Spinning with Privilege

Spinning with Privilege

 Credit:  Julia Yellow

Credit: Julia Yellow

In this blog post themes of fitness, health and social inequalities will be explored through an intersectional lens. This post is meant to raise awareness about privilege when it comes to thinking about your everyday life in relation to physical activity and exercise. This post illustrates the social inequality of race as a pressing issue in our present-day society.

If the stereotypes and biases are unconscious, I, as an owner, have to make the decision to remedy it,” she says. “We’re leaving people behind.
— “Is your spin class too young, too thin and too white?” via The Washington Post

Social Inequality in Fitness

Although many people may be stoked about the latest trendy spin studio and want to try out this new, popular fitness format, not everyone may feel welcome in these spaces. Lavanya Ramanathan's (2018) article in The Washington Post titled “Is your spin class too young, too thin and too white?” raises important social issues about race when it comes to recent fitness trends. This article highlights Christina Rice's lived experiences as an African American woman and fitness enthusiast in New York. Taking an intersectional approach to examining the underlying problems that many African American women experience in their everyday lives.

Ramanathan's insightful and critical analysis brings the complex intersections of race, class and gender in fitness boutique trends, such as cardio spin classes, to the forefront. Not many spin class goers may even realize the extent to which fitness studios, like spin studios, may have inherent biases and implicit systemic discrimination. Systemic discrimination is embedded in the fabric of policies and practices within the structures of social institutions in society.

This seemingly invisible form of discrimination is not always visible to people and has profound implications for creating or perpetuating disadvantages for racialized persons. Certain policies and practices inherently create unequal access and opportunities for potential clients when it comes to their race, ethnicity, gender, social class, and wealth in the social hierarchy of society. Perhaps changes in hiring practices, promotion of facilities, costs and locations of the gym can be changed by the owners of these fitness chains or fitness studios to try to make for a more inclusive and diverse environment.

 Credit: Yue Wu

Credit: Yue Wu

I did bond with some of the other students,” says Rice. “But I did feel very isolated at times. There were no teachers of colour. I didn’t have another woman who looked like me, who understood my struggles, my insecurities.
— “Is your spin class too young, too thin and too white?” via The Washington Post

Fitness Studios and Accessibility

With many new niche clientele clubs on the rise, it's impossible to fathom how each club can meet everyone's needs. New studios, like spin studios, should strive to be universally accessible for all needs, but these studios are also businesses that cater to particular clientele. Ramanathan's article points out that the typical clientele frequenting trendy studios are white, young, well-off millennials meaning these spaces are leaving many people, especially ethnic and racialized minorities out of the picture.

It is important to address the processes of capitalism in this specific type of fitness market. When it comes to mainstream gym (weights and group fitness) alternative, there are countless popular fitness studios or gyms available, which can be seen city to city across the country, the list of alternative leisure-exercise facilities is exhaustive. There are many people who could benefit from other forms or styles of fitness, but what is holding people back? Race continuously acts as a key social barrier for many women, like Christina Rice, in creating inequities in accessing fitness as a resource for health and wellness.

Article reference: Ramanathan, L. (2018, March 18). Is your spin class too young, too thin and too white?

Previously published by The Sociology & Fitness Blog on March 28, 2018.

Ashley Marsh

Ashley Marsh

Elley Duhé

Elley Duhé