It’s TOO Easy

Fingers making the shape of a heart, crowd blurred out behind the hands.

Written by Beth Sandlin

October 15, 2020

I’ve seen it in the Yoga Community and now in the Pilates Community, outright abuse from teachers. This has been going on for a long time in ways that we have traditionally discounted. Recently, we’ve been made aware of more overt occurrences that can’t be ignored. 

This includes fat shaming, racist slurs, antisemitism, sexual assault, and many other attacks.

Currently the focus is on the extremists. This needs to be addressed and rightfully so, thoughtful action needs to be taken. It also makes it too easy. 

Too easy to point the finger at someone else, rather than looking at our own actions and the system in which as a collective we let this foster. I am in no way excusing the attacks, bullying, assaults or hate crimes. And yet, if we are to truly unpack this abuse, we need to go deeper. 

It’s too easy to see what a very small number of people are doing and think you would never do that. It makes us feel good that we would never call someone names that we’ve been reading or intentionally sexually assaulting  someone during a session. Because of this personal validation, we don’t continue to learn to see what we can do. 

This is how we got to where we are, thinking it’s everyone else’s problem while feeling good that what we would never do that.

Yet many people still don’t understand the subtle ways in which we perpetuate shame and bullying. I can’t excuse myself from this as well since we all have blind spots. It’s often easier to see other peoples blind spots and call them out than look inward. 

I have seen actions that people feel justified in, yet they are doing the same thing in a more subtle way than the perpetrator. This is actually why trauma informed care within the context of social work, doctors office and policing is important. It’s important in any profession and extremely important in supporting survivors who engage in daily life far beyond the traumatic experiences that took place. 

Many people in countering the extreme acts are reverting to diagnosing and shaming people. This includes how people move their bodies with Pilates, which is exactly one aspect of the personal attacks in which they were outraged about.

In doing this, well intentioned people are resorting to another form of violence which does not move the conversation forward. It closes the conversation and becomes “others” problems. We all have a part, individual, organizations and the collective. 

I know it’s hard to acknowledge when you realize you are doing what the perpetrator did. And many people reading this will not be willing to go there. Instead they’ll justify the behavior and comments as defending the survivor and offering support. 

Let’s acknowledge not everyone resorts to counter acts, there are many people offering true support and also those who are advocated for change, making proactive positive steps. 

However there are enough people who continue to use the same tactics as the perpetrator that it needs to be addressed. 

If you want these attacks to stop, you must call them out and not attack back with similar tactics. This takes an incredible amount of self awareness, acceptance and understanding.

Beneficial actions that can be taken include: 

  • Offering your support to the victim by telling them you believe them, they did not deserve this and ask what they need from you. This can even be offering referrals to other people or organizations who can provide support beyond what you can offer. 
  • Do not engage with the perpetrator as they crave power, control and oftentimes attention. This can often be the hard part because you want to change their mind. The reality is most often you won’t. Instead they are given more of an opportunity to spew hate and be “known”, even in the smallest sense or what you may consider in a negative way.
  • Take action where and when you can, taking care to thoughtfully respond rather than react. (On social media report, block and keep records.)

At the end of the day, it’s too easy to say it’s an isolated incident and move on. This is another 2020 wake up call that as Pilates teachers, as people we need to learn so much more than the exercises and anatomy. 

Continue to listen, learn and take Aligned Action, this doesn’t mean it will be perfect and we’ll face truths that for too long have been ignored. Ignoring the problem or attacking it, doesn’t make it go away. I also know that sitting with this can be uncomfortable, but the work must be done.

The more you lean into learning about systemic racism, fatism, antisemitism, sexism, ageism, other isms, power dynamics and trauma the more you can be an ally of survivors.

We must stand strong with survivors and as a community. 

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