Victorian clothed couple get refused into Victorian gardens

Gabriel and Sarah Chrisman enjoy a day cycling in the sunshine
Gabriel and Sarah Chrisman live as Victorians, but a recent experience has given a media outlet a platform to incite racial tension. Copyright Gabriel & Sarah Chrisman. Image used with kind permission.

Did you hear about Sarah and Gabriel Chrisman recently? They’re the Victorian era loving couple I reported on a while ago. They dress in 19th century clothing and use as much 19th century technology as they can to try and live “like the Victorians”. For their 14th wedding anniversary this year, they travelled to Victoria, BC (British Columbia) and as part of the trip planned a visit to the Victorian Gardens. It makes sense that a couple who live for the late 19th century would want to visit there. The local tourist office should also have been excited to have them there simply as an interesting talking point and maybe attract more customers. The couple have a website that ranks well in the Alexa rankings and have a growing fanbase on social media.

Refused Entry

Instead, they were refused entry for being “too Victorian” and if they wanted to enter, they would have to “shed their costumes”. Obviously, neither side budged because the Chrismans rightly pointed out that they were in their everyday clothing. The management refunded their money and provided them with a taxi back to downtown Victoria.

Butchart Gardens responded to the news breaking by saying that in order to maintain the tranquil atmosphere, that they prohibited costumes of any kind. Of course if they’d accepted that these aren’t costumes then this wouldn’t be an issue.

The story was picked up by The Rebel who have taken it a step further in a video news story reporting on the issue. In it they correctly lampooned the reason of disrupting the tranquil atmosphere by saying: “when I see Victorian clothing, I feel like overturning cars.” The Garden management also said that they were worried that the couple may have been mistaken as staff. It was correctly pointed out that it’s hardly the end of the world and it’s easily solved by asking them.

However, it soon takes a nosedive when the presenter then tells us that he called the Garden. He spoke to a receptionist who confirmed they don’t allow costumes in the gardens. I think if that’s their rule, we have to respect that – however bizarre it is – although I disagree with it as much as The Rebel do. He then tried to get a story from it by asking if people wearing Muslim clothing aren’t allowed in. They said no because those garments aren’t costumes (obviously). Instead of leaving it at that ridiculous line of questioning and seemingly desperate for a story, he suggested that the Niqab and Burka are emblematic of Islamist beliefs just like the Victorian clothing is emblematic of the Victorian era.

The response was that the receptionist wasn’t proficient enough in the Koran and then, clearly annoyed at his racist line of questioning, suggested that she would hang the phone up on someone for the first time in her career.

Cultural Suicide (?)

He’s described it as “cultural suicide” because people who wear their everyday clothing aren’t allowed in. But someone else who wears everyday clothing is. The issue here isn’t about the Niqab; it’s about the Victorian couple not being allowed in. The Rebel have tried to make it about race. Articles like this do nothing but stir up trouble and racial tensions. He even calls the Niqab and Burka “despicable”. Sadly, he didn’t ask if nuns would be refused access or members of the Ku Klux Klan (my turn to do a bit of lampooning).

Here’s some facts about the Niqab and Burka:

  1. The Burkha and Niqab predate Islam and are mentioned in the Old Testament.
  2. Scholars suggest Islam adopted the Niqab and Burka to fit in with societies and cultures that already used face veils.
  3. This would mean that the Niqab, Burka etc are actually cultural garments and not just religious; so can’t be “emblematic” of Islam.
  4. The reason behind a Burka is to ensure that women are dressed modestly so they aren’t harrassed or molested. That’s in the Koran. It’s looking out for women.
  5. Nuns dress conservatively in order to be modest as well, but only Muslims are treated like terrorists.
  6. The Hijab is a symbol of security but sadly has turned into a symbol of oppression. This is because some Christians don’t take the time to understand other faiths.

The Niqab isn’t a costume and shouldn’t have been used as an example. However, similarly the Chrisman’s clothing aren’t costumes either and they should have been afforded the same privilege as everyone else. They should have been allowed entrance to enjoy the gardens.

In an email response to Steampunk Journal, Sarah Chrisman said:

“Antipathy towards difference is one of the ugliest aspects of human nature.  One of the single biggest reasons we do what we do is because we truly believe that the only effective way to promote real diversity is for every individual to stand by their ideals and not give way to bullying.

The instinct to attack difference is (very regrettably) hardwired into virtually every social species on Earth; as human beings capable of reason and thought, we owe it to ourselves and our species to resist that instinct.  The urge to attack difference is the origin of all hate —from racism, to anti-religious sentiments, to a whole host of other “-isms.”  I think of that instinctual ability to hate as being like a cancer in the human spirit; in the same way that we all have the genetic predisposition to succumb to cancer, so too are we all in danger of succumbing to hatred given the right conditions.  Just as we owe it to ourselves to avoid activities that would promote cancer in our bodies, so too do we owe it to ourselves, our communities, and our species, to resist things which would promote the formation of hatred.”
You can read the original story here: The Rebel compare Victorian enthusiasts to Islam

One thought on “Victorian clothed couple get refused into Victorian gardens

  1. Not only do they misrepresent the private business, but they either are clueless or lied deliberately about at least part of their “journey”.

    I know for a fact that to take the “earliest” Blackball Ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria and then to get to the Gardens expediently-yet-inexpensively would have gotten them there by half-past eleven and cost them (after the ferry ride) five dollars apiece for a day pass on the Victoria Transit System… and not the exorbitant price they paid for the “tour” bus.

    When I first read about their melodramatic tale of woe-aka-“book plug”, I kept expecting the manager character to twirl his moustache and cackle nefariously. “Nya-ha-haa!”

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