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The Union Controversy

BY DI STAFF | MAY 03, 2012 6:30 AM

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A 'plus-sized' beef with Union

So there I was, drinking water and snacking on unprocessed foods, when I came across this article online. A self-described "plus-sized" UI junior named Jordan Ramos, is alleging size discrimination on the part of the Union Bar in downtown Iowa City.

(I would have gone with "voluptuous," Jordan.)

According to Ramos, she and her friends wanted to parade themselves on the dance platform at Union. Her friends were allowed to objectify themselves, while Ramos was allegedly told that she was "obviously pregnant."

Ramos, of course, is not pregnant, and she knows that with the utmost certainty.

While reading the story, I found myself growing increasingly angry, for I regularly experience a similar sequence of events as Ramos.

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?"

There I was, being discriminated for and against, all at the same time.

This kind of thing happens to me all the time, because it's always worth a try.

So, anyway, I didn't realize how pissed I should be until Ramos started "raising awareness" for a discrimination against a people who, for the most part, played a major role in the reason they're discriminated against.

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.)

Look, it's not our fault that we have penises. Gender discrimination is a federal crime. That's why the men of this city are going to rise up, and — wait, you say you have a bunch of sexy girls dancing on tables on Friday night? All right, I guess we're cool.

That's why, in this cruel, judgmental crowd of orgasm-driven college kids, not to mention the basic laws of hype, Ramos' efforts will likely backfire. Not saying I think this way — hell, I've only been to Union twice since freshman year (which means Ramos likely supports its business more than I) — but I could see guys thinking, "So, there are only going to be hot girls at Union from now on? Sweet."

This story is getting national attention and appeals to the Union's target market. That's just the way it is. Sorry.

To state the obvious, Ramos' efforts could be better directed to help her cause. Aside from the obvious, instead of condemning a place she hates, Ramos could promote a place she loves, one that's open, loving, and understanding. A few businesses come immediately to mind in which Ramos wouldn't be victimized (as long as she wasn't judging anyone, either). Let's see: Yacht Club, Studio 13, Micky's — I'm sure the Olive Garden wouldn't care if she started shaking her ass in the middle of the floor.

In the end, I guess Ramos got what she wanted. Iowa City officials announced Wednesday that they're taking down the platform — not because it hurts peoples' feelings but because it doesn't meet city code. Apparently, it's not that strong of a structure. One can only imagine if they would have allowed heavier patrons to dance on it — say, the average male and "plus-sized" females.

Hmm. I guess we should applaud Ramos. The Union should applaud her for getting it more business, and everyone else should applaud her from helping prevent a potential disaster.

You go, girl.

Chris Steinke
UI senior

Much to improve

The recent controversy surrounding the (alleged) prohibition of Jordan Ramos from dancing on the platform at the Union Bar is certainly warranted.

Even the possibility of institutionalized discrimination based on appearance should be met sternly, and while such a "policy," under attack in Iowa City, is commonplace among "elite" clubs in places such as LA or Chicago, we are not there and the Union Bar isn't "elite" in the slightest.

However, while Ramos is free to protest what she sees as a wrong committed against her, her protest and its stated arguments overlook much deeper and troubling issues.

First, who the hell wants to go to Union? Granted, its charms are endless: sticky floors, sticky chairs (if you're lucky), remarkable toilets that overrun with the grandeur of the Fountain of Neptune, a dance floor that appears to be a replica of the bar in The Matrix, world-famous no-gin gin & tonics — but even these lose their luster after around five minutes or so.

I also have anecdotal evidence from my friends about being turned away at the doors for not wearing the "right" clothes, but this allowed them time to sober up and think about what exactly made them want to go there in the first place — mania, hysteria, extreme intoxication.

Suddenly, they saw the throng of drunk, greasy dudes shoving each other and yelling, "No, bro — NO," suddenly, they saw the pools of urine and vomit they'd surely have walked through had they gotten in, and suddenly, they realized that it wasn't the sort of place where pleasant things happen.

Which leads to my main concern surrounding this controversy. Had Ramos not been (allegedly) denied access to the "dance" platforms, then presumably there would not be a controversy.

But, having been to Union (briefly as it may have been), I know what happens to those who do get up on the platforms; they are gawked and ogled at, they are insulted verbally, they endure crass and creepy comments from below — they are objectified. When you remove the rhetoric surrounding this issue, what is being protested is that not everyone is allowed to be treated like a mannequin; they want universal mistreatment.

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.

And let's not let this single event distract us from allegations of more cut-and-dried (and serious) discrimination, true or false. Do not hold in contempt one particular bouncer, bar, set of people, but most of our youth/club culture. We have much to improve if we're upset that some people can't be objectified.

Jesse Marks
UI senior


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