“I hate to seem sensitive but it just made me feel weird inside.”
A gender-conscious young man felt morally obligated to alert Twitter last week after he discovered signs that he deemed sexist in the men’s restroom of a bar.
The resulting backlash prompted the bar ― Caffeine and Cocktails in Reading, England ― to announce it had “painted over” the irreverent installations about beer and women.
Among the offending jokes were 10 reasons “Why Beer Is Better Than a Woman,” and quips like, “If she’s still ugly, buy yourself another drink.” Another sign said: “My girlfriend caught me blow-drying my penis and asked what I was doing. Apparently ‘heating your dinner’ was not the right answer.”
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The young man, 32-year-old Jonathan Benson, was apparently shocked to see the signs during a visit to the bar last Saturday night. Rather than sharing his feelings with the bar’s management on the spot or recording them in his journal, he later took to Twitter to alert the world to the moral outrage he had witnessed.
“I’m all for tongue-in-cheek & a bit of fun,” he claimed, tagging the bar in his tweet, “but the messages in the men’s loos swing from grossly
#misogynistic to shockingly poor “soft lad” jibes.
According to The Sun newspaper, Benson said such jokes should be completely out of bounds in “this day and age, post Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement.”
“I don’t see why anyone – male or female, customer or punter – would think it’s okay to write those statements,” he said.
He went on to worry about the potential effect on young boys who might come into the bar on the weekends or on the “strong, powerful young” female waitresses who served him.
“The floor staff we met on the Saturday night were strong, powerful young women who were incredibly confident and running an amazing venue, and they were surrounded by these comments,” he said. “Do they even know that they’re employed in that kind of environment?”
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Benson, however, gave credit to to the bar for the messages of female body positivity that he said his female friend saw in the women’s room, including one that praised women whose thighs rub together as “closer to mermaids.”
He also tweeted a request to a British artist to do “a toilet makeover” for the bar that would be “funkier and more positive,” throwing out as one option: “literary lines.”
“I hate to seem sensitive but it just made me feel weird inside,” he added. “
@ArtistButler do you think we could try and do a toilet takeover and get something way funkier and positive in there? @rickburin maybe some fab literary lines? @OllyMann as the celeb campaign backer? I hate to seem sensitive but it just made me feel weird inside. #SorryNotSorry
— Johnathan B (@johnabenna) January 19, 2019
Other Twitter users were triggered just hearing about Benson’s experience. One commenter called the signs “horrific.” Another deemed them “disgusting and so degrading,” and questioned the character of the management.
On the other hand, a number of people mocked Benson, and one man congratulated the bar for standing up to the “PC snowflakes” and “faux offended bandwagon jumpers.”
Personally i think they are hilarious, in this world of over PC snowflakes, and faux offended bandwagon jumpers, I find it refreshing that a bit of lads banter still exists in this over sanitised world political correctness!! Well done CandC reading 🙂 Keep up the good work 🙂
— Alan Siddall (@bungle666ue) January 26, 2019
In the end, though, Caffeine and Cocktails proved no match for political correctness. The bar responded to the hullabaloo by tweeting at Benson that the signs were put up by a “previous team.” It apologized for making him “feel uncomfortable in an environment where you are meant to relax and have fun” and promised to “sort the situation out asap.”
Later, a bar manager announced that she and the other higher-ups had “taken the comments on board and have in fact painted over the quotes in the pictures as well as others I felt that were in poor taste.”
Benson humbly accepted his victory.
Morning – thanks for replying. Good to know it’s coming down. Your front of house team were so lovely last night and the toilet walls just don’t reflect how they made us feel. Thanks.
— Johnathan B (@johnabenna) January 19, 2019
Many progressives would, and did, deem Benson’s activism a success in that he made the world a slightly more inclusive place. But moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt and others have warned that such acts are part of an ascendant call-out culture in which prestige is earned through self-righteous public shaming, leaving little room for nuance and dialogue ― or even a little toilet humor.
This weekend, Benson was at it again, posting multiple enthusiastic tweets about new Netflix film “Dumplin,'” in which a plus-sized teenager upends the beauty standards of her local pageant.