A Maryland man has taken credit for the latest message in a series of controversial billboards on Business 40 that have sparked outrage for what some have deemed misogynistic views.
The latest in the series near the Linville Road exit, posted Friday morning, reads: “Real men don’t use coupons.”
In fine print below, it says: “Our coupons have pictures of dead presidents and statesmen and are good anytime anyplace.”
The billboard also lists a website, which identifies Mitch Carr, an auto mechanic from Kensington, Md., as the man behind the billboard.
Molly Grace, a critic of the recent billboards, said the latest chapter is tiring and silly.
“Clearly, whatever the motive behind this third billboard is … it’s certainly trying to reinforce old stereotypes,” she said. “Stereotypes that people who are the victims of those stereotypes don’t find very funny.”
The website says Carr, who runs a Mercedes Repair business outside of Washington, D.C., enjoys challenging political views and is “politically in the center but believes that people with running water, heat, air conditioning and full bellies shouldn’t whine so much.”
He said he purchased the billboard space for $2,600 to market two books — including his new one “Real Men Don’t Use Coupons” — and to stir the pot. The book includes graphic illustrations and vulgar captions.
He said he drove by the original sign, posted in February, that declared: “Real men provide. Real women appreciate it.”
It was later replaced with: “Much Ado About Nothing. A social experiment that brought forth those so immersed in their own insecurity that in the mirror they could only see an angry victim of their incorrect interpretation of a silly billboard — Bless their hearts.”
Carr said the messages inspired him.
“Real men are sort of a dying breed in this country,” he said. “I consider myself one. You know one when you see one.”
Bill Whiteheart, owner of the billboard space, declined to identify who posted the original messages.
The new message is intended to start a dialogue on what it means to be a “real man,” Carr contends.
“What it means is it’s a knock on men who dropped out of the ranks just because life got easy,” Carr said while explaining the new billboard.
“Just because the war stops doesn’t mean a soldier stops training. We need more real men out there.”
Grace said the issue isn’t about needing more “real men,” but about valuing men and women equally and abandoning archaic thinking.
She has organized a billboard to be posted on Business 40 preaching tolerance that will read: “People of quality don’t fear equality.”
“My initial reaction (to the billboard) was ‘Great, another man wrote a book about how women are whiny,’” she said. “It’s mind-boggling that people still feel like that’s something to capitalize on.”
Billboards have become vehicles not just to relay information but for interpreting and revealing our most private selves, said Wanda Balzano, department chair and associate professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Wake Forest University.
“They are like modern pages of a Bible of popular culture,” she said. “If the message contains sexism and misogyny there is going to be a greater impact on the viewers.”
Balzano said the message on the new billboard is a clear and demeaning continuation of the first, highlighting gender issues that have been brought to light in the current political climate.
It tackles a narrow definition of what a “real man” is by saying that a man is “real” if he makes money and never asks for discounts, implying the poor deserve to be invisible, she said.
This is a dangerous message because the implication is any violence that is perpetrated on invisible subjects is also invisible.
“This message is more dangerous as it is directed at women but also at other sections of the population that are disempowered by capitalism,” Balzano said. “If we believe that women are not ‘real,’ then any violence that is directed at them is not visible ... This is such a dangerous message.”