Is Pilates a racial enclave or implicator of whiteness?

Jerry Coyne, writing on the blog Evolution is True, is hopped up about a study about hips. Coyne says:

The author proceeds to demonstrate that Pilates is “the embodiment of whiteness,” using just the two Pilates exercises named in the abstract. These exercises, she claims, “purposely train the body to stabilize the pelvis”, which she considers racist.

The study is: “The Pilates Pelvis: Racial Implications of the Immobile Hips,” Sarah W. Holmes, Dance Research Journal, vol. 46, no. 2, August 2014, pp 57-72. The author, at the University of New Mexico, explains:


This article examines the treatment of the pelvis in the Pilates exercises ‘Single Leg Stretch’ and ‘Leg Circles.’ The teaching practices of the hips, as commonly explained in Pilates educational manuals, reinforce behaviors of a noble-class and racially “white” aesthetic. Central to this article is the troubling notion of white racial superiority and, specifically, the colonizing, prejudicial, and denigrating mentality found in the superiority of whiteness and its embodied behaviors. Using the two Pilates exercises, I illuminate how perceived kinesthetic understandings of race in the body may be normalized and privileged. By examining the intersections between dance and Pilates history, this article reveals the ways embodied discourses in Pilates are ‘white’ in nature, and situates Pilates as a product of historically constructed social behaviors of dominant Anglo-European culture.

(Thanks to Jane Evans for bringing this to our attention.)

Here’s a Pilates video from the White Cloud Pilates Studio: