“Girl Power” with an asterisk is weak.
Genuine and honest ladies empowerment movements must be inclusive and maintain equity—and it must undoubtedly not thrive on the commodification of Black and brown bodies. The erasure and hurt that occurs because of to white lady-led femininity and feminism is a thing we’ve extensively lined at The Root—and it’s a tale as outdated as time.
The outdated tale has resurfaced owing to a latest exposé of Hollywood dance studio S Factor, by means of The Hollywood Reporter. The studio, founded by “feminine embodiment leader” Sheila Kelley, usually takes a “sexy exercise empowerment movement” method to its therapeutic-concentrated lessons and periods (even though the corporation cautions “S Variable and Sheila Kelley are not accredited psychotherapists and do not offer psychological well being or medical care”). S Element finally garnered mainstream notice and achievement, getting guidance from stars this kind of as Vivica A. Fox, Eva Longoria and Kate Hudson. Hell, it even bought the Oprah stamp of acceptance on her past daytime chat present!
Having said that, what has been discovered underneath that “empowering” veil is a historical past of alleged cultural appropriation, exploitation, re-traumatization, racist procedures and more.
THR’s Gary Baum, Katie Kilkenny and Rebecca Solar even further report:
Problems at S Element came to a head very last June, when a selection of teachers in the Southern California studios, such as quite a few prolonged-serving faculty customers, departed the organization. The immediate induce of the reckoning was just one that befell a lot of brand names across America in the summertime of 2020.
In the wake of George Floyd’s killing by police in Minneapolis, S Factor’s Fb account posted a letter from Kelley expressing solidarity with the Black users of its group. A previous longtime S Component teacher, Ronda Haralson, commented on the publish: “Don’t make a statement for the reason that you truly feel you ‘have to.’ Make it mainly because you are genuinely committed to changing your personal racist procedures.”
Haralson, who is Black, was referring to what she and other individuals say was a culture of bigotry, microaggressions and appropriation, exacerbated by a management resistant to reform. “After several years of reporting incidents, I would be silenced or quieted. No action was taken, not only from Sheila, but from other workers customers or instructors,” she claims.
“Strippers, who are predominantly Black and brown women and LGBTQIA, elevated pole dancing to an artwork because they endure on sex perform,” previous instructor Dwana White famous. “And now that pole dance is being commodified by the predominantly white ‘wellness industry,’ its origins are being erased and whitewashed when also reinforcing the patriarchy and misogynoir: the strategy that women—Black women—who strip for money are not deserving of regard, but women of all ages who do it for ‘fitness and fun’ are respectable due to the fact they never require to do intercourse get the job done to survive.”
Past summer season, the corporation tried to tackle the ongoing difficulties by holding a company city hall assembly. On the other hand, following the unproductive conference, eight instructors who recognized as BIPOC and white give up the enterprise citing, “a long historical past of damaging steps on the section of Sheila and corporate…about fairness and inclusion as properly as immediate harm carried out to BIPOC women.”
“There have been elements of [the S Factor practice] that could have been unbelievably good if it had been genuinely inclusive of sex workers, Black and brown bodies, extra fat bodies, in a different way abled bodies, all women and femme-identifying peoples,” White mentioned. “That would have been innovative, but that wasn’t the lifestyle or information being promoted.”
Kelley has stated that the scenarios of appropriation at her studio have been “absolutely unacceptable.” “I really feel like I last but not least get what Ronda Haralson was trying to say to me…I was just a little bullheaded,” Kelley stated. THR also experiences that the S Component despatched an e-mail to students in April confirming that the studio is conducting an “independent audit” of its curriculum and performing with range, equity and inclusion experts to…do superior.