The Russell Bateman Video: As Shocking As It Is, We Shouldn’t Be Surprised

By Hanieka Balint

The Skinny Bitch Collective (a name that is a statement in and of itself) is a workout program run by celebrity coach Russell Bateman that is as exclusive as it is intense. The all-female program costs between $50–$60 per class and is strictly invitation only, leading to a clientele that is entirely made up of wealthy white women, many of whom are celebrities and supermodels.

Photo obtained from @russellsbc on Instagram

Photo obtained from @russellsbc on Instagram

It may be unsurprising, then, that Bateman’s fitness retreat in Kenya led to controversy. Last week, Bateman posted a video online of one of the workouts from the retreat, showing the participants meeting on the Maasai tribe’s ancestral lands and using men from the tribe as props. In some parts of the video the white women exercized to the beat of the Maasai, who were evidently instructed to dance and pound a drum. In other parts of the video the white women weaved around the men, using them as markers in an apparent obstacle course.

The video brought an onslaught of criticism, and for good reason. It showed an alarming distinction between the white women and the Kenyan men that had strong colonialist undertones. The white women got to play their part—they were the travelers, the self-improvers and the ones seeking a unique experience and willing to pay top dollar for it. Apparently that unique experience must come from the Maasai, whose only role in the video was to add to the exotic scenery.

We see people of color being used in this way all the time. There are the countless photos posted on social media of white tourists taking selfies with African children in order to document their “life-changing volunteer work.” There are the token minorities who are used to add to the showcased diversity of institutions without being given any of the organizational power. There are the politicians who use people of color to prove their apparent open-mindedness, as demonstrated last month when Representative Mark Meadows argued during a testimony that the President of the United States could not possibly be racist simply because he has a black woman working for him. And now there is a fitness program that uses Kenyans as physical props during workouts.

Russell Bateman already received his 15 minutes of infamy after posting the video. The Skinny Bitch Collective’s website is “down for maintenance,” and its Instagram account has been deleted, the offending video along with it. Bateman publicly apologized, acknowledging that SBC’s actions “lacked appropriate cultural sensitivity by reinforcing colonial era stereotypes of people of color" and stating that the experience was a "huge wake-up call."

But where should the SBC go from here? Where can the SBC go from here?

Surely Bateman knows well enough to avoid hosting another retreat in Kenya. But that doesn’t mean that the toxic culture of the Skinny Bitch Collective will change. The SBC is composed entirely of rich white women, a demographic that has a tendency to perpetuate elitist tribalism in the name of sisterhood. The program is exclusive by design - it is no accident that only white women are allowed to be part of an invite-only collective, or that only the rich can take part in pricey fitness programs, or that all of the participants are conventionally attractive enough to be used in promotional photoshoots for Bateman’s business. There are plenty of women-only workout groups that exemplify sisterhood in a wholesome, motivating, and unproblematic way. As a female athlete growing up, I was part of many teams that were just that: a true sisterhood. But no matter how apologetic Russell Bateman is, no matter how hard he tries to rebrand, it may be impossible for the Skinny Bitch Collective to become that kind of a program.

Netflix and Chill Your Ass Off

by Claire Cramm

Let’s be real. With winter around the corner, snuggling up with a blanket and binge watching the next season of American Horror Story always beats the long trek to the gym through the freezing cold. With these 5 modified workout moves you can stay in shape through the winter months without ever leaving the couch. For best results, do the stated reps of each move and then repeat the entire sequence 2-3 times. 

1. Tricep Dips

What it works: triceps and shoulders

Start by sitting on the couch with your hands on either side of your hips. Then slowly walk your feet out until your knees are directly above your heels, and your butt is no longer resting on the couch. Lower your body for two counts until you are almost touching the floor and then press up, fully extending your elbows. For an added challenge, alternate fully extending one leg upwards off the ground as you lower down. Repeat for 20 reps. 

2. Leg lifts

What it works: inner thighs, obliques, and butt

This easy workout can be done without even getting up off of the couch. Lie on your side with legs fully extended and both feet flexed. Place your top hand where it is comfortable, on the ground or resting on your hip. Rest your head on your bottom arm to avoid unnecessary neck strain. Lift your top leg around six inches towards the sky and then lower it back to the original position. Repeat 10-20 reps on each side.  

3. Sit-ups

What it works: abs

Begin by lying flat on the couch on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. If you want to make things a bit more difficult, hold a pillow in between your knees to engage your legs. Then place your hands behind your ears. With your feet pressed flat on the ground, tighten your abdominal muscles to slowly lift your head off of the floor, followed by your shoulder blades. When your elbows near your knees, hold the position for a second and then begin to bring your torso back down to the floor. Repeat for 25 reps. 

4. Couch Pushups

What it works: chest, arms, and shoulders

Not only is a couch comfortable, but it is also the ideal tool for perfecting the push-up. For beginners, try push-ups with your hands on either the arm or cushion of the couch, and feet on the floor. For those who are more experienced, try push-ups with your feet on the couch cushion and your hands on the floor. Repeat for 10-12 reps. With push-ups, keeping your hips up and engaging your abs help to maintain good form . 

5. Sofa Squat

What it works: butt and thighs

What it works: butt, quads, hamstrings, inner thighs, and all things leg

Sit on the edge of the couch with your feet hip-width apart on the floor. Make sure your knees are directly above your ankles. Then place your hands on your hips and begin to stand. Then, begin to lower towards the couch cushion, but only let your butt hit the edge. Although it may be tempting, do not return to sitting. Repeat for 15 reps. For an extra challenge, try this move while balanced on your tiptoes. 

How To Avoid the Freshman 15 - A Guide For Northeastern Students

By: Marcella Kukulka

1. Establish a Workout Routine. Whether it’s lifting weights at Badger & Rosen or attending a group fitness class at Marino Center, establishing a daily workout routine is key to avoid packing on the extra pounds. Even if heading to the gym isn’t your thing, joining an intramural sport or an outdoors club can also keep you in good shape. One popular club is NUHOC, which offers to take students on weekend trips to hike, rock climb, bike, and ski. Find out how you like to stay active and don’t be shy to mix it up - the only way you’re going to stick to a schedule is if you actually enjoy what you’re doing!


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2. Motivation is Key. Sometimes you may be too tired, have too much work, or are just plain lazy. But ditching your workout isn’t the answer. Surrounding yourself in constant motivation is a nice way to get yourself to the gym. But how, you may ask? Enlist a friend and set some common goals for the semester. You both will feel equally responsible for helping the other succeed and you will have a whole lot more fun! If that doesn’t work, follow a Fitstagram to get your booty to the gym on a day that you just want to spend scrolling on social media.


3. Take Control of What You Eat. While it may be easy to take the first thing you see, it is always a good idea to survey the dining hall area before choosing your meal. The key to a balanced diet is to get a few servings of that food pyramid - grab a little protein, starch, vegetables, fruit and dairy. It’s also best to avoid processed and fried foods because most of the time these contain more calories and fill you up at a slower rate. While I know that the desserts at IV are irresistible, take everything in moderation (which means limiting your cookie intake to less than ten per meal)!


4. Netflix and Lift. Everyone knows that the majority of television at fitness centers generally sucks. So why not take the Netflix app on your phone as an opportunity to binge-watch the brand new season of “Stranger Things” while you lift weights at the gym. Not only will this keep you entertained, but it will keep you distracted from how tired you’re getting during a rigorous workout. Take my advice and try it out - you may as well be killing two birds with one stone.

Image by Shardayyy on Flickr.


5. Lay off the Liquor. I know you don’t want me to say it, but it’s true! An influx in the consumption of liquor is normally the main reason of weight gain for college students in the United States. I’m not telling you not to drink, but Alcohol has a very high caloric intake, so setting a limit before going out for the evening is just one other method to make sure you don’t go home for winter break with a full-on beer belly!

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