Was I outraged over the sign at Roots Bistro? You bet. Do I feel my energy was wasted sharing my outrage, or that I or others overreacted?
No. I’m a little stunned that my blog post has received over 9,000 hits so far, but when you consider how many people have been affected personally by domestic violence, it is not surprising at all. The outrage comes easy when the offense is so obvious.
I appreciate that the owner has recognized the error of his ways. Whether he’s sorry, or sorry he got caught, I don’t think this business will ever put up another sign making light of a very serious issue like domestic violence. I would like to see them start a genuine relationship with the Houston Area Women’s Center, which offers both workplace training about domestic and sexual violence, and opportunities to provide financial support.
If you, as a reader, want to do something constructive, you might make a contribution to HAWC in honor of Roots Bistro. They’ll get notified, you’ll be supporting survivors, and everyone will get the message that our community—citywide, nationwide, worldwide—believes we can all play a role in ending domestic violence.
What good has come of it publicizing it? Is there any way to look at what happened as constructive? I’m not entirely sure anyone at Roots Bistro feels that way yet, but I hope they get there. As it stands, more people have been brought into the conversation about the appropriate time and place for jokes, the appropriateness of joking about violent crime, the risks of delegating outward-facing business responsibilities, and the need for thinking twice in the internet age. I don’t buy the early arguments from the restaurant that they were trying to “bring awareness” to the issue of domestic violence, and it is clear that they didn’t consciously try to go viral being idiots and provoke healthy conversation that way. Ultimately, though, the backlash over their tone-deaf sign did trigger some honest conversation, awareness, and sensitivity that survivors are everywhere.
Will I ever eat there? Probably not, but I didn’t eat there before this happened. Do I think they need to be boycotted? Probably not, because I’m not sure that they are engaged in a systemic assault on common decency. Is it OK if you want to boycott them? Sure. You have the right, as I do, to patronize or not patronize any retail establishment out there.
By the way, I don’t hope they go out of business—an opinion that might change if they were to keep putting up offensive signs or otherwise treating people wrong. I suspect that if they do go out of business, this snafu might be blamed, but would wind up being one of many reasons. It is hard to run a successful restaurant.
Now, Eden Foods. Different story. The short version: claiming that birth control ”procedures almost always involve immoral and unnatural practices,” and wanting to defend his religious beliefs, the CEO has filed a lawsuit against the new healthcare law.
This is someone who wants to impose his religious beliefs on all of us by changing policy and legislation through litigation. If he prevails, he gives other employers more leverage to claim that by offering medical insurance as part of an employee compensation package, they can dictate what kind of medical care employees can or cannot seek.
He has dug in on his position. He believes, and is entitled to believe, that he is right. From the Salon article linked above:
I asked him what he was hearing from customers about the lawsuit. ”As you can imagine we’re getting a lot of feedback,” Potter said delicately. Indeed, since the story, Eden Foods’ Facebook page has been inundated with complaints and boycott declarations. “Your company’s unfair, judgmental and misogynistic treatment of your employees has lost you yet another customer,” was a typical comment.
He did sound annoyed to be receiving emails telling him to stay out of people’s bedrooms. “I’m not in your bedroom,” he clarified. “Obama’s in your bedroom.”
Did he worry about the impact on his bottom line? “Oh my god,” he said, “from what we’ve seen the last couple of days, it’s a big deal.”
But he isn’t prepared to back off. “I worked my ass off at figuring out what to do on it. I worked hard on it and I made a decision,” he said. “The federal government has no right to do what they’ve done. No constitutional right, no standing.” Apparently, his apology only goes so far.
I say, boycott away. This is not a thoughtless employee putting up a sign, and a manager not catching immediately that it is inappropriate. This is someone who is committed to enforcing his gender essentialist and religious beliefs on his employees, and, though his litigation, on the rest of us who stand to lose if his position is validated in court.