Asia

Pakistan sandwich cafe under fire over 'misogynistic' posts

Cover photo from Table No.5 Facebook page Image copyright Table No.5

A cafe in Islamabad has been accused of misogyny for a string of Facebook posts about women making sandwiches.

Table No 5 has been posting the jokes under the slogan: "If she won't make you a sandwich, we will".

But it was a menu it uploaded of sandwiches with names similar to those of men linked to violent crimes against women that caused the most most anger.

Table No 5 has apologised and is changing the menu, though keeping the jokes, but says it is not anti-women.

"Make me a sandwich" has become a common anti-feminist social media meme in recent years, implying the main role of women is catering to the needs of men. It is often used to try to silence women in online debates.

Image copyright Table No 5
Image caption The cafe may have used some artistic licence in their Facebook quotes

Table No 5 - which is owned by a woman - made the meme a central joke of its page, posting a chart comparing girlfriends and sandwiches, and made-up quotes from the likes of Voltaire and Yoda.

"Behind every successful man is a woman who made sandwiches for him," Voltaire is quoted as saying.

A picture of a menu listed sandwiches including the "Kris Browne" and the "Myke Tieson". Singer Chris Brown was convicted of beating his then girlfriend Rihanna, while Boxer Mike Tyson served a jail term for rape.

It wasn't clear if the menu was used in the restaurant, but it is no longer on the Facebook page.

While some praised the cafe for what they saw as light-hearted jokes, the brand of humour did not go well among many in Pakistan, where violence against women is a serious problem.


At the scene: Iram Abbasi, BBC News, Islamabad

Staff at the restaurant are not talking to the media - but they did say that the misogynist menu had not been presented to customers.

The city police came to the restaurant a couple of days ago but found nothing objectionable as the controversial menu hasn't been found at the restaurant.

In a country where women are continuously struggling with the misogynist societal behaviour on every front, it has been widely taken as a bad joke to design a menu that further suppresses women's role in the society.

Pakistan is no heaven for an ordinary woman. Just last year more than 1,000 women were killed in the name of shame, according to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Rape, acid attacks and domestic violence against women are also rampant in Pakistan but there's little that has been done to change the prevalent thinking which prejudices women and forces them to remain within stereotypical roles. The country ranks 141 out of 142, second to the last, in global gender equality.


"I find it hard to find the humor in naming a sandwich after a rapist," said one user, Huma Imtiaz.

"I also don't find them "jokes" when they are clearly misogynist remarks parading as memes that specifically target women."

"Why should any female, in her right mind visit a place that condones misogyny and enforces sexist jokes to the fullest?" another user.

On 4 November, the restaurant said it didn't have anything against ladies, but "in fact we're grateful to them".

"It's because they stopped making sandwiches that we got the opportunity to open up a sandwich joint in town."

Image copyright Table No 5
Image caption The cafe said they had come up with a "poetic" new menu after complaints

That, perhaps predictably, failed to stem the anger, and on Wednesday, the page posted an apology of sorts.

"We realised that naming our sandwiches in this way have offended and aggravated a large population of dedicated Facebook activists," it said.

"We must clarify that we, on any possible level, do NOT endorse rape, domestic violence or anything remotely of the sort! That's just disgusting.

"So you've undoubtedly won this round and we've decided to change the names of all our sandwiches on an emergency basis!"

It later posted a new menu, which at least one user said could only be sarcasm.

"Your eatery is happily using this meme and acting like [it] is something harmless," said one user.

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