the skinny bitch problem
It’s 2014. I watch gorgeous models glisten with sweat as they flip tyres, and gush in their captions about a man called Russell Bateman. This is the beginning of my morbid fascination with the SBC.
At first, I bought into the glossy hype around this club, as did everybody else I knew. We overlooked the fact that Bateman used the word skinny as a “term of endearment”, and that he used the word “bitch” presumably for the same reason. “It’s ironic!” we would say, trying to convince ourselves more than anyone else. The red flags were all there from the start, woven into the fabric of this exclusive workout class, but the aesthetic was so sleek, and the branding so good, they were dismissed by so many of us.
However, relatively soon after I started following the SBC on Instagram, I became unnerved by some of the content. The SBC Instagram feed became a perfect example of what the male gaze would look like if neatly arranged on a 3-square grid. It was a manifestation of problematic beauty ideals forced down our throats from our early teens and then spewed, brighter and bolder than ever, onto our phone screens. Membership seemed to have as much to do with cheekbones as it did strong glutes. Of those that have attended classes, some people report only seeing very thin, beautiful girls, whilst others say that there were a range of body types, but they simply aren’t all posted to Instagram. I’m not sure what’s worse.
The thing that further fuels the fascination with the classes, is that the SBC dangles a thread to all those who want to come and play with the cool kids – the waiting list. Much like an old-school private members club, women are picked from the constantly growing list by Bateman himself, allowing him to personally design his very own Instagrammable girl gang. It is perhaps unsurprising that a business that relies so heavily on this intense exclusivity to thrive, is one that has become deeply problematic.
Earlier on today, the SBC was called out for footage from a retreat in Kenya that seems to have escalated into an example of just how racist one holiday can be. Detailed on the Diet Prada Instagram page, the collection of photos and videos taken on the retreat is a perfect image of what white privilege looks like, and it is painful to watch the blatant racism being documented by both the organisers and some attendees.
Bateman has since taken to Instagram to apologies for the upset caused and cited a lack of awareness as the reason behind the incident, but from a company with such a carefully curated brand it feels hard to believe anything they post to social media is done so without complete awareness. On the other hand, maybe when you narrow your vision for so long, you forget that anybody else matters.