If you’re looking for a place to direct all your frustrated groaning today, look no further than this restaurant sign making an offensive domestic violence joke in order to promote a cheap lunch deal. Ribs and Bibs, an American-style restaurant in Belfast, Ireland, has recently come under fire after someone shared a photo of their offending sign on Facebook.
The sign reads: “You can beat the wife, but you can't beat a £5 lunch.” To which the internet collectively responded, “...um no thanks pass.” The initial post which shared a photo of the sign garnered comments of overwhelming disgust like, “So wrong on so many levels” and “How did anyone think this was a good idea…” The comments then moved to Ribs and Bibs’ official Facebook page, with over 700 people leaving the restaurant a one-star review and equally disgusted remarks about the sign.
Ribs and Bib’s owner Malachy Turner has since stated that he "100% condemn[s] domestic violence and this sign," but the situation still seemed to escalate; the company appeared to excuse the sign in a Facebook comment. According to the Mirror, the restaurant’s official Facebook page responded to a negative comment writing: “My God mate get a life, it's a bit of wit on a small board out side a restaurant, we're not putting it on the front page of a news paper [sic] or making a move, see it for what it is, not as you see it!” The restaurant’s owner told the Mirror he was “aware” of the comment but was unable to verify who wrote it using the restaurant’s Facebook account.
Oh, the sign was just a silly bit for comedy and humor? Cool, cool, cool. Let’s workshop this joke a bit then. A few initial questions: First, why? And also, how come? And furthermore, what even? Also, to be honest, the formula is pretty trite and the premise presents logical fallacies. Most importantly, the whole thing literally hinges on the idea that violence towards women is a hilarious, laughable thing. Categorizing it as “a bit of wit” is both overestimating its level of intellectual humor while undercutting how powerful comedy can be.
Sexist jokes normalize sexist behavior, as previous studies suggest. Researchers have found that this type of humor not only devalues women; it validates misogynistic mentalities and makes them seem okay. Who do you think is laughing with you when you joke about domestic violence? It’s certainly not those who have survived it.
In an interview with the Mirror, Ribs and Bib’s owner Malachy Turner said, “I was off today but I believe it was a junior member of staff and when I find out who it was they will be dismissed immediately. I 100% condemn domestic violence and this sign. It is not something I would joke about. I couldn't believe it when I saw it — it is not funny and I apologize to anyone upset by it.”
However, in a more recently published interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Turner seemed to backpedal his initial remarks, stating that he would not be firing the employee who wrote the sign. “I feel that we have been subjected to a horrendous trial by social media," he told the Belfast Telegraph, also stating, “I was horrified. I have spent three years building this business up from scratch, trying to build up a reputation, and with just five words that's all gone.”
Turner also seemed to view himself, his restaurant, and his employees as the greater victim of the situation, claiming to have received a “barrage of abuse on social media.” Of the offending employee, Turner said:
“The employee didn't understand what those words meant to everybody and was left in fear of losing his job. We're all victims in it. The business is not in immediate danger of folding, but I'm worried about the long-term impact.”
If you heard a sound, that was just me loudly rolling my eyes at the phrase “we’re all victims in it.” Sorry, my dude, but it’s going to be hard to gather much sympathy for the person who wrote the sign, as it doesn’t really seem that difficult to not make jokes about domestic violence. Turner reportedly accepted an offer from a women’s group to “educate” his staff about domestic violence. Hopefully, they learn something from that session and the situation as a whole.