‘Sizeism’ protested at downtown Iowa City bar

UI student says she was discriminated against

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March 31, 2014 | 6:43 pm

IOWA CITY — A downtown Iowa City bar was the scene of a protest last night as accusations of “sizeism” continue to be leveled at the business.

Jordan Ramos, 21, a junior at the University of Iowa, says on two occasions, she went to The Union Bar in downtown Iowa City with friends and was denied access to a small platform where patrons, usually female, dance.

The first incident happened on March 3, when Ramos said she was celebrating a friend’s birthday. She said after trying to walk up the stairs to the small platform, a bar employee said that she was not allowed up there.

“He just says, ‘you will never make it up on this platform. Go back to the dance floor where you belong,’” said Ramos, a West Liberty native.

She said other females were allowed on the platform and said those women were thinner than she was.

“I never thought that my size would be a deciding factor on whether I’m accepted as a customer,” Ramos said. She said that, after others encouraged her to return, an April 14 visit to the bar led to a similar reaction from employees.

Ramos said one employee said she could not dance on the platform because she was “not pretty enough” and even suggested that she was “obviously pregnant”, even though Ramos said she is not.

Requests for comment Friday from officials at The Union Bar were not returned. The bar reportedly was asked by the city of Iowa City to take the platform down because it does not meet safety requirements.

A former worker at the Union Bar said he worked at the business for a month in 2009 and that employees were told to “not let guys or heavyset women” on the platform.

“They wanted their image to be ‘hot girls,’” said Austin Fall, 24. “Business owners do want attractive people standing up and dancing because it helps their image out.”

Fall said he has worked at three different Iowa City bars, including The Union Bar.

Ramos’ story has been picked up by several national outlets, including ABC News. A blog post at abcnews.com has hundreds of comments, including many that are harsh and critical of Ramos’ appearance.

“I’ve completely stopped reading the comments,” Ramos said. “I was starting to internalize the comments and doubt myself. Even scared.”

Last night before the protest, Ramos said she still believes the issue of size discrimination is worth further dialogue.

“This whole rally has been about raising awareness about sizeism issues. Sizeism occurs everywhere,” Ramos said.

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