White Woman Becomes Maasai Warrior (Seriously)

Meet the very problematic Mindy Budgor.

By Aura Bogado Sep 13, 2013

When Mindy Budgor was 27 years old, she apparently tried to find meaning in her life by temporarily ditching her wealth in Santa Barbara and jetting over to hang with the poor people of Kenya for two weeks on a humanitarian mission. While there, she says she met Maasai warriors and a chief named Winston who told her women were not allowed to be warriors. Budgor then returned home and hired a personal trainer to prepare her to return to Kenya to test the Maassai’s practice. According to Yahoo.com, Budgor says she was rejected by Winston, but then found someone else to help her meet her personal challenge:

After working with a personal trainer for six weeks in California to get in shape for her upcoming challenge, Budgor, along with a similarly adventurous friend, returned to Winston. He reneged on his offer, but the determined women found their way to a more open-minded warrior named Lanet, in Nairobi, who agreed to take them on. 

In an essay on The Guardian, Budgor claims that she was successful in her inexplicable drive to change a people she never had any connection with. On her website, which promotes the book she penned called "Warrior Princess: My Quest to Become the First Female Maasai Warrior," the oddly beaded Budgor is described as answering a higher calling:

Mindy immediately realizes her calling and thus begins her amazing adventure to become the first female Maasai warrior. As a result of this training and advocacy, the Maasai in Loita, Kenya, are leading the charge to change tribal law and allow women the right to become Maasai warriors. Mindy as a tribe member is ready to return to stand with her fellow-warriors against whatever opposition they might face–be it lions, or elephants, or Western-influence.

There’s a very long and tragic history of white people acting as saviors, going abroad and wreaking absolute cultural, environmental, economic, and political havoc. There’s also a very troubling history of white people misappropriating customs and robes that do not belong to them. Budgor seems to be comfortable repeating these practices and then some.

The fact that Budgor recognizes tribal law but feels comfortable challenging it–while claiming she is helping "her fellow-warriors against […] Western-influence"–is disturbing, least of all for the contradiction her practice contains. Perhaps more disturbing is that Budgor regards herself "as a tribe member" after spending several weeks in Nairobi on a self-styled safari and returning to her actual home in the U.S. Budgor seems to be behaving less like a Maasai warrior and more like a white woman writing a book to turn a profit from her romanticized trip to Kenya.