IOWA CITY, Iowa - For the past two weeks, Jordan Ramos has thrown herself into a place where her experience at a downtown Iowa City bar is now fodder for hundreds, perhaps thousands of online comments.
"I've completely stopped reading the comments," said Ramos, 21, a junior at the University of Iowa. "I was starting to internalize the comments and doubt myself. Even scared."
Ramos said, on two occasions, she went to The Union Bar in downtown Iowa City with friends and was denied access to a small platform on the dance floor where patrons, usually females, will dance.
The first incident happened on March 3rd, when Ramos said she was celebrating a friend's birthday party and their evening travels took them to The Union Bar. She said, after trying to walk up the stairs to the small platform, a bar employee said that she was not allowed on the platform.
"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 added that, after others encouraged her to return to the bar later, an April 14 visit 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.
Repeated attempts throughout Friday afternoon and evening to contact The Union Bar and managers in the establishment did not lead to any public comment on the situation. An Iowa City Press-Citizen report declares the dance club will take down the platform because it did not meet code requirements.
The primary question comes down to this: can a private business be selective about which customers it would prefer to have inside its establishment?
"They wanted their image to be 'hot girls'," said Austin Fall, 24. He said he has worked at three different Iowa City bars, including The Union Bar. "Business owners do want attractive people standing up and dancing because it helps their image out." Fall said he worked there for only a month in 2009 and that employees were told to "not let guys or heavy-set women" on the platform.
Ramos' narrative has picked up plenty of attention through the Internet. An ABC News Blog post, dated April 28, carries hundreds of comments, including many that are harsh and critical of Ramos' appearance.
On Friday, May 4th, Ramos was the focal point for a rally outside of the bar where she felt she was mistreated. She said that she may not have much legal standing, because of her size, but still believes the issue of discrimination – even informally – against those because of their size is worth a further dialogue.
"This whole rally has been about raising awareness about sizeism issues. Sizeism occurs everywhere."