Two days after women watched city staff rip down a Dyke March poster at a local community centre, a manager says the poster can stay.
Christine Primeau says that, according to policy, the poster should have been approved in advance — and that’s why it was taken down Aug 16. She approved the poster Aug 18 and it’s now hanging in the reception area.
The incident was spotted by Ashley Hardy and Ashley Hunkin. They say they were told the poster wasn’t appropriate because children use the facility.
The poster shows several pairs of affectionate lesbians as well as women striking power poses. One woman is topless, although her nipples are hidden under black stars.
Hardy and Hunkin opted not to swim that afternoon. In an email to the Dyke March planners, the pair said they saw staff “smiling and snickering” after they complained about the poster being removed.
The Plant Recreation Centre is a city-owned public facility.
“That’s the thing that really pissed me off,” she says. “If this is how the city is treating the issue — there’s no sensitivity, no training.”
Primeau says that the receptionists can approve material, but since the staff “didn’t feel comfortable” with the poster, they waited until management were able to look at it.
Dyke March organizer and Capital Xtra columnist Ariel Troster says that she dropped off more copies of the poster on Aug 17.
The decision to re-post the ad means that Troster’s first demand has been satisfied. But she would like to go further.
“We’d like an apology,” says Troster. “And we’d like a clarification of the rules, if there’s a city policy about this kind of thing.”
Gay-themed material is often seen as more scandalous than comparable depictions of heterosexual situations. The Plant Recreation Centre, formerly Plant Bath, has pictures of people wearing bathing suits posted on its walls. The Dyke March material isn’t any more risqué, Troster says.
“I question the idea that the Dyke March posters are not family friendly,” she says. “We’ve gone out of our way to make sure we can accommodate families. Last year, there were tons of kids at the picnic.”
But Primeau insists that you can see more skin on the Dyke March poster than you can in the pool. Moreover, she warns that the poster could come down again if there are complaints.
“If we get complaints from our patrons, we may have to take it down,” Primeau says. “We’ll see.”
This isn’t the first time that the Dyke March organizers have run into trouble. Last year, someone defaced their posters with the word “repent” in front of a church in Hintonburg. This year, volunteers confronted a man on Metcalfe St who was ripping down the ads.
Last winter, Capital Xtra faced opposition to the display of their newspaper in a publicly owned community centre in the Hunt Club area. A three-month battle with city hall ended with the acknowledgment that Ottawa’s gay and lesbian paper had the right to distribute copies in city facilities.
The Dyke March is taking place Aug 23 at 2pm, leaving from the Human Rights Monument on Elgin St. The March wraps up with a barbecue and concert at 3pm at Minto Park, across the Street from Jack Purcell Community Centre.
And as for advertising, it’s full steam ahead.
“It just makes me more determined to put the posters everywhere,” says Troster.