“We’re just the messenger”
There’s nothing wrong with celebrating those who provide for their families. But a group of North Carolina residents are upset about a tone-deaf billboard near Winston-Salem that reads, “Real men provide. Real women appreciate it.” The billboard has sparked protests from those who say its message is sexist and promotes patriarchy. “There are no gender roles that define what people can and cannot do for their households and how measurable their worth or their provisions are,” local businesswoman, Holly Grace, told NPR.
The billboard is owned by Bill Whiteheart of Whiteheart Outdoor Advertising who says he’s received over 150 calls from people who either love and loathe the billboard. “That billboard is like a piano and if you rent it, you can strike the keys however you’d like to as long as it’s not offensive or illegal,” Whiteheart told Buzzfeed. Whiteheart says his anonymous client paid $2,000 to rent the billboard on Interstate 40, but he’s not a fan of the message. “We don’t endorse the message that’s there,” he said. “We’re just the messenger.”
Protestors are now raising money through a GoFundMe campaign to counter the patriarchal sign with one that reads: “Gender equality benefits everyone.” In just three days, it’s reached nearly $4,500 of its $10,000 goal. “Our plan is to create a new billboard message that makes it clear that this kind of thinking is not welcome in our state and that it belongs in the past,” organizer Paula Atwood wrote on the GoFundMe page.
If the organizers fail to reach their $10,000 goal, they will donate any money raised to NC Women United, an organization that works to empower women economically and politically and helps them take control our their own lives. The sign has not only sparked protests in North Carolina, but debates online as well.