As the music kicked in during the GoodLife Fitness weightlifting class and Beth Spratt started to limber up, she was shocked to realize the sexy Christina Aguilera song on the sound system had been scrubbed clean of any reference to her lesbian kiss.
“I’m kissing all the boys and the girls” is the line. But the GoodLife version had the word “girls” edited out, Spratt says.
At first Spratt didn’t notice the censorship, but then she perked up.
“I thought, ‘Wait a minute, I know that’s not how the song goes,’” she says. “I was furious. I kept saying, ‘Did I really hear that?’ It was a distinct sound of a kick over the gay content in the song.”
“Not Myself Tonight” was one of the tracks selected for GoodLife’s newest body-pump class. Spratt was at the company’s Manulife Centre location in Toronto on Jan 30. She filed a complaint Jan 31.
Since then, Spratt has been emailing senior management at GoodLife head office, trying to find out why the song was censored. She noted that at no point did a GoodLife manager pick up the phone and call her. Spratt says she plans to pull her membership as a result of the incident.
“They are censoring explicitly sexual content. GoodLife should be stepping up to support the queer community,” she says. “If they are going to be in this community, they should not censor queer content.”
Aguilera’s “Not Myself Tonight” isn’t the only song that’s been censored. Spratt’s lover, Susana Romero, noticed a similar edit to Katy Perry’s “Hot and Cold” during a GoodLife spinning class on Feb 8.
“They cut out the line ‘PMS,’” she says. “It’s totally censored. Why? It doesn’t make any sense. PMS? That’s not offensive at all. That’s anti-women.”
The official statement from GoodLife on Feb 3 told Spratt that all music for the fitness classes is “created, produced and licensed in New Zealand though Les Mills International.”
“Les Mills provides music to 1,300 clubs in 75 countries, which means what may (or may not) be offensive in one country may not (or may) be offensive somewhere else,” a spokesperson writes in an email to Spratt. “The program directors for all Les Mills disciplines work hard to ensure that they are inclusive to everyone while attempting to keep in mind the individual requests from around the world.”
Spratt says she was surprised to hear GoodLife seem to condone censorship, with the argument that some countries are more anti-gay than others.
Brad Lindsay, manager of GoodLife’s member-experience department, tells Xtra he plans to ask all GoodLife instructors at all locations to stop playing the Aguilera song. He has also brought the complaint to the attention of Les Mills International and asked that they be mindful in the future about how they edit songs.
“That song is used for the squat track, so it’s a pretty integral song. So it’s not one we can just remove, but we can replace it with another,” he says.
“I do wonder sometimes [with Les Mills]. If you can’t use a song as is, why not just choose another song?”
“GoodLife Fitness really tries hard to create a safe and welcoming environment for everyone,” he says.