proto-capitalism), and not only demean women as being property belonging to a man, one speaks to how a “gal” should or shouldn’t smell. 

I know from experience that some will say, “AJP! You’re reading wayyy too much into this.” (Updated 3/4/14- check out this wonderful response to “you’re reading too much into it.”) Perhaps so…but as a cultural studies practitioner, anything is fair game. Also, women face all kinds of subtle discrimination as it is so ingrained in our everyday life. As a cisgendered male, I can’t even begin to see or understand all of the ways, but I can, and will, speak to those I can and more importantly listen. And these two signs in no way support the equality and full humanity of girls and women.   

Rhetoric matters. Signs matter. Symbols matter. 


Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives

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11 replies

  1. Both signs are dismissive, of course, of women — the bottom one even disturbs me more for lots of sexual reasons.

    On the other hand, consider a similar sign I’ve seen in some “down home” restaurants and other southern establishments’ restrooms at the urinal: “Gentlemen, please stand closer. It’s shorter than you think.” — the rhetoric of bawdy humor that shows, “We’re all family here, you can relax.” Something to chuckle about, elbow-in-the-rib-cage comments. Of course, all these signs are in fact commercial products, so the fakeness (fakeality?) of the rustic bothers me as much as the sexism and bawdiness.


    • I too was thinking that second one had some sexual innuendoes.

      Interesting thought about the gap between the rhetoric of the signs and the rhetoric of how the business is run.

      Just thought of another book we can co-author: A book about the different signs at restaurants!


    • Would need to be divided into two sections — these commercial signs made to look like hillbillies made them, and authentic signs … which I can’t think of right now.

      Something to be said about public literacy if all the signs we have are commercially made.

      Now I want to make my own sign out of my own materials, with my own saying.


    • Not sure how public literacy fits in ?

      Did you see that video with the collection of signs a man bought from homeless people in New York? Talk about some power and interesting rhetoric and signs.


    • If the literature we surround our commercial spaces — these “homey” signs placed on the wall — are in fact not original literary creations, but are commercial products with all the sincerity and personality of Hallmark greeting cards, then I think we see only a phantom image of public literacy. We’re too bored to create our own signs, so we pay someone else to make 500 copies for national distribution so that each Cracker Barrel looks just like the next one. Regionalism, then, is sacrificed for mass illusion.

      Dunno. I’m making this up as I go along.

      Send URL of vid, if you can.


  2. Let’s dehumanize all the women! I always feel an internal sense of disgust when I see and hear about things like this. In part, the disgust stems from my anger and frustration of the twisted sense of masculinity us SWMs learn to embody and hold up as evidence of our manliness. The other part of my disgust is the way in which I unconsciously adhere to such social training before I catch it and deal with it. It’s not what I want from myself, and so I have learned how to act against such imagery. But it’s built into me, and pisses me off. “I got a gun for my wife;” what a lazy, terribly mean attempt at sexist humor.


    • Thanks, Nick. It’s not often there is someone like you who recognizes how entrenched sexist mores are and tries so hard to do better and help others do better. That’s awesome! Just like with “white privilege,” with “male privilege,” etc, sometimes the only or best thing we can do is be aware of it, try to identify it, and help others see it. I do wonder how much happens that we are totally blind to. I

      Another thing; The term “la-z-boy” to describe recliners bothers me. It reinforces the idea that men should be “lazy boys” and have women wait on them and the kids.


  3. Andrew,

    Your comment about people saying “You’re reading too much into this” reminded me of an article from the Society for U.S. Intellectual History that’s aptly titled, “Reading Too Much Into This.” It’s easy to think about things purely in economic terms. Interpreting cultural meanings through symbols is much tougher. Keep fighting the good fight!



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