When Josie Candito discovered an auto business had posted a billboard mocking women drivers, she was shocked and upset.

So the Toronto auto repair shop owner posted her own sign to fight back.

"I had to stand up for women," she said.

Last week, the sign at a used car dealership, Mellish Motors in New Annan, P.E.I., read: "Women Are Like Snowflakes. They Can't Drive."

Mellish Motors

As a photo of the Mellish Motors sign circulated on social media, many were offended.

Now, outside Candito's shop, Master Mechanic, the billboard reads, "Mellish Motors … My Canada Includes Respect for Women! #Womencandrive."

Candito said she posted the message to remind Mellish Motors that "it's 2016 and women are respected. We deserve more than to be treated like that."

Many people were offended by Mellish's billboard, which quickly circulated on social media. "It's sexist and offensive," posted one woman on Facebook. "It gives the impression that it's okay to dismiss a whole gender," wrote another. "It's potentially damaging," added someone else.

Billboard wars

Candito said Mellish's billboard went against everything she's trying to accomplish as the female owner of an auto business. She believes that because of the stereotype that women are clueless about cars, sometimes they are uncomfortable taking their vehicles to a repair shop.

"A lot of women will feel when they go in that the guy is going to take advantage," she said.

Candito adds that all customers are treated equally at her business. She said if a woman — or a man — doesn't know much about cars, her staff is there to educate.

"I just want the women around me to know I have respect for them and so does my staff."

Sign meant to be 'cute'

Mellish Motors manager John Mellish has seen Candito's sign on social media. He said he never meant to offend her and wants people to know, "I do respect women 100 per cent."

He said his billboard was just a joke. "The sign was meant to be cute," he said.

Mellish routinely posts funny messages, he said, and people in his community like them — including his most recent jab at women drivers. "More than 90 per cent are saying, 'Keep up with your signs, we enjoy your humour.'"

And so he has. Following the furor sparked by his sign, Mellish posted the messages: "Sensitive Women Don't Read This Sign. You Know Who You Are!" and then "Attention Drama Queens, Auditions for Today Have Been Cancelled!"


John Mellish stands in front of a later message on his sign that he created after his original one sparked an uproar. ( Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

Candito isn't laughing.

The business owner said she sometimes posts funny messages, but that everything she writes has a positive spin. One of her recent billboards read, "The Best Therapist Has Fur and Four Legs."

"I use my signs to make people feel good and he made people feel terrible," she said.

Despite the uproar, Mellish plans to continue posting messages that could ruffle feathers. His latest one takes a jab at men. It reads, "Used Cars Are Like Husbands: Great Looking, But All Have Issues."

Master Mechanic Josie Candito mellish motors

Josie Candito stands in front of her billboard response to Mellish Motor's sign mocking female drivers. (Josie Candito)