Last week it came to light that Jordan Ramos, a 21-year-old University of Iowa student had been denied access to a dancing platform by an employee at Iowa City’s Union Bar. Ramos says that she was turned away because of her weight.
According to Ramos, who attended Union twice in the past two months, she was explicitly turned away from a special dancing platform because she “was not pretty enough” and because she was “obviously pregnant.”
While Union’s ownership denies any knowledge of the incident, the bar has found itself embroiled in a controversy. Ramos held a protest on Friday outside the bar that accused Union of weight discrimination.
The protests are an extension of Ramos’ attempts to combat what she perceives to be discrimination in the Iowa City bar scene; she previously contacted both the Iowa City Human Rights Commission and the ACLU, but neither institution was of service to her, as there is no legal protection against weight discrimination.
The Ramos/Union controversy is more cultural than legal, however, and it has drawn the attention of many national news organizations like the Huffington Post and ABC News. Locally, the University of Iowa’s student newspaper, The Daily Iowan, ran a number of opinions pieces on the issue last week.
The DI‘s resident a-hole, Chris Steinke wrote a highly cynical and wildly unfunny piece in Thursday’s paper called “A ‘plus-sized’ beef with Union” which contained this gem:
I thought back to one specific instance during tailgate season last fall. When I first walked in, I noticed an alarmingly high guy-to-girl ratio. I walked around a bit and then had to order a Busch Light to splash the vomit off my shoe. When I looked up, I found where all the girls had gone. They were dancing on the picnic tables, all by themselves. My kinda picnic, I thought. What a perfect platform for high-volume pickup lines.
As soon as I lifted my leg to step up onto the bench, a big man with a black shirt told me I wasn’t allowed.
“Oh,” I thought. “I’m not allowed to shake my ass for your patrons’ pleasure, just because I look like I have a penis?”
Guys, we should be even more angry than Ramos is.
(Sounds like a stretch, I know. Judging by her pictures, she looks angrier than a UNICEF leader at a $4 buffet. Which is too bad — because I’m sure she could normally light up the Superdome with her charisma.)
On Friday, DI columnist Ben Ross wrote a more polite piece about how unattractive people should know better than to make people look at them.
From one plus-sized individual to another, I can tell you that certain establishments do this for a reason: Nobody wants to see my sweaty love handles grooving near them on the dance floor, and I respect that wish. You’re welcome, everyone.
KRUI’s Jesse Marks’ guest opinion in the DI was, perhaps, the most thoughtful piece to run this week. He focused primarily on the cultural implications of the Ramos case.
Ramos may or may not have been explicitly told she couldn’t dance because of her appearance, she may or may not have been disorderly at the time, but the broader issue is that there is a place that allows such crude treatment to occur. It is not just Ramos but any woman who enters Union who is made to feel unattractive or inadequate — whether they (allegedly) aren’t allowed to go on the platforms or if they are encouraged to do so.
While there are many, many holes in the factual record regarding this case, the real controversy stems from our collective perspective (or lack thereof) on over-wieght people.
The whole issue can be boiled down to one question: “Should a person’s weight matter?”
We’ll discuss the issue tonight (5/6) at 9pm on KRUI 89.7FM in Iowa City. Read up, follow the links, and let us know what you think in the comment section below.