Summerside sign saying women can't drive raises storm of controversy

Colin MacLean
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John Mellish, owner of Mellish Motors in New Annan, is shown with the latest billboard sign outside his business. One such recent sign, stating that "women can't drive" has resulted in death threats to both himself and those who've raised concerns about his sign.

Mellish Motors writes on sign "Women are like snowflakes — they can't drive," bringing out worst in social media

SUMMERSIDE – The calls have been coming fast and furious to John Mellish all week.

Mellish has lost track of how many interviews he's given, how many messages of support he's received, how many times he's been told off and that one woman who phoned to say she'd gladly shoot him.

It all started with a sign.

"Women are like snowflakes — they can't drive."

That sentence adorned the billboard outside Mellish's business, Mellish Motors, in New Annan for about a week recently.

For the past nine years, John and his wife, Ursula, have used one side of their sign to periodically post short sayings or puns. The content often lampoons local news or politics.

When pictures of this particular sign were posted to the Internet by an unamused observer earlier this week they touched a chord on social media and set off a heated debate that's spread to news organizations in several countries.

Some say the sign is sexist, misogynistic and painfully unfunny.

"Gee, I wonder how little boys get the idea in their head it's okay to be sexist and that the fault of 'not getting the joke' remains on the shoulders of women. It's a mystery," posted Gail Rhyno to Facebook.

Others did not see the sign as something worth getting upset about.

Colette Cole, posting on a Toronto Star article about the sign, said, "(Of) all the things someone could be offended over. Sheesh. Just stop being so thin-skinned, people."

Mellish isn't apologizing and says he's glad it started a discussion.

"Do I believe women are bad drivers? No, I don't believe that. I saw that exact quote on a blog site, thought it was stupid, thought it was cute and it went up on my sign," he said, adding this is usually his criteria/process for most of his postings.

Shortly after putting up a new message he got a heads up about the heated debate online.

He and Ursula discussed the situation, he said, and wondered if they should just leave well enough alone and move on.

They decided to do the opposite.

They posted another sign, "Sensitive women don't read tomorrow's sign. You know who you are."

They both wanted to prove a point and draw some attention to what they see as a societal problem in social media, said Mellish, namely that it can be a toxic place where people can anonymously ruin reputations, business and lives in general with a few button clicks.

He's been using a print-out version of an online comment thread to make his point, noting it's full of vulgar and violent comments directed at himself and the people who've expressed offence at the sign.

But even though he expected backlash, he wasn't prepared for just how bad it's gotten, he said. He especially feels sorry for the young woman, Chelsea Ling, whose postings about the sign helped draw media attention to it.

"It didn't get near as bad for me as I thought it was going to be. But I think for the person who brought this up, it got a whole lot worse for her than it did for me. I only got one death threat, she got lots. It's a real shame," said Mellish.

Offended by the sign or not, there's no excuse for that kind of behaviour, he added.

"I'm never going to talk to anybody or about anybody like that — there's absolutely no place in our society for that."

Organizations: Toronto Star

Geographic location: Summerside

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Recent comments

  • lanita
    January 22, 2016 - 14:40

    If you don't like what the sign says , don't read it .. That sign has given me more laughs then crys ..

  • Crystal
    January 22, 2016 - 13:53

    I think people need to just get over it! I love passing by this sign! I look forward to seeing which quote is going to be up each day. It is great for a little chuckle on a Sunday drive. I an a female and it never offended me any! People take things way too serious these days. It is a quirky quote and if any person can't handle it, my advice would be to cut out any ties with social media, especially Facebook!

  • rusty shackles
    January 22, 2016 - 11:29

    welcome to 2016, where it appears 90% of society needs to live in a bubble to avoid the butt hurt.

  • Betty
    January 22, 2016 - 10:55

    Death threats? Seriously? Over a sign? We have people blowing up cities on the other side of the world and threatening us every day, and this sign is our biggest worry. Our economy is crashing before our eyes, and we are all up in arms over a sign. The headline story this morning was about a brave little boy battling lukemia, but man we got bigger worries than that....we have an offensive sign. LOL. What a world we live in. These people who are all up in arms over this sign obviously have no other worries in life. Must be nice. And really, is it really that offensive? If the sign had been about a man not being able to shop, or dress himself would these women still react this way? I know the answer to my question. Toughen up people.

  • yesterdays news
    January 22, 2016 - 10:53

    Come on...give Chelsea Ling something to talk about thats news worthy. She has many followers.

  • MFH
    January 22, 2016 - 10:35

    If people are making death threats over something like this, I would suggest they get their head examined.

  • Lisa
    January 22, 2016 - 10:24

    I will buy a car from this Man! Don't be so dramatic Jim (The Engineer!)

  • Louann
    January 22, 2016 - 10:11

    Honestly , this is funny, if one takes offence to it, then they must feel they are poor drivers. As a woman, I have noted since arriving on your fair island , that there is women who are poor drivers!!I guess they are not realizing you just don't drive up the ass of the vehicle ahead of you ! Or cut infront of you and take the parking space, that you turning in to . No courtesy noted ! If this note upsets you , to bad !

    January 22, 2016 - 09:26

    I would get a chuckle out of this if he was witty or clever, but his bon mots are just stupid. "Women are like snowflakes, they can't drive" what the heck does that mean? Now, in his latest one if he had said women instead of men, I would find that funny.

  • Future for Girls
    January 22, 2016 - 09:05

    So now Mellish is the victim? Amazing -

    January 22, 2016 - 07:47

    It is hard to believe that people like this woman and this JIM can be so closed minded. It appears that anything and everything offends you people . There is nothing in this world that doesn't offend someone and that will never change. So lighten up and smile and have a good laugh once in a while.

  • Enough already
    January 22, 2016 - 07:38

    Why is this person still in the news? No wonder PEI is becoming the laughing stock of Canada. Stop it already - he already had his 15 min of fame.

  • jill
    January 22, 2016 - 07:22

    The cbc got a crude person to comment on the sign which resulted in her getting abuse. Thank the cbc for her situation for their wanting to pump up the controversy. They used her and now she is paying.

  • J
    January 22, 2016 - 06:15

    Jim, you're joking I hope. LOL

  • JIM Engineer
    January 21, 2016 - 22:51


    • LOL
      January 22, 2016 - 08:16

      Your key-board could do with a bit of Engineering.

    • Just Sayin
      January 22, 2016 - 09:19

      You have to learn how to use the CAP button, bud.