Thursday, 30 Mar 2023

The 'Skinny Bitch Collective' Is Under Fire for Using Locals as Props in Kenya Workouts

A workout program that’s been dubbed one of the most “exclusive” fitness classes on the planet has the internet outraged. Skinny Bitch Collective (the name really says it all, doesn’t it?) held an invite-only retreat in Kenya, and over the weekend, videos surfaced of students using native Maasai tribesmen as literal props during one of the workouts.

Multiple videos that were posted to Instagram show about 10 women (all of whom appear to be white and are very tall and thin) working out with the Maasai tribesmen standing as a backdrop, doing a traditional dance, or posting up as obstacles for the women to crawl around.

The Instagram account @diet_prada posted the videos and wrote: “It’s 2019 and apparently people still haven’t learned that POC/ethnic groups don’t exist to embellish already privileged lives. The Colonial mindset is alive and well.”

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Ummm…happy International Women’s Day? Russell Bateman ( @russellsbc ), the white male mastermind behind the invite-only fitness collective SBC (Skinny Bitch Collective), took a gang of seemingly cloned, pony-tailed white women on a retreat in Kenya. Among the sisterhood-fostering activities like hot air balloon rides, chef-prepared organic meals (that chia berry jam!), and dancing ‘round a tree of life, they also managed to use the local Maasai people not only as a backdrop, but as literal props in their fitness routines. Some videos have already been deleted, but screenshots appear to show the girls writhing around the locals like an obstacle course. Booty twisting on Maasai cloth chick deserves special mention…real classy lol. It’s 2019 and apparently people still haven’t learned that POC/ethnic groups don’t exist to embellish already privileged lives. The Colonial mindset is alive and well I guess… • #internationalwomensday #womensday #sbc #skinnybitchcollective #russellbateman #kenya #africa #poc #maasai #maasaitribe #tribe #health #fitness #retreat #smh #wtf #colonialism #chiaberryjam #lame #maasaishuka

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Needless to say, the internet is having none of SBC’s ignorance. One user commented, “As an African woman I am tired of seeing my people relegated to play in the background. As a Kenyan woman it enrages me to see my people being used as PROPS, being ridiculed in his posts, being used to be their personal ‘cheerleaders,’ asking them to perform their traditional jump/dance to add to the ‘atmosphere’ of their workouts.”

Russell Bateman, the founder of Skinny Bitch Collective (SBC), reportedly posted an apology on Instagram, but his account has since been deleted. (His website is also “down for maintenance.”)

Multiple outlets have reported that his apology explained the group was required to be accompanied by the tribe at all times because the retreat was taking place on the tribe’s ancestral lands.

“Our intention was to promote a cross-cultural exchange through shared experiences, and to highlight the beauty of Kenya and its indigenous people,” Bateman reportedly wrote, according to BuzzFeed. “We accept and understand that our content fell well short of this aim, and lacked appropriate cultural sensitivity by reinforcing colonial era stereotypes of people of color.”

SBC has previously been criticized for its exclusivity and bizarre practices. As the name suggests, Bateman’s targeting a *very* specific clientele—and the classes are invite-only.

After a reporter for The Cut tried the class, she wrote: “I knew that I was in the right place because, at five-foot-three, I was the shortest person in my class of 35 people. Everyone looked like girlfriends past, present, and future of Leonardo DiCaprio.”

One of SBC’s signature (and most outrageous) moves involves women pairing up and getting down on all fours. Each pair then does a sort of face-off where they shuffle around with their hips in the air trying to slap their partner’s butt. Another equally degrading move has the women run while carrying their partner on their back (because who wouldn’t enjoy carrying a sweaty stranger around?).

A reporter for Cosmopolitan who tried the class was baffled by a move that required the women to brace their abs while their partner threw punches at their stomach. “It’s a good thing I don’t have trust issues—and even better that I didn’t break a rib,” she wrote.

SBC is clearly problematic for more reasons than one. The purpose of group workouts is to build each other up, and if you ever find yourself in a setting that seems to be doing the opposite, don’t hesitate to leave. Groups like SBC aren’t worth your time.

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