Well-known fitness coach and Vogue contributor Russell Bateman is under fire this week after videos on his Instagram show his fitness group Skinny Bitch Collective using tribal Maasai people as props for a work out video. It is truly a disgrace as these affluent white women do lunges and squats around tribal women like they are mannequins. It is hard to image that neither Bateman nor his SBC women saw the scene as troubling and jarring.
Bateman quickly took down the posting but it was too late. It was all over the Internet with a rising condemnation for him, his company, and the Skinny Bitch Collective.
The company later wrote that it was actually “to promote a cross-cultural exchange through shared experiences and to highlight the beauty of Kenya and it’s indigenous peoples.” Shared experiences by using Maasai women as props?
The company said that it now understands that it “lacked appropriate cultural sensitivity by reinforcing colonial era depictions of people of colour.” It was actually not the racial element for some of us as much as the us of an indigenous and poor people as virtual decorations. The racial element then took a horrific idea and made it even more grotesque.
What I cannot get around is who are these people? Who would crab-walk around tribal people and lack total self-awareness or perspective? I guess people who call themself the Skinny Bitch collective.
You can watch part of the video:here
26 thoughts on “Fit To Be Tied: Fitness Coach Under Fire For Workout Video In Kenya”
It is truly a disgrace as these affluent white women do lunges and squats around tribal women like they are mannequins.
The sensibilities of the faculty and administration in higher ed are so idiotic that the reasonable conclusion is that they should have no influence over any element of public policy.
According to Bateman this wasn’t exploitation but consensual participation:
“On Saturday morning, Bateman responded to the critiques of his photos on Instagram. He wrote that the collective was “required to be accompanied by the tribe at all times” because the retreat was taking place on the tribe’s ancestral lands.
During the retreat, Bateman claimed, a “friendship was formed” and the Masai “joined in” their activities and gave permission to be filmed.”
There was no complaint from the Masai and Bateman’s explantion is easily disproved by simply talking to the Masai. Apparently, nobody bothered to do that.
Why do we rush to condemn on little evidence? Aren’t the Masai allowed to be in fitness videos? If not, why not? Colonial mindset maybe. Know-betterism? Is this whole “controversy” nothing more than liberal busybodism? Why do some insist on telling others how to behave?
You have adults who voluntarily entered into an agreement to perform certain duties – presumably for cash. However the liberal white person felt that these strong women couldn’t possibly understand they were being exploited so these white saviors are coming to their rescue whether the ladies want it or not.
I’m sorry, but I have enjoyed the guilty pleasure of schadenfreude as the fashion industry, Hollywood, and other prominent Leftists get caught up in scandals like these. I mean, Prada came out with Sambo dolls and pins. Another designer created a blackface turtleneck. Katy Perry came out with blackface heels. OMG
I don’t think any of the designers or participants were racist, barring evidence. They just didn’t realize how extremely bad it looked. I do think intent matters, although something clearly in poor taste should still be removed in response to customers.
I wonder if the Masai women were thinking, American women are totally crazy. Another thing to consider is the lengths that people will go in impoverished countries for money. Pride is a luxury of those with enough to eat. Humbling to think of our blessings, and what most people suffer every day.
I am reminded of the young guy on TV looking or staring at the Indian beating the drum.
Liberty…….do you mean when Little Ricky would watch Big Ricky rehearse at the Copa?’
Oh Lucy! Always loved Ricky Ricardo.
I am just as disturbed that It’s ok to use the word “bitch” in such a cavalier manner. I know It’s what the group is named, but
If it were a bunch of skinny blacks doing the workout could they get away with the name The Skinny Ni***r Collective?
Did the Maasai sign agreements and receive compensation? If so, then It’s their business. They’re not children.
Cindy – I greatly dislike the mainstreaming of disparaging words like b(*&(& and the N word. I don’t think it’s OK to use these words in a friendly manner to each other, as it perpetuates slurs. It’s also a double standard. How can a woman be enraged if a man calls her the exact same word she uses with her friends, or in a business title?
It’s cultural decay. We have the right of free speech, but I still don’t like the custom.
Karen S…………….Thank you for your comment. I ran a women’s support group in the early 1980’s.with several hundred in membership and one unifying factor with them was the disdain for that word! Many had been beaten, either physically , emotionally or both, by male partners. The word “bitch” being yelled at them was part of the awful drama. Also, that word is often the last one a woman hears when she is killed by a man.
My male gay friends have been the WORST offenders as far as using that word. It has enjoyed such a comfortable place in their campy lexicon .
It is disgraceful that It’s such a socially acceptable descriptive word on sitcoms…..but try using n word. You’re right. Such a double stsndard.
You are so right about the ubiquitousness of that word among gay males. I wish people would take a step back and think about their rhetoric.
The N word would have likely died out, along with many other racist epithets that no one has ever heard of, if it had not been revived a few decades ago in rap culture. People may think they have taken ownership of words once used to dehumanize them. In reality, they are using terrible, disparaging epithets to describe themselves. Do they have no concept of how this makes them look to others? Or that they keep terrible words alive in the lexicon this way?
Karen….I wrote “Karen” but spell check changed to “Lauren” 😶
I was going to say, “Who’s Lauren?” LOL
Karen…….. Paul C. Schulte used to say “Get that thing fixed!” LOL
Sure do miss his voice on this blog.
Yes, I’ve been worrying about him, too.
It was actually not the racial element for some of us as much as the us of an indigenous and poor people as virtual decorations.
Bullsh!t! It’s exactly the racial element that has inspired your condescension towards the Maasai people. How colonial of you to assume the Maasai are poor and are somehow prevented from using their free will to leave.
It’s been a while but when I was in Kenya I actually met a woman , a Masai woman, who lived the Tribal life. She was in her hut made of dung, cooking over a very smoky fire in that small dark space. Her teeth were punctuated by gaps of the missing and her hands knotted, skin dry and wrinkly. She looked about 80 years old. She was in her 30’s. Our guide had gotten special permission from the Tribal elder for us to come in to the small village. It was not situated on grass but on a great area of dirt and mud, it almost looked like clay. He also looked old but was smiling and grinning at us as he showed us around. We were allowed to take pictures but only if we asked….that is a hard rule amongst ALL the MAsai . He wore a small film cannister in his ear like a stud, the rest of his garb was traditional as depicted in the above picture but dulled by time and dirt.. All the Masai in this village were covered in dust and mud. They wore a patina of tired dullness like an old matte painting. Later that evening we went to dinner at the Lodge we were staying at and were treated to the (real!) Tribal dances performed by the local Masai Warriors…..they were all gloriously spit shined and glistening….thier garb all tidy and clean (like the ones in the vid….). Most of those performing were younger than the people we saw at the village , except for the very young kids that lived there there were no young adults. The Tribal ways were no longer sustainable, or maybe desirable. They still drove cattle, built dung huts, cooked over smokey fires and aged at an astronomical rate but the young were leaving to pursue livings elsewhere….perhaps to dance in Grand lodges and become models for super bitches…..
but the young were leaving to pursue livings elsewhere….perhaps to dance in Grand lodges and become models for super bitches…..
So they exercised their natural right to pursue happiness. Good for them.
The reality of the poor worldwide is very grim. Hollywood romanticizes it.
That is why our own young people left the pre-industrialized farms generations ago to join the smoky cities. The working conditions were brutal, and hard, but it was still an improvement over the brutally hard work and prospects of farming as open land diminished. Generation after generation, conditions improved. We now have the luxury to require safer working conditions and cleaner air, but that was bought with the blood, sweat, and tears of the generations before us, and the innovators along the way.
People bemoan the loss of indigenous culture as people leave ancestral ways of life, but we did this also. Traditional indigenous life is not easy, and lifespans are shorter. It’s a snapshot of ancient human life, which, although fascinating to anthropologists, was very difficult to live.
Take modern day Brazil. The government inhibits interaction with the indigenous tribes, because a couple working with them created an international uproar to save a delayed child the tribe kept trying to kill. Tribes force parents to kill infants for a variety of reasons. It turned out she had hypothyroidism, and the delays could have been prevented with basic medical care. They were able to save the child, but the government is trying to preserve that way of life by barring non tribal people from interacting with them. They fight efforts to educate them that twins are not, in fact, evil and do not need to be murdered at birth. Colic is not a reason to kill a child. Developmental delays can often be fixed with intervention, and even if not, that is no excuse to kill your own child. They have romanticized ancient lifestyles, and work hard to keep the tribes ignorant. Perhaps some people in the tribe would want to learn about the West, and live a different life if the information was made available to them.
Who wrote this? I didn’t see anything like colonial era depictions, did you? Is that not their dress? Personally, I find that anytime Maasai people are pictured, of any economic class, wherever they are, whomever they’re with, I find it beautiful. Though, I think the video could have used more nuance.
“lacked appropriate cultural sensitivity”
Word is the Maasai viewed it as a training drill for what to do when crazy people from the caucus tribe come to town, ie keep calm and carry on.
“It is hard to image that neither Bateman nor his SBC women saw the scene as troubling and jarring.”
It doesn’t look like the Maasai people were troubled or jarred either. They probably thought these women were crazy or doing some kind of ritual dance. Wouldn’t it be funny if the Maasai were paid to stand around these dopes.
Many indigenous people make money off of tourists. The Masai don their beautiful clothes or invite tourists into their villages. The Mursi women put in their lip plates and adorn themselves for pictures. I’m quite sure that the Masai would not stand there in a ludicrous line while tourists exercise unless they were paid. Scratch that. The Masai men might very well have stood around and watched the glute workout for free.
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