Articles on the Honest Lawyer restaurant in Hamilton, Ontario, and their misogynist "kisses" urinals


Controversial mouth-shaped urinals taken down from Hamilton restaurant

National Post
June 1, 2010

After eight months of refusing to give in to pressure from women's rights groups, politicians and threats of boycotts, a Hamilton restaurant has agreed to take down the controversial mouth-shaped urinals in its men's restroom.

The Honest Lawyer in Hamilton bought the urinals, which have big, glossy red lips, in Europe and installed them in the restroom three years ago, said Renee Roth, the restaurant's operations manager and partner, but it didn't get any negative attention until recently.

"It was there for three years without incident, and then I suppose activist groups got a hold of it and turned it into something it wasn't and it didn't represent what we're about," she said in an interview. "When we first put it in, it was just a joke, it was not gender-specific and it was supposed to be funny."

Ms. Roth says the restaurant decided to take down the urinals after being pressured by Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger and Ontario's NDP leader Andrea Horwarth. She says the politicians were lobbied by women's rights groups who claimed the urinals were sexist.

"The people started saying it was misogynist, sexist and hurtful. That's not what we meant for it," Ms. Roth says. "I saw it as a simple novelty. A decoration in my bathroom. But we didn't want to confuse people to think we support the things the activists were accusing us of."

Ms. Roth says some patrons of the restaurant, which she says is a "a fun social corporate playground that likes to to poke fun at things," are disappointed the urinals are gone.

"There are a lot of people who think it's ridiculous that we had to take it down," she says. "That urinal was not supposed to mean anything." She says people have already left graffiti where the urinals used to be lamenting the loss. Someone drew a tombstone where the urinal used to be saying, "RIP KISSES. 2007-2010."

When asked what the restaurant will replace the controversial urinals with, Ms. Roth said, "We will never play it safe."


Controversial urinal flushed out of Hamilton eatery

The Canadian Press
June 1, 2010

A urinal shaped like a woman's wide-open mouth has been flushed out of the men's room of a Hamilton eatery following a nearly year-long public outcry.

The glossy, red-lipped loo at The Honest Lawyer restaurant sparked a letter writing campaign that attracted almost 1,100 people, including Ontario's NDP leader and Hamilton's mayor.

Some people argued the "Kisses! urinal" -- manufactured by Bathroom Mania! in the Netherlands -- was art or just a joke.

The Woman Abuse Working Group, a coalition of 24 organizations, disagreed and led efforts to oust what it considered to be an offensive water closet.

Lenore Lukasik-Foss, chairwoman of the group, said Monday she's "shocked, excited and thrilled" that it's gone.

"It's not a joke to pee into a woman's mouth," she said.

The group was concerned about women's safety and the message the urinal, which had been there since the restaurant opened in February 2007, sent to men in the bar.

"They're drinking and maybe hoping to connect with a special person and then they're going to the bathroom and peeing into a woman's mouth," said Lukasik-Foss, who's also director of the Sex Assault Centre.

"Granted it's sort of a cartoonish version, but still it's clearly a woman's mouth."

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who had sent a letter to owner Greg Sandwell asking him to consider the outcry from women's groups, said she was pleased it had been removed.

"It was something that was causing a great deal of concern around the Hamilton area," said Horwath, who represents the riding in which the restaurant is located.

"I've been to the Honest Lawyer with many different people, including men, and nobody ever gave me the heads up."

Sandwell could not immediately be reached for comment.

On its website, the manufacturer says "'Kisses!' transforms a daily event into a blushing experience."

It also adds: "This is one target men will never miss."

Meike van Schijndel said in an email from Holland that she devised the design for an art school project, and lots of men and women like the "cartoonish looking mouth."

"The thought that this urinal only represents a man peeing in a woman's mouth never even occurred to me while making it," said van Schijndel, who added interpretation of her work lies in people's imaginations.

"Luckily for all those women who feel offended, they will never run into a 'Kisses' at a restroom."

While the designer defends the urinals as sensual art, a complaint led a McDonald's outlet in The Netherlands to remove them in 2006. The complainant was an American who saw her work in a magazine, not in real life, said van Schijndel.

The designer said a "bad" copy of her work was removed from a public washroom near Austria's national opera in Vienna in 2006 after complaints from politicians.

In 2004, Virgin Airways apologized and ditched plans to install a pair at its lounge at New York's John F. Kennedy airport after the National Organization for Women called them "degrading."