ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
A billboard along an interstate in North Carolina reads, real men provide. Real women appreciate it. Those behind the message remain anonymous. And, needless to say, not everyone appreciates the sentiment. Bethany Chafin of member station WFDD in Winston-Salem reports.
BETHANY CHAFIN, BYLINE: It's a simple sign - no graphics, just black-and-white text. But it's ignited debate.
TEMBILA COVINGTON: Real women are talented...
CHAFIN: Pastor Tembila Covington spoke to a crowd in downtown Winston-Salem protesting the billboard that's off one of the city's main highways. The sign has been up for about a week. When business owner Molly Grace first saw it, she was shocked.
MOLLY GRACE: To me, I see that billboard and people rallying to support it as people wishing it was a little bit more like the olden days, annoyed that it's not and trying desperately to hold on to what is left of those olden days.
CHAFIN: Organizers say they're not protesting free speech, but they are protesting the thinking behind the sign. The group has already created messages of its own painted on bedsheets. One read, appreciate those who provide. Provide for those you appreciate. But they want to do more. They've raised enough money to rent their own billboard to counter the original.
GRACE: There are no gender roles that define what people can and cannot do for their households and how measurable their worth or their provisions are.
CHAFIN: At the rally, most people spoke against assigning roles to gender. But not everyone agreed. Dana Pavlick was there with her husband and six children.
DANA PAVLICK: If you want to bring people into the world, there's a responsible, good way to do it. And no one has shown how our following patriarchy has hurt society.
CHAFIN: The owner of the billboard hasn't revealed who's behind it, saying their client doesn't want to be identified and may not be done yet. There are plans to put up another billboard with a different message. For NPR News, I'm Bethany Chafin in Winston-Salem, N.C.
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