Let's talk about gender neutrality when teaching
Updated: Apr 27, 2021
(I drop a couple f-bombs below, you've been warned) The other day I followed along to a wunda chair class led by the amazing Amy Havens on Pilates Anytime. At one point, during a seated mermaid, Amy said: "I should call this 'mer-person' since we're all just people enjoying Pilates." I thought, wow, amazing! Thank you for being aware of your audience Amy, and for trying to be more gender inclusive in your cueing and teaching! As I went to comment to send Amy some feedback and praise for that, I noticed someone had already commented on the 'mer-person' cue. And this person was not happy! I won't repeat word-for-word what was said because it pissed me the fuck off and I wouldn't want to upset or trigger anybody, but let's just say that they were unhappy to see Joseph Pilates' legacy, life and work be altered for the sake of "outside craziness" (their words.) First of all, the man is dead. Ok? He's dead! So who are you trying to impress??? Calling an exercise mermaid, mer-person, mer-whoever-you-want will not change the efficiency and essence of an exercise. Nobody is hurting you, your business, your method or the apparatus you teach on by using gender neutral cues. Nobody is coming for you, chill the eff out! A lot of people may not know this, but there are MANY different schools of Pilates in the world. THOUSANDS! Sometimes, exercises have different names, different breath patterns, modifications, etc., but we all know most of them. We all know their target muscles and their overall essence or purpose. Sure, it's important to know who it came from, its history and lineage, and how it was taught back then (especially if it came from a Black person and was later co-opted by the white Pilates community--let's take a moment to honour the late, great Kathy Grant here please), but why should there only be ONE way to teach it, or even name it? Sometimes I call an exercise a mermaid, and sometimes, my clients call it that "one stretch that I like that really feels nice." Am I going to harp down on my client and kick them out for not calling it "mermaid"? Ludicrous! Is Amy Havens anything short of an amazing instructor for saying "mer-person" to sound more inclusive? Of course not, she's legendary for trying to do so! Why is that person so triggered from seeing Pilates being taught in a more inclusive way? That's when I realized, they're a Pilates purist. A gatekeeper. A teacher who has been taught that my-way-is-the-only-way, the best way. This person is the exact reason behind the inequalities and lack of diversity in the Pilates world. This person firmly believes that Pilates is a one-size-fits-all and should only be taught, delivered, and presented a certain way: the way that we have all been accustomed to thus far. Delivered in a very exclusive, almost nauseating way: geared specifically for thin, able-bodied, white women. This is white supremacy. This is elitism. This is utter garbage and it needs to be destroyed and burned to the fucking ground. If you're so triggered that your entire identity as a Pilates instructor is placed into question when someone uses gender neutral language to teach an exercise, then you are likely not welcoming to different bodies. I bet that you don't have any experience, nor do you even remotely care to teach Pilates to a more diverse group. Maybe you don't have the language, the skillset, or the desire to do so? Either way, you are promoting elitism. You are likely, yourself, a thin, able-bodied, white woman who has been afforded a certain level of privilege in your own life.
Are you willing to confront yourself? Are you willing to change your views? To open your mind and your heart? To live in a more just and free world? I sure fucking hope you are! But if you're not there yet, please stop spreading your puritanical Pilates discourse! Because Pilates is for ALL humans.
Whether you identify as a mermaid, a mer-person, or simply a person who enjoys that-one-stretchy-exercise-that-you-know-always-feels-good, I would like to welcome you into this Pilates world.
You are welcome here! You are valid!
I promise to do my best to keep my teaching and cueing as inclusive as possible. Please let me know if there's anything else I can do to help keep you feeling safe and supported in my classes. I love you.