• Cicely Blain

The Boys+ Club Fitness: Challenging Eurocentric Body Standards and Internalized Toxic Conditioning

VANCOUVER, BC


The Boys+ Club Fitness

While their marketing initiatives may often depict otherwise, the mainstream fitness industry is one that struggles with diversity. The disparity between the projected image of inclusivity and the actual efforts being made is what The Boys+ Club Fitness hopes to bring awareness to. “Once becoming aware and identifying the ways in how the mainstream fitness and diet industry profits off of policing marginalized bodies, I was spurred into action to work towards dismantling it,” they explain. “Movement is important to me, I found it during a time of disconnection from myself and my body as a result of trauma, and it allowed me to reconnect. But the fitness industry was not designed to give access for all bodies to have that option.”



This lack of inclusivity has resulted in marginalized bodies facing the most trauma in our society. “We're aware of the mental benefits of engaging in movement, but because of how the fitness industry is structured, it limits access to who can reap those benefits,” they say. “I refused to be complacent and enjoy those benefits, while others were not given the same experience or option, but instead were being oppressed and excluded from these environments. So The Boys+ Club Fitness was created to increase awareness, and to shed light on the ways the fitness industry functions and excludes BIPOC, LGBTQIA2S+, Disabled, and Fat bodies and what needs to be done to create an inclusive and equal environment.”


The Boys+ Club Fitness also hopes to bring awareness to internalized toxic conditioning, a way of thinking that feeds off societal conventions. “Due to the society we live in, and the way society has always been, we all have a lot of internalized toxic conditioning. We want individuals to become aware of this conditioning, and to understand the roots of it and where it comes from. Just because it's been the cultural norm and the way our society has functioned, does not mean it needs to remain this way.” The favoring of this norm has resulted in serious consequences for those that don’t fit them. “The fitness industry centers on white cisgendered heteronormative thin able-bodies,” they go on. “It measures bodies on white supremacist eurocentric body standards. Those who do not adhere to these standards, are valued less than by society, and it also causes these individuals to devalue themselves. They're told that their bodies are invalid and to be valued they are required to adhere to these body standards. The result of this discrimination excludes individuals from participation in society and impacts their quality of life. It results in higher suicide and depression rates, chronic stress, their relationships with their bodies and mind may be impacted negatively, they're more prone to developing eating disorders and are subject or in constant fear of violence and harm.”


Though the challenges to increased inclusivity in the fitness industry don’t stop there – the industry is notorious for upholding a close-minded way of thinking. “The fitness industry at its core is a very anti-trans, anti-queer, racist, fatphobic, ableist environment. Our organization was created to bring awareness, to focus on the concerns and needs and experiences of marginalized bodies, and to celebrate bodies that are erased from these spaces. But all of that just feels like tokenization if these individuals can’t physically enter into movement spaces that arm them. Organizations, predominantly run by white cisgendered individuals have this idea that if they include BIPOC, disabled, fat, queer, trans bodies in their marketing, or their hiring process then that automatically means they’re inclusive. But they don’t choose to do the work to cultivate inclusive environments. This means individuals will still be harassed or discriminated against when entering into these spaces.”

The lack of representation in an industry so prevalent in society brings to light just how undetected issues of this caliber tend to go. “It’s been challenging to know that folks are still being subject to harm and that the mainstream fitness industry is not more willing to do the work to implement these initiatives that create inclusive affirming environments.”

The hope is that the industry as a whole comes to recognize the error of their ways. “We ask that folks begin to identify, educate and create actionable steps for themselves and organizations to implement an environment where all bodies can show up authentically as themselves. Marginalized groups, the very individuals who have to navigate these systems of oppression, are then required to take on the emotional and physical labor to dismantle them. But those who were assigned power and privilege at birth need to be active when it comes to contributing to dismantling these systems of oppression.”


A proposed solution as per The Boys+ Club Fitness? Educating yourself. “Lack of inclusion and diversity is a result of a lack of exposure and knowledge,” they suggest. “The knowledge and resources are available, organizations need to begin to take actionable steps to educate and ensure they're fostering an inclusive environment. Run your organization through anti-racist and anti-discrimination programs, hire a diversity and inclusion consultant. Further, educate your organization on ways to adopt the health at every size principle, on the impact of fatphobia and diet culture, on the needs and concerns of the disabled and lgbtq2sia+ community and ways you can cultivate an environment that truly is inclusive for these individuals.” Finally, fostering an environment that employs individuals from marginalized groups will help facilitate long-lasting change. “Once you have done the work, hire staff that is diverse so that they have a seat at the table to share the needs and concerns of their community.”

The making of this conference, and the broader work of Cicely Blain Consulting and our co-conspirators takes place on stolen, unceded, and occupied Indigenous land including, but not limited to the land of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. 

© 2019-2020 Stratagem. Brought to you by Cicely Blain Consulting.

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