“Either way, it’s a crazy picture to instruct people where the bathroom is”


“Dear PoPville,

Me and my friend saw this super sexist and creepy sign for the bathrooms at Proof DC.

We asked a woman working there about it and she said they got more complaints about it after Trump’s election. She also said they have gotten some complaints, and after one woman got really upset they took it down but then put it back out. We told them we would suggest they take it down permanently. Either way, it’s a crazy picture to instruct people where the bathroom is.”

Update from yesterday’s discussion about the above sign:

Max Kuller, owner of Proof says: “We want to apologize for offending anyone with an inappropriate sign for our restrooms at Proof. The sign has been up since we opened our doors almost 10 years ago, and when it was put up, was only meant to be tongue-in-cheek, never to offend or indicate that Proof is anything but a safe and respectful place. Our restaurant has always been an avid supporter and fundraiser of equal rights for all. We have removed the sign and apologize for any offense we have caused.”

110 Comment

  • houseintherear

    Jesus. This is inexcusable.

    • General Grant Circle

      “its a joke”

      Excuse made, wasnt even that hard.

      I think you are trying to say “wow this is bad taste”

      • Uh, I don’t think “It’s a joke” excuses the sign. Is this one of those, “Har har girls, can’t you take a joke about how your bodies are available for casual assessment by strange men” kind of jokes? Because those jokes weren’t ever actually funny or excusable.

      • Jokes about sexual harrassment/assault/rape aren’t acceptable because they normalize this type of behavior. There’s plenty of other bathroom humor out there they could have used.

        • Also can I just add that I can’t believe we still have to deal with explaining this to people. Like you’d think most people would have gotten it by now (well, aside from people who intend to be harassers…)

        • What about jokes from people about selling the First Lady? Are those ok? I’ve heard lots of those lately which I find inexcusable but apparently TV and society do not

          • I have not heard those at all. Where are you hearing this?

          • Those aren’t any more appropriate and I disagree with them. I don’t understand your point further down about telling you how you should feel as a woman. I almost put ‘most’ women but didn’t seriously think that was necessary in 2017.

          • justinbc

            Selling the First Lady? What?

          • This is the first I’ve heard of “jokes from people about selling the First Lady.” Not sure what exactly the jokes are supposed to be, but whatever they are, two wrongs don’t make a right.
            Just like I was appalled to hear that some people were trying to justify mocking Barron Trump, on the grounds that the “other side” had mocked Sasha and Malia Obama during the Obama presidency — it was wrong then, and it’s wrong now.

      • houseintherear

        Mr. Grant, I think I was trying to say exactly what I effing said. Jackass.

    • What if the ownership/management is into casual rape? Because that would totally make sense then.

      • I guess it is a warning sign for female patrons that a creepy AF manager or owner is frequently on the premises. Don’t you just love when idiots out themselves?

        • justinbc

          Would it change your opinion if you knew it was a woman who put this sign up?

          • It would not change my opinion. Women can (wittingly or unwittingly) play into damaging constructs about relationships and interactions between men and women. And some women feel pressure to participate because we are socialized to “be cool” and not “be a bitch” and to internalize a lot of negative stuff. So, I could see how a woman could put this sign up.

        • +1 for convenience!

  • Wow! Usually I think people are making mountains out of molehills, but this is creepy in that it plays into that whole crazy-conservative anti-transgender people/bathroom bill nonsense, and you can’t tell if the sign us mocking it or warning about it…either way, not cool.

  • A lot of times I can roll my eyes, shake my head, and brush it off…this is not one of them. This is disgusting.

  • This is so ‘effing stupid. And I’m guessing it’s the work of a [email protected] owner who has a “my way or the highway” attitude. I’m sure the employees hate dealing with irate customers of an easily preventable conflict.
    Biz 101: Know your audience.

  • Wow. Just wow. Especially for a business that wants to have as many people as possible spend as much money possible. This is so shockingly tone deaf, I’m surprised this is the first we’ve seen of it. I would only possibly consider this somewhat amusing if there was an additional picture of the girl karate kicking the man through the wall. But probably not.

  • Wow. I’m surprised that it went up in the first place, and surprised that it wasn’t taken down permanently after the first complaint.

    • It looks like it’s just taped up. I’m surprised no one has ripped it down and thrown it in the trash. Do you think the staff keep re-printing them??

  • Looks like it’s just taped to the wall – someone who’s that bothered by this should just tear it down right quick. Or better yet – avoid Proof altogether.

  • justinbc

    Poor taste yes, stupid yes, confusing yes, creepy yes, sexist maybe, odd for a classy place like Proof for sure.

    • penguins9966

      Agreed, people need to lighten up on it, but it seems super odd for a place like Proof. I like that place a lot, and it seems just really counterintuitive to have a vulgar ‘joke’ sign at a relatively high priced wine bar.

      • I think the criticism we have seen here and from OP about this is perfectly reasonable and no one needs to lighten up about it. Asking why this is appropriate seems legitimate to me. No one is threatening to burn down Proof (yet).

        • penguins9966

          Your probably right. It’s definitely in poor taste and honestly if I was a woman I would probably be more upset about it, so perhaps that’s my answer. I guess I’m more shocked on why a place like Proof thinks this is a good idea. Like what is the benefit? Would this type of sign surprise me at a place like Rumors or Madhatter (or literally any of those bars on that strip outside of Big Hunt) definitely not. I guess my point is (and I don’t think this was the road the OP was looking to go down on) but not everything is a personal accosting act towards you (using the ‘royal we’ here)

          • I don’t understand how this is only upsetting if you’re a woman. Do you not have any empathy for women who are intimidated or frightened by that image? Why do you have to be a woman to be upset about an establishment that would put a sign up that in essence jokes about sexual assault? I used to go to Proof fairly often, but it’s been a while. This photo is enough to inform me that it’s changed, and I won’t be going back.

          • “Why do you have to be a woman to be upset about an establishment that would put a sign up that in essence jokes about sexual assault?”
            Agreed. Men are victims of sexual assault, as well. (The sign just happens to play into the stereotypical sexual harassment narrative.)

          • Or just be upset regardless of your gender. You should be as pissed as any woman viewing this sign.

          • justinbc

            “You should be as pissed as any woman viewing this sign.”
            While theoretically that might be true in some reality, it’s not the world we live in. Men will never be “just as pissed” as women about this kind of thing because we don’t face the repercussions of it historically and daily. We can be sensitive to your anger, and then choose to embrace/share it, but it’s rarely going to incite the same kind of initial visceral reaction. Put up a condescending sign about our favorite sports team though, and then watch us get livid. I’m not saying men’s behavior is correct in that regard, but your assertion that the responses should / would be equal just ignores the weight that oppression has on one gender vs the other.

          • justinbc

            Also, FWIW, I was never suggesting anyone “lighten up”, even though this conversation, or suggestion that they should, spawned out of my comment. I have no idea if anyone is overreacting, because I have no idea wtf this sign is supposed to mean to begin with, but I do view it to be all of the things I stated previously.

          • Anon – tell me again, as a woman, what I should feel.

        • agreed – women are pretty tired of being told to ‘lighten up’ – especially when those who brag about sexually harassing and assaulting women gets rewarded with the presidency. No, I won’t lighten up.

          • penguins9966

            Fair enough, and your probably right, I should be more offended no matter my gender, race, creed, or sexual orientation. Perhaps (albeit this may not be the time and place for the soapbox) but as a lifelong democrat graduate level college educated human, since the election I have come to grips with people needing to get outside of the D.C. Bubble. I literally have nothing to do with politics (for a job) but literally all of my friends are cut from the same cloth and I think it showed this past November. That excuses nothing regarding this sign; however, I do feel that this area (and for a more specific glympse look at other comment section on anything remotely polarizing this great website). Maybe ”lighten up’ isnt the best phrase for this (or other irrelevant examples people post here) but perhaps it would behoove us all to become a little less desensitized?

          • We can debate the merits of polarizing issues like the effectiveness of the women’s march or other weighty issues of the day, but I won’t debate the merits of this sign. Yes, I’m in a bubble, but anyone who’d be okay with this sign is in a bubble too. And on this issue, theirs is the one that needs to pop because it’s the place that says that misogyny, sexual harassment, and sexual assault are punchlines that aren’t dealbreakers for a news organization, a president, or a wine bar. No. There is no excuse for this.

          • The problem is that sexual harassment has been a national problem for literally decades. This is an issue that should (and does) span across political parties. Becoming desensitized isn’t the answer. Telling men and women who harass other men and women that it is illegal and inexcusable is. And making any kind of “joke” out of it is unacceptable whether you like it or not.

          • penguins9966

            @FridayGirl- I was definitely not implying that we all try to become desensitized about sexual harassment (sorry if that was inferred), I was more referring to overall everything in today’s day and age. I guess I never looked at this sign as sexual harassment, more of a stupid joke making ‘fun’ of the NC Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, which I suppose isn’t something to make ‘fun’ of either; I just never looked at it as a ‘thing’ until NC decided it wanted to make it a thing (clearly bad choice)

      • justinbc

        I honestly don’t even know what the sign represents or is trying to say. It looks cheap and doesn’t mesh with Proof’s aesthetic though, which is more surprising to me for an overall well-run organization. I would expect to see something like this at that Mythology place on H Street or that mental facility whatever themed restaurant that replaced Poste.

        • Yeah – in addition to the obvious, I had to think about the message it is trying to convey. (It’s that it is a unisex bathroom, right?) Which bathroom I should enter shouldn’t require that much thought. And it’s the opposite of inviting to women. Absurd.
          For those (few) saying, “lighten up, it’s a joke!”, please enlighten me:
          Setup: “Hey, women, someone may peek in on you when you pee!”
          Punch Line: ______________________________?

      • Disagreed. People don’t need to lighten up. This isn’t a vulgar joke; it’s making light of sexual harassment and exploitation, and pretty much makes a mockery of the idea of consent.

    • Suddenly it ain’t so classy anymore. Maybe they thought it was TOO classy and they needed to trash it up a bit.

  • OMG WUT. WAT. WUUUT. “She also said they have gotten some complaints, and after one woman got really upset they took it down but then put it back out.” TO WHAT PURPOSE OR BENEFIT WOULD YOU PUT IT UP AT ALL.

    • Yeah, that whole explanation was so weird. All I took from it was: someone at Proof is apparently VERY dedicated to having this sign displayed, enough so that they went to the trouble to put it back up after they’d taken it down? Bizarre.

  • I really don’t think I understand this. Is there any alternate translation other than “Man peeping over bathroom stall at woman”? Please tell me I’m reading this wrong, because if I’m not, then why why why would anyone do this?

    • “Is there any alternate translation”
      Man does pull up while woman stands on opposite side of wall. Toilets to your left.

    • justinbc

      It’s not very clear, but if I had to make a gut reaction guess it would be making light of the fact that in the debate over trans bathroom issues it seems to be only men on all these panels deciding the bathroom habits of everyone. That’s obviously reading way into it, and trying to weigh what I know about the business and their standing in the DC community and giving them the benefit of the doubt as a result. However it’s so vague and open to interpretation that it very well could mean something entirely different and it wouldn’t surprise me.

      • For some reason I can’t reply to what you wrote further up but you’re not making a whole lot of sense. This is an absurd overthinking of it and I don’t think a business that posts this – and continues to leave it up/replace it even after complaints – deserves any benefit of the doubt. And thanks for playing into the stereotype that man can only be expected to care about sports (which is why we get people making excuses for rapists and domestic violence offenders in sports) but shouldn’t be expected to empathize with women. That’s privilege right there.

        • justinbc

          That’s not at all what I said, but great job playing the e-hero.

          • dcgator

            You are essentially saying that you get why it’s an issue, and why women (and, maybe others?) are offended by it, and then say that men can’t truly ever get it because we (I’m a man) won’t feel the same kind of visceral reaction as we would about our favorite sports team (pardon the run-on).
            I think the problem isn’t that you don’t get it, but that you’re so loathe to take a stand and call it out for what it is–disgusting and sexist (NO MATTER WHAT THE INTENT WAS). I think you like to play Devil’s Advocate without ever really saying how you feel.
            I can be just as pissed about this as a woman without having shared her experience…as long as I do not purport to KNOW that experience. That’s what being an ally is all about.

          • justinbc

            If you feel that way then more power to you, however I don’t feel it’s truly possible to have the same level of anger, resentment, etc towards a sign that isn’t directed at you. You might be offended, and like I said I totally get that, but you won’t be AS offended. I just don’t think it’s possible. There’s nothing wrong with being 90% there, it still means you’re on the “right” side, but women will instinctively “get it” why things like this are offensive faster than men will because they’re hit over the head with it by society constantly.

          • @dcgator “No matter what the intent was”!?! Clearly someone who puts up something in support of trans rights (even if the choice of imagery is *completely* misguided) and keeps it up despite customer complaints is in a totally different category than someone who puts up something in support of rape culture and keeps that up despite customer complaints. The former is someone that you just want to help see the error of their ways but appreciate their heart and commitment and the latter is a total write-off as a human being. And to be clear, I am woman, my first reaction was shock and horror and yet I still think it is worth, nay important, to consider (not matter how remote the possibility) that this person could be the former. Otherwise you are just part of the blind mob who is judging someone without all the facts.

        • @anon Yeah, that’s a little harsh. I read MadMax’s point as being about empathy vs sympathy; it is absolutely reasonable to expect (enlightened) men to sympathize, but they won’t ever empathize with the feeling of being threatened that women deal with regularly. (Followed by, what I viewed as, a joke about all men caring intensely about sports.) He also admitted that he was reading way into the image in seeing the trans rights view of its intention. If this were something that we all understood to be trans rights imagery and the owner refused to take it down despite customer complaints, we would be applauding, so I think it’s worth at least considering that it’s *possible* that that is the way in which is was intended (although I am not commenting on how it struck me or the likelihood that that’s how it was intended, just noting it as within the realm of possibility).

          • Disagree and really reaching on the latter point – dcgator got it

          • justinbc

            Yep, pretty much exactly. The sports comment was really to show things which *typically* incite more passion in the average guy at a base level. And obviously not every guy cares about sports, but what’s the point of making arguments that only apply to 100% of a population.

        • https://www.theodysseyonline.com/the-great-bathroom-debate

          I don’t think it’s impossible that this refers to the bathroom debate, but I still don’t think the sign is appropriate because it seems a bit of a stretch to “get” that. Nonetheless on a reverse image search I found this article (did not read) on that topic that uses this image.

    • I thought the joke is simply the tired cliche that men are sex hounds, which would actively trivialize sexual harassment or worse. It’s obnoxious at the very least.

    • Yeah, I don’t really get what the ‘joke’ even is. I don’t find it offensive as much as baffling and stupid.

  • What a stupid business decision.

  • Isn’t it supposed to have a circle around it with a line through it? Wouldn’t that just make it an “unfortunately necessary” sign?

    • oh dog. Now I’m thinking that it’s a disclaimer to let people know that this is what is happening out there. Peepholes. gross. never going there.

      • Exactly! If I saw that sign for the bathrooms, I’d go back to my seat and cross my legs. It seems almost like a warning sign.

  • Overthinking in the comments, here. It’s just plain disgusting and inappropriate. Vote with your feet and don’t patronize Proof. Period.

  • I’m surprised in this day in DC people cannot think things like this through – are they living under a rock? How do these people get/keep their jobs? Astonishment aside, it’d be a little more palatable if there were a talk bubble from the guy asking “can you spare a square?”

  • The biggest problem with this is that it’s not even funny. Like, I don’t even get the “joke.”

  • I’ve definitely seen that sign several times before and not just at Proof. It’s a whole lot more common in “trendy” bars/nightclubs and they’ve been doing that for several years now.

    • justinbc

      Yeah the fact that they say “there have been more complaints since the Trump election” seems to indicate this sign has existed for quite some time now.

    • I think I’ve seen it somewhere else too. I remember being like WTF? but needing to pee and just moving along.
      Terrible message though!

  • I’m somewhat surprised they’re not advertising their glory holes; they’re some of the best in town!

  • I really want this to blow up solely so that someone from Proof will write in to PoP with an explanation/bad apology/SOMETHING. I need to understand how/why someone thought this was a good idea. Because I don’t get it.

  • Does Trump own Proof?

  • Gross. Sexual assault is not a joke.

  • So at the risk of beating a dead horse, the response that they received more complaints after the election bugs the crap out of me too. What does it matter WHEN the complaints were received? People are complaining because it’s offensive, period.
    Just as racists and misogynists are feeling empowered after the election, more of us with standards on how human beings should be treated are feeling empowered to speak up. I hope all of our collective voices will drown out the other noise and teach the younger generations self-respect.

    • It’s worth noting that Downtrend is an extreme far-right website that could be viewed as fake news/propoganda (this is confirmed by the comments on the article).

  • Have you seen the bathrooms at Proof? This sign doesn’t seem totally out of character.

  • This image is actually borrowed from various campaigns against transgender equality. Respecting transgender women’s gender identities somehow means men will have unfettered access to spy on women in the bathroom.

  • Excuse me, it’s a joke. From a 78-year-old woman, if somebody wants to watch you go to the bathroom — BIG DEAL!!! I wouldn’t even care!

    • Hi Proof owner’s mom!

    • It’s great that you feel ok having people watch you pee. But not everyone shares your feelings, especially people who have a background of sexual assault. So my suggestion to you is to keep your bathroom door open to all, and as a general rule allow others the right to keep their bathroom experience private, as a general human right.

  • I messaged them on Facebook and they wrote back
    “we want to apologize for offending you with our inappropriate bathroom sign, which has been posted since we opened almost 10 years ago. The sign was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, never to offend or indicate that Proof is anything but a safe and respectful place. Our restaurant has always been an avid supporter and fundraiser of equal rights for all. We have removed the sign and apologize for any offense we have caused.”

    I returned the note suggesting they make a donation to a charity supporting women who have been the victim of violence/ assault representing every single day of the 10 years the sign was displayed. I also made sure to point out the delusion that this is humorous is an ignorance that is inexcusable. Its all just really a perfect example how many men… even the ones who fancy themselves to be progressive… are unable to really process their role in perpetuating the belief that its ok (funny) to objectify women.

    • Thanks for sharing. Still doesn’t explain why the kept insisting on keeping it up through previous complaints or replacing it. Its been mentioned in online reviews but I guess that wasn’t enough for them. It’s only bc this has blown up for them that they’ve taken this step and for no other reason of actually understanding why it should never have been posted in the first place. Good on you for challenging them to step up with donating.

    • I’m glad they apologized and removed the sign… but I have to say it sounds more like “Sorry you feel that way” than “We see now that yeah, the sign is kinda creepy and we’re genuinely sorry.”

      • Exactly. And pointing out it’s been up for ten years which doesn’t help one at or the other. They only took it down bc they’re getting so much attention over it. Complaints from upset women weren’t taken seriously before obviously.

        • It will be interesting to see if it remains down… only way I will go back to Proof now is to see if the sign remains down after 1 month

  • It is hilarious how many of you have clearly been there before – and now are SUPER OFFENDED – having never even noticed the thing before. Internets!!