79: How Racism and Historical Trauma Manifest Themselves in Struggles with Food and Body Image
Gloria Lucas is a champion for eating disorder awareness and body positivity and the owner and founder of Nalgona Positivity Pride (NPP). NPP is not your regular body positive project. NPP is a Xicana-Brown*-Indigenous project that focuses on intersectional body positivity, eating disorders awareness, and cultural affirmation. NPP was started in 2014 by Gloria in Southern California with the goal of relating historical trauma, social oppression, and eating disorders. NPP believes that racism, colonialism, ableism, homophobia, (etc.,) are all factors that lead to violent relationships with food and the phenomenon of destitute body image in communities of color. NPP offers education, social media content, support groups, and an Etsy store.
In this episode, Gloria and I discuss: the racism that runs through the body positive movement, the issues women of color experience that can contribute to struggles with food and body image and how people in other groups can support the work that women are already doing to help women find peace with food and their bodies.
*In this context, Brown refers to the mixed descendants of the indigenous from (what is known today as) America.
Links mentioned in this episode:
Gloria on Instagram: Nalgona Positivity Pride
Support Gloria's work on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/nalgonapositivitypride
Gloria's Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/NalgonaPositiveShop
A Hunger So Wide and So Deep by Becky Thompson
Positive Nutrition online course coming soon!
Join the Nutrition Matters Podcast Community on Facebook
Leave a review for the podcast here
Donate to the podcast
Full transcript of the episode:
You’re listening to nutrition matters podcast with Paige Smathers registered dietitian nutritionist.
Hey everyone, it’s Paige your favorite nutrition podcaster and dietitian. Nutrition matters podcast explores what really matters in nutrition and health with a sensitive and realistic approach. This podcast relies on the support of listeners like you and needs donations to keep this project running. To help support the podcast please consider making a donation at PaigeSmathersRD.com/podcast. If you find this episode interesting, engaging or helpful in your life please consider donating, sharing with friends and family and leaving a review on iTunes. You can leave a review about this podcast straight from your podcast app. Search nutrition matters podcast click review and then write a review. You can also find me on Instagram and Facebook at Page Smathers RD if you’d like to have a little more food for thought. Thank you for listening.
Hi everyone. This is Paige Smathers and welcome back to another episode of Nutrition Matters podcast.
I am a little bit beside myself with how excited and pumped I am to share this episode with you. This interview I did with Gloria Lucas was honestly, life changing for me. She speaks truth and she isn’t afraid to just tell it like it is and I really loved talking with her and really appreciated hearing her voice in regards to her own experience with an eating disorder in a brown body.
Today’s episode we really talk about a lot of really heavy issues like racism and systemic oppression and historical trauma and I want you to know before you listen to the whole episode this will probably make you uncomfortable. This will probably give you feelings of ugh this is too hard this is too painful or no way they’re crazy this isn’t my experience whatever it might be you might have some denial you might have some pain associated with it. If you do I just want to encourage you to work through that and continue to listen and continue to learn from Gloria because what she says is true. It is important especially in our current world we live in. And I just am so grateful to her for sharing this with me and for being the person she is who is bringing so many resources and so much hope and healing to her community and to our community at large and I’m grateful for that. So, I wanted to give a little of an introduction to let you know that this is a really hard-hitting episode but I think it’s very important and even if you get uncomfortable I want you to still listen. I would love to hear you discuss this with me and ask questions and follow along in the podcast Facebook group which is Nutrition Matters Podcast Study Group on Facebook. Join us there if you would like to discuss further. I want to make sure everyone listening knows about my online course which is all about helping you work out of chronic dieting and into finding your own healthy happy relationship with food and this a 10-week course completely online and it’s a lot of fun. If you like what you hear in the podcast over the time that you have been listening and want to dive a little deeper this is a really great resource to help you do that. Let’s sit back and listen to this episode with Gloria Lucas who is the founder and owner of Nalgona Positivity Pride and in this episode, she will explain more about what that is and what she does. Listen up you’re going to love love love this episode.
PAIGE: Gloria, welcome to Nutrition Matters Podcast I’m so glad you’re here.
GLORIA: Yay! Me too thank you for including me and wanting me to be part of your podcast
PAIGE: it’s just an honor for me to be able to talk with you and hear your voice and to learn from you. I’m so excited for what we have in store today. Really quickly do you want to take a minute to summarize who you are and what you do and I will ask some questions about how you got there?
GLORIA: Yeah so, I currently live in LA and was raised throughout Southern California. I run Nalgona Positivity Pride which is a project of mine that focuses on intersectional body image. Focuses on the experiences of brown Chicanas indigenous people and the whole focus is talking about how colonialism, systems of oppression all impact the way people of color and indigenous people view their bodies and our relationship to food.
PAIGE: That’s such important stuff because I know that the conversation around bodies and body image and food tends to be very white. Would you agree?
GLORIA: Yes, Yes.
PAIGE: So that’s not fair and that’s not right and that’s exactly what I want to talk to you about and learn from you about and understand how you go to where you are and how the work you’re doing is impacting people that you come across and work with. So, let’s start with understanding how you got there and why you chose to devote your life and professional work to this arena. Talk about life growing up with food and weight and body image what was that like for you?
GLORIA: So, I am the daughter of immigrant parents and I like most other girls of color grew up watching images mainly of white thin women and I knew from a very young age that the message was clear that I am different, I don’t equate to that of a white thin woman and I was a chubby teen. So, yeah, I think a lot of us and I’ve shared this with other people, how as girls as it is we are raised to be as little as possible and I mean little in all forms. Being raised as a girl of color you're even told to or taught that you need to be even smaller. So, I think all of those things played a role in my self hate and my low self-esteem and I think it’s very harmful when young girls can’t view themselves in media there’s no reflection so it gives you the message that you’re inferior that you are not enough and that you will never equate to those things because something must be obviously wrong. By the time I was ten I recall having symptoms of binge eating disorder and then by the time I was 17 I had bulimia and I struggled alone and I feel that in our communities there isn’t the same type of awareness when it comes to eating problems and we live in such a diet driven culture that whenever a person loses any amount of weight it’s seem as a good thing. You receive appraisals and so forth. So, having lived that I
PAIGE: So, you're saying you had experiences where your weight would fluctuate up or down and you’d get comments from other people
GLORIA: So not throughout my teens but the time I was bulimic I lost a lot of weight and it was then that the comments started coming
PAIGE: Which only makes you want to keep doing that behavior.
GLORIA: Right and I always say don't ever compliment a person.
PAIGE: I say that too yes! Except people get so mad because they think you’re telling them to walk on eggshells around each other. But is hardly ever taken as much of a compliment as you intended as the person that's saying it. But it's so easy for that to just make your issues or the things that you're going through even harder
GLORIA: Right. Right, and it’s just so sad how this idea that we are our bodies is always present. Like I feel that even within the body positive movement they repurpose that. They continue to put value on what our bodies are. And I feel like that’s a very toxic idea because we didn’t choose this body we didn't choose our abilities. this is just the vessel we have right now that allows us to have spirit that allows us to have thoughts. I’m just not my body. But again, hearing those types of comments about weight loss reminds especially women that we are our bodies and that our value is attached to what our bodies represent and look like. So, having lived with an eating disorder and struggling alone and then once the eating disorder took over all areas of my life I decided that I needed to get better and start my healing process. I didn’t have the luxury of professional treatment. Something that pretty much I had to do by myself.
PAIGE: Can I ask more about the struggle? I really want to hear about how it progressed from there. I want to know in your family and your community, neighborhood, and friend circle what was it like to struggle alone and why did you feel alone? What about the way things are set up made you feel alone?
GLORIA: You know it’s no secret that eating disorders for the past 30 years have been portrayed as only effecting white thin women who come from a privileged background and it’s usually anorexia. The idea that bulimia and anorexia exists in our community is not really talked about or addressed. There’s a lot of contradictions in regards to the way relationships to food are addressed. I think because a lot of our communities have traumas with lack of food there’s always this pressure to eat all the food on your plate. There’s this pressure to accept invitations to eat and you best believe that as soon as you start gaining weight they’re going the start addressing that your gaining weight so there’s a lot of mixed messaging going on. Thinking about monolingual speaking communities sometimes the eating disorder language has become so medicalized that it’s not accessible to day to day life. Nobody talks with those terms so if there’s not even the language not even representation of people like us struggling with food then that only deepens your eating disorder. Like I didn't grow up ever seeing somebody who talked like me looked like me walk like me come from my community address eating disorders. So, when you don’t have that reflection it’s like you’re not struggling. You don’t have that because if all you see is a white girl with an eating disorder well then, I must have something different I must not have that
PAIGE: right I don’t identify with that so that must not be where I am
GLORIA: Right and nobody cares. In the media when the white girl has an eating disorder everybody cares. Everybody wants to save her. Who wants to ever save a woman of color. I feel that the lack of representation is violent and recently two films came out. To the Bone. I mean it’s 2017 and we’re still listening to the same damn narrative of white girls with anorexia or white girl with an eating disorder.
PAIGE: I’m with you. That’s a problem.
GLORIA: it’s 2017. You know what I’m saying? So, to me it’s violent the fact that I as a young brown girl couldn’t find help that nobody could talk to me about eating disorders. And when I finally told my friends and loved ones they didn’t know what to do. That is violent. Lack of representation equals violence because it means that we don’t have issues we don’t potentially have mental health issues and therefore we have no resources. I think it’s very unfortunate that this continues being a conversation predominantly about white women. White cis gendered able bodied privileged women.
PAIGE: Well said and I totally agree with everything you’re saying. It’s a big problem and the fact that were not having these conversations more is a big problem which is one of the reasons I’m so grateful that your talking to me about this today and grateful for the work that you do to help people know that they’re not alone and to give language and words and resources and all the things that you felt like you were missing out on you’re giving that to people. It’s such a beautiful thing to see. Ugh I mean I don’t love what you’re saying but it resonates with me and I know it’s true. That’s painting the picture of where you were and why the sickness got harder and harder and deeper and deeper within you because not only re you female in a world that values thinness but you’re also struggling on so many other levels and so many other systems of oppression that are making it next to impossible to climb out of this hole that you’re feeling like you’re in. Right?
PAIGE: OK so meanwhile you’re unable to find resources but that’s kinda where you were. You’re about to say that you started working towards your own recovery on my own. I feel like that’s were you were when I cut you off. So, keep going. I’d love to hear what happened next
GLORIA: once the eating disorder took over all areas of my life and I mean all areas of my life, I knew that I had to get better and I had that realization that I was slowly killing myself and if I didn’t stop I would kill myself
PAIGE: did you have the language for it? Did you call it an eating disorder? Did you identify as that?
GLORIA: Within time I did.
GLORIA: That’s when I started to do my research I wanted to know why out of all people I developed an eating disorder because I felt that my experience as a brown woman or brown girl was very different to the reasons why white girls or white women develop eating disorders and I felt that all the information I was reading in regards to why eating disorders happen were missing a large component. Then I started to read.
PAIGE: just curious what you see as the typical reason white women develop eating disorders versus yours. Are you able to identify what that difference is?
GLORIA: it doesn’t address systemic oppression it doesn’t address racism the multiple messages that women of color receiving about our bodies versus white women for white women it’s just being thin. For us it’s very compartmental it’s very different. so many layers.
PAIGE: so many angles and vectors effecting it right?
PAIGE: What you mentioned as a kid seeing all the things you saw on tv were nowhere near representing you
PAIGE: which only adds to that feeling of “well, there’s something wrong with me. I’m not enough” like you mentioned earlier. I’m just trying to connect what you were saying earlier to now. How that comes into play. That makes perfect sense to me that then when you’re reading about recovery or recovery stories it again feels that same way. Which is a giant slap in the face
GLORIA: Right. Right. And there’s very few research and books. There isn’t a lot of research better said on women of color and eating disorders and the very few books out there. That’s what I started to read and find myself in those books and I feel that the book that saved my life and spoke to me was Becky Thompson’s book: A Hunger So Wide and So Deep a multiracial view on eating problems. That book made me ask more questions and led me to learn about historical trauma and led me to form what is today Nalgona Positivity Pride. because in that book she talks about how the legacy of slavery continues to inform black women on how they view their bodies. And although I’m not a black woman it made me question what has 500 years of colonialism turmoil racism done to my brown body. And that’s what led me to learn more about historical trauma learn about what exactly happened to the generations before me and how that all links up to me because we do embody what our ancestors went through. Through learned behavior through DNA through you name it right? So that is what led me to start NPP and that’s. When I learned about historical trauma I learned why I had an eating disorder something that no counselor could ever probably tell me because if you go to a counselor today they’re going to tell you what your issue is they’re not going to look about society they’re not going to look about all these systems in place that limit our capabilities that control our health. They’re not going to tell you that. They’re not going to tell you about how 500+ years of violence to targeted against a specific group that you belong to is what you are. You know? You are a product of that.
PAIGE: Well, especially a white therapist probably wouldn’t recognize that or see that
GLORIA: Correct. And for those of us that have this knowledge about what colonialism is and indigenous history this is information we have had to go and research for ourselves it wasn’t in our history books in school. Learning about all of this gave me an understanding not only as to why I had developed an eating disorder but why my family was so chaotic and why my community was hurting so bad. I started to view the world very differently after learning about these things
PAIGE: Can you share with us, oh sorry I didn’t mean to interrupt you go ahead
GLORIA: Something that no white person ever told me.
PAIGE: Can you tell me what you learned?
GLORIA: Well yeah. About how historical trauma. I mean historical trauma is a concept that really can apply to any group that has faced oppression. Like one of the first studies of historical trauma was on holocaust survivors from the Jewish holocaust. How the following generations of those that survived were impacted in different ways. Now, Dr. Maria Yellow horse brave heart was the pioneer in researching historical trauma within indigenous groups particularly I believe the Lakota people and in there she addresses that 500 years of colonialism. All those traumas didn’t just disappear literally we have embodied the... The predecessors of that lineage have embodied those lived experiences. What she claims as the signs of historical trauma is depression anger the continuously attracting stress and chaos in your life so reenacting affiliation within one’s own life. I fell that that’s something that I could see in my family with certain people. It talks about also dysfunctional relationships for instance I consider my eating disorder a dysfunctional relationship heart disease is also a symptom of historical trauma. All these things gave me a bigger understanding as to why I had mental health issues and why my community was hurting so bad and why so many men of color also have anger problems. So, when she talked about anger that women of color live through some of us are outwardly violent. Correct. We can be outwardly violent like men but because of gender roles and expectations more than likely we were not allowed to be outwardly violent so I feel that for us we eat the anger. we internalize that anger and that’s where we cut and that why we have eating disorders that why we drink a lot that why we’re in toxic relationships. It’s anger but it’s introverted anger. We manifest it differently.
PAIGE: That is fascinating! I think that’s fascinating!
GLORIA: so, we are angry which is a sign of historical trauma and the whole reenacting affliction within one’s own life. Unhealthy coping skills eating disorder is a very creative way to cope.
PAIGE: very adaptive. You do what you have to do to survive. OK so the historical trauma thing is fascinating to me and the way you’re describing it to me what I’m hearing is you’re kind of describing it in individual cases this is how historical trauma manifests itself I’m also kind of thinking from a on a more global level just kind of macro level like taking a step back it’s like we are still we still have these systems in place that are reenacting that historical trauma systemically as well not just on an individual basis but also just the way life and culture and society is set up you know. Does that make sense what I’m saying?
GLORIA: what you’re addressing is the fact that there’s this baggage of our back ground. That so many unresolved grief injury continues to be perpetrated today and then were told were the crazy ones. So, what we’re lacking is a bigger understanding of our stories and what our bodies have been made up of. I always talk about this in my talks those of us that identify as brown or Latino which is not a term I identify with but we are a product of rape. Literally. Cause being Mexican is not a race. We are part of rape. The mass rape that indigenous women had to endure by Spaniard men or European men. We are a product of that. Again
PAIGE: So, how can that carry through to this day right? Of course, it does. Of course, that historical trauma manifests itself in your physical body today. 2017.
GLORIA: right and injury continues to be perpetrated on a day to day basis.
PAIGE: Ok so how do you, Gloria, handle that? Did that just piss you off to find that out? How did that make you feel? Did it make sense? Was it a good moment? Was it like okay this makes sense or was it like I’m furious.
GLORIA: well maybe I should talk about the day that I… I had known about historical trauma but I feel that it’s such painful work and our bodies know that so we prolong personalizing it. I’m going to talk about how when I first personalized all of this. So, again, I feel that the body recognizes that learning about the past is very painful so I think for me I just kind of studied it around the edges but never really personalized it until finally I did and I was in this coffee shop that was predominantly white. I lived in the neighborhood like LA now where it’s communities of color and then bam white. I used to live in that type of community and there was this coffee place and I was there doing my research and then that’s when I learned about historical trauma and then that’s when I learned not only of me like why I had an eating disorder but I understood my community I understood my family but before I really got into that I was sitting in a spot where I could look at people entering the coffee shop and throughout the whole time I was there I kept getting that look by white individuals like you don’t belong here what are you doing here and I feel like that’s only something that people of color understand what that look is like so I kept getting that look and I was like ok I’m done with this like I’m going to get going but let me finish this part and then I’ll leave. Then I got to that part and I was in tears I… it was... I had so many I had gained so many levels of consciousness. ON top of dealing with racism then and there. It was a very multilayered revelation of my whole existence and I decided to stay in the coffee shop. I decided that I deserved to take up space and I’m glad that I made people uncomfortable because I’m a reminder of resiliency and I’m a reminder of what your probably grandparents did you know? I deserve to take up space and like I said in the beginning as girls of color were taught to not take up space. TO take a back seat all the time and it’s time that we stop doing that and allow our bodies our big bodies to take up space and make people uncomfortable. So that’s when I first learned about historical trauma and I felt a sense of urgency to share this info with others because no one told me this. So that’s how Nalgona Positivity Pride started.
PAIGE: and when was that? How long ago did you start?
GLORIA: if I’m not mistaken it must have been four or five years ago
PAIGE: OK. So, tell us about the work that you do.
GLORIA: Nalgona Positivity Pride has different components. What I do is I offer educational presentations that do address what I spoke about linking historical trauma with our bodies and our relationship to food. So, I do travel and give those talks. We also have 3 different support groups. One is in the making which is a youth program that were creating here in Los Angeles that is a body positive program and it’s geared for youth of color. Our goal with that program is to help youth understand history help youth understand how valuable they are and how to combat continuous messages of racist beauty standards. That is called Trensitas, Nalgona Positivity Pride Youth Nights. Our other support group sage and spoon which is a monthly online support group for people of color and indigenous people with eating problems. It’s completely free and our other group that we have is tecomiel translates to tea with honey and that is a woman of color circle here in Los Angeles that also meets once a month and the whole goal is to address body image and every month we have a different topic. This month is going to be talking circle for enraged women of color with everything that’s going on I feel that a lot of us are experiencing rage and anger which I believe is great. WE need to be angry and it’s ok to be angry. So, we’re having a talking circle addressing what’s been going on.
PAIGE: can you send me all the links to all those things so that I can be sure to include that in the show notes?
GLORIA: Sure, yes.
PAIGE: that would be good because I would love to help connect people to your work and your groups. All of those sound so amazing and so needed. I love all of them. I’m really especially excited about the one for young girls. it sounds like what you’re doing with that specifically is kind of what you wished you had.
GLORIA: right that’s exactly what we’re trying to create. We wish we would have had while growing up that could have provided so much healing that could have provided so much empowerment that we just didn’t receive
PAIGE: this is all so fantastic and I love everything you’re telling me. Tell us about your Instagram account and what you do with that.
GLORIA: so, I feel that now days the way to reach out to youth and YA and just people in general you have to be in social media. I’m a big believer in creating our own media as marginalized communities so social media is a way to do that. Social media is a way to interrupt to disrupt things and I use that as a way to reach out to people who might be struggling alone. I was struggling alone nobody was reaching out to me so we’re trying to change that so we create our own media we highlight our experiences for instance on my social media I do not post any images of white people because I feel that that’s everywhere else so why not create our own accts where we could see ourselves. And like I said the lack of representation equals violence so we want to disrupt that and yeah so that’s the way that people can hear about us and hopefully learn about different perspectives
PAIGE: what the response you’re getting from the talks you’re doing and the groups you’re forming and your work on social media and I would guess that that in particular teaching people about the real history and giving context into you exist right now in time but what about all the people that came before you how does that affect you today. I would guess that for a lot of people that just makes things click into place and helps them understand themselves so much better.
GLORIA: I feel that for me it took me years to really personalize this message. I feel like a lot of people go through that as well. It’s a journey but the response has been for the most part very affirming and very positive. And I can’t tell you the amount of messages that I received from all kinds of people who have struggled or are struggling with body image or an Eating disorder. the truth is that eating disorders do exist in our communities whether people want to accept that or not the only difference is that we can really hide it behind closed doors because we don’t even have the language sometimes or the representation. This is a thing that’s in high rates I feel and that’s really taking place and I’m not going to sit here and say that Nalgona Positivity Pride is one size fit’s all because it doesn’t nothing does but I think it is a great first effort in creating a platform for some marginalized communities. So, I think overall, it’s been very positive and affirming to people and myself
PAIGE: that’s so incredible and I love the idea that your coming full circle and providing resources you wish you had. One thing that’s coming up for me as your talking is thinking about the medical community and I would really love, I didn’t prep you for this question but it’s just coming to me now. I would really love to hear about what it’s like to seek care and see a doctor, physician. And what the response you get and perhaps the racism you’ve encountered I would guess. do you have anything to say about that or anything to shed light on?
GLORIA: Yeah, I mean are you regarding addressing Eating disorders when we go to...? Or just in general?
PAIGE: I just mean in general because here’s the story w a lot of the people that I work with. There’s this fear of seeking care if you are a person in a larger body because of the stigma and the bias that the medical community has just with that. Now add on a brown person seeking care in a larger body or a black person seeking care in a leger body. I just can’t imagine the level of disregard perhaps the inability or unwillingness to listen and to really hear you. I’m not trying to put words in your mouth here I just hear this a lot in my office and I think it’s important for people to understand what it feels like to seek care and how that perhaps fear that people feel because of the racism they might encounter or sizism that they might encounter and you’ve got to ask yourself how does that affect my health if I’m not able or willing to go see a doctor, how’s that going to affect me health wise?
GLORIA: First of all, I don’t have medical insurance. a lot of us don’t a lot of especially millennials have to suck it up whenever were sick but when I have made it to see a doctor it’s always about you need to lose weight your BMI is too high. I don’t identify as a fat person. I identify as a chubby person plus sized person because I feel that there is a difference. I must only imagine what fat people experience when they go to the doctor it seems like from what I’ve heard all health issues are linked to their weight and therefore it doesn’t encourage them to go see a dr. so for me it’s been oh you have to lose weight. Other things that I’ve heard when people have seeked help is things such as my friend who went to go see a dietitian got told that Mexican food is unhealthy. So that’s racism.
PAIGE: That doesn’t surprise me.
GLORIA: it’s very ignorant because they don’t understand that Mexican food is such a huge variety of food. and what type of Mexican food are you talking about? are you talking about pre-Hispanic Mexican food? are you talking about Mexican food after colonialism because the reason why our food changed so drastically was because of colonialism. I mean a lot of our indigenous diets were plant based but that was all lost with the introduction of meat and dairy you know with some indigenous populations. You know things like that do happen and I can only imagine what other people experience in areas outside of California.
PAIGE: absolutely. This is a topic that I think is just really fascinating. The barriers to medical care whether that’s a doctor, a dietitian whoever and the racism that’s weaved into the system of that. That then only makes any health issue you might be struggling with even harder to deal with because you don’t have support you don’t have resources and you internalize “well it’s because of something I’m doing wrong or it’s because of my culture” or whatever it might be and that’s another area of violence that I see and it’s not fair and not right
PAIGE: and I don’t want to make this about white people that the last thing I want to do here. But I want to give you the chance to speak to white people perhaps who are listening. What do you want them to know? What do you want them to know about you? If anything. Is that a fair question?
GLORIA: yeah, I think my number one thing is to tell and ask white people to think about the way that colonialism benefit’s them. Yeah that would be my number on thing. To sit on that. To not run away from it. To not experience dissonance when things such as slavery, such as indigenous biological warfare, rape. When we talk about all these things to confront it and ask yourselves how do I benefit from this because it’s about that. White people benefited from our genocide and continue to benefit from racism. Ask yourselves how do you play a role in that and what exactly are you doing to disrupt that.
PAIGE: I love that and I’d also add that I feel like this is a lot of work. Like you’re talking about the work that you did to personalize your own understanding of historical trauma and how that affects you. I feel like no matter who you are you should be doing that work you know? You should be doing that work of understanding how systems of oppression might be benefiting you might be oppressing you. Understanding that sometimes you just need to take some time to listen and it might be really uncomfortable to hear someone say that you’re racist or that’s weaved into our society and you might want to just say no that’s not me. No of course not I love all people but that’s not fair. We need to do the work of discovering where we give someone a look. We might give someone a look in the cafe that you’re talking about and how that’s internalized and how many times a day do you think someone in a brown body is experiencing those types of looks. So, I’m encouraging people listening to do that work of trying to ask yourself the really hard questions and also listening to people. Trusting people when they tell you that they’re being oppressed or that there is racism alive and well. I think it’s been made horrifically clear as of the last few weeks and months that that’s alive and well. But even with that just ask yourself the hard questions. Do the hard work and I guess that’s just what I want to say. What do you want to add to that?
GLORIA: if you’re not uncomfortable and if it’s not painful then you’re not learning and you’re not getting the point. For us were always uncomfortable. This is something that you get to for moments get uncomfortable. We are always having to live through this one way or the other. Through micro aggressions through not seeing ourselves represented getting denied opportunities what not right? So, if you’re not uncomfortable then something is really wrong. Part of learning is hurting
PAIGE: that is so true. That is so profound. I’ve been thinking about that concept a lot lately. I think you’re totally right about that. Pain is what teaches you and what helps you learn
GLORIA: and stop being so fragile. And sometimes all white people need to do it shut up (laughter). I mean really. The honest truth. sometimes all that white people need to do it shut. Up. Don’t ask us to cater our work for you. This is something that I continuously face is white folks telling me how I need to do my talks how it needs to be more about them. and I’m like no my work is for people of color and indigenous people it’s not for white people. Not everything. Everything is made for you in this country just one hour that you can’t sit down and put yourself in someone else’s place? There’s a problem there.
PAIGE: And I’m sorry if I did that
GLORIA: No no
PAIGE: I didn’t mean to turn it into that at all here
GLORIA: No no. I’m not saying that. I’m saying from past experiences that I have with my work.
GLORIA: and the fact that they just you know multiple aggressions that I have faced with doing my type of work and how white people feel that it needs to be catered for them when it’s not.
PAIGE: I think you’re spot on. that’s so so true. What can white people do other than shut up?
GLORIA: well, I mean think about it. How many white women voted for trump. Stop telling women of color that we need to be in solidarity with all of y’all. It’s like the first thing. We’re not going to be in solidarity with people who support our oppression. So, first of all do that. Stop raising kids to be racist. And I think it’s about all of white people doing their work in their own white communities. Making other white people uncomfortable. That’s not, we didn’t do that. That’s not our dirty work
PAIGE: Absolutely not.
GLORIA: and I can only speak about my experience. I mean, I’m a brown woman. Again, I can only speak from that but we’re not one community we have so many differences but yes, it’s. White people need to go to their own communities and disrupt there and talk to your racist grandfather talk to your racist neighbor. Do that work. It’s not our work. I recently saw that the women’s march posted something in regards to “now is the time for women of color to take leadership and for us to follow” or something within those lines. And I’m like say that again? Who needs to do this work? This is not our work? This is all of white people’s work. We didn't create this mess. So y’all need to go out and figure that. And remind yourselves again how first as white women have been the biggest oppressors for other women of color. How continuously the feminist movement has violently left out women of color has never centered the experiences of indigenous women. This is work for all of you to do in your community stop giving us more work to do. Please.
PAIGE: I love that. Thank you for speaking freely and honestly and not mincing words. I love that. I’m glad that you feel. I know that that’s your style and that’s who you are but I’m glad that you feel able to do that. I just support that and affirm that.
GLORIA: yeah, we gotta stop being nice.
PAIGE: I agree. I agree.
GLORIA: we gotta stop being nice.
PAIGE: can I share with you something? A few, maybe a few years ago I heard someone say something that just knocked me off my feet. Someone said all white people are racist. Something very intense like that. I was like (gasp)! You know? I caught myself just being shocked and wanting to just say no way. But luckily, I’ve done enough of my own internal work to recognize there’s a reason someone is saying that. I need to listen to that. I need to sit with that. I need to explore that with myself and I’m not trying to act like I’m perfect at this or have figured it all out but the more I have explored that the more I’ve learned how very true that is. The more I’m committed to trying to do my best to not be a part of that and to actively do my part to give voice and listen more. Give voice to others and listen more. And to learn what I can do. Something that pains me a little bit and I would love to hear what you think about this, is you described how people of color are always uncomfortable and white people kind of get uncomfortable little snippets of their day maybe in regards to race but then just can go back to their whatever and not have to exist in that space constantly. I feel that. I feel when I am in the presence, like I’m just thinking of a particular instance, I went and did a presentation and a talk for young girls at a local library and it was in a place where everyone there was young women of color. I could feel that they were uncomfortable with me. I could feel that. I could tell. I could sense that from them. That there was sort of this like “oh a white girl’s here and we have to be on our best behavior” or something. I don’t know exactly what was going on in their minds but I could sense that uncomfortable feeling. It pained me. It made me sad. It made me want it not to be that way. But I also recognize that for those young girls to feel comfortable with me I need to earn that. I needed to work for that and needed to build trust because of the day in day out experiences they have with white people. What would you add to that, though? What would you say?
GLORIA: for me, what comes up to mind is that white people can not do our work. For instance, the work that I’m doing white people can not do that. the work that I’m doing with Trensitas and all these support groups, white people can not do that. The white people can support is through literally supporting the marginalized communities that are already doing the work. And the truth is that injury is already there with our experiences with certain white people. The injury is there and you know I think you're bringing up something that is very personal to me the fact that I feel that the body positive mvmt does not need another or anymore white thin women in the movement. The truth is that for a lot of us girls of color that's what we were told that we needed to be and that we could never be and because of that we’re tainted and were not enough. So, the whole imagery of white thin women is triggering for a lot of us. it’s extremely triggering and it’s hurtful to see how these types of women continue to get platforms and credibility and um yeah, continue to get all this support. Meanwhile all these people of color or other marginalized communities continue not to receive those same opportunities. So, yes, I would say that clearly the body positive mvmt does not need more white thin women.
PAIGE: ok so I’m a white thin woman. What do I do with that? Do I stop trying to be a force for good? I totally hear you. It’s just when I hear that it’s like “am I in the wrong line of work?” you know? Tell me what we do with that.
GLORIA: I think white people need to support the people in marginalized communities that are already doing the work. I feel that’s the best approach. And I think there’s. I always say this “stay in your lane” type of thing. I feel that continue to do this work. A lot of us are already in this. A lot of white thin women are already in this but think about what type of space you take up in this mvmt. I feel like, I don't know, to be honest I have in my mind people that are doing this type of work that I feel the way that they’re doing this work as white thin women is so wrong. The wrong way. And I feel, thinking about, again, what type of space are you taking up in this mvmt are you the body positive person that continues to just posting images of yourself? What does that do for us? It doesn’t do nothing because we could just open up random magazines Vogue and there’s your image but we again don't need more white thin women imagery or white thin women talking on our behalf because we’re talking for ourselves. What type of space are you taking up? I’m not saying all white thin women go quit your jobs. You know? I'm not saying that. I’m saying what type of space are you taking up? How are you doing your work and in what ways are you supporting those of us that are doing this work. Because again white people can not do our work and we got to be careful there. Because we don't want to engage in the white savior complex. That’s the same mentality colonial, conquistadores, Europeans had when they saw us. We need to save. No no no it’s not about saving we can save ourselves. Y’all just need to stop perpetuating injury for us to save ourselves. Yes what type. What type, how are you doing your work? What type of imagery are you using for your work and are you taking up the space that another marginalized person could have been taking place of? Who are you speaking on behalf of? That’s what I’m asking.
PAIGE: so, when I asked you to come on my podcast did you have a level of concern in regards to what you’re saying about like how’s that going to go? Here’s another thin white woman.
GLORIA: well luckily...
PAIGE: I had that concern. Honestly, I had that concern. Will she think that I’m doing these things? Will I say something that will make her feel like I’m doing the white savior complex thing? Or whatever? Like I am aware enough to know that that was something that I was trying to negotiate and navigate. that’s why I’m so grateful that you're here because I feel like we're having a great conversation and I’m learning so much from you. Yeah, I want to hear you speak.
GLORIA: well the truth is that my priority is working with other marginalized communities that’s first. First and most important thing for me. But, I feel that this is a podcast. I feel that I’ve done other podcasts with other white women and it has gone very well. I feel that the fact that you are inviting me was a sign that ok you know you want to do something different you want you are creating a platform for people like us to be part of enjoy and help disrupt things so again I mean I, whenever I work with white people that’s always something that I have to prepare myself for beforehand is prepare yourself in case a microaggression or something happens. Which is part of learning. Part of learning you know. Did I have reservations about this? We do all the time. But I think that for us it’s like we’re selective. Like, for me, I’m very selective with the people that I work with and I felt that you were coming from a place where you are trying to centralize our voices. Yeah, that's how I felt about it and like I said microaggressions happen and sometimes we just have to choose who we’re willing to put up with when it comes to those things. you know? I think that what you’re doing is great. That you’re trying to highlight other people s perspectives. Because unfortunately the eating disorder world is dominated by white women. I feel that by you doing this it’s a great effort to change that.
PAIGE: this has been an amazing experience for me. In light of the world that we live in right now and the things that are going on. it’s more important than ever for me to quit talking about some of these fringy things that don't feel as important as what we talked about today. This is core, this is systemic, this is centralized, this is hurting people. We all listening no matter who you are need to ask yourself what me might be doing to perpetuate that or how that already, historical trauma within your ancestors and in your DNA and in your blood, that runs through your veins is affecting you. I’m just grateful for the opportunity that you’ve given me today to learn about that. And to hopefully help shed light and help people clarify wats going on for them. I think that's so important. I'm grateful and thank you so much. Just take a minute to talk about how people can find you online. I know you have an Etsy shop and just mention all the things that you want people to know about how to keep in touch.
GLORIA: I’m very active on Instagram and they can find me by typing in all lowercase all together nalgonaproitivitypride. I'm also on Facebook, and I have a Patreon page. For people that don't know what is a Patreon page it is a website in which people can be sustainers for people doing work such as my work such as art such as a YouTube channel such as a podcast. I do have a Patreon page for those who would like to support my work. One of my goals for next year is to collect the stories of indigenous and brown women who have been effected by eating disorders and publishing that.
PAIGE: that's so incredible
GLORIA: right when was the last time you heard about an indigenous or native American woman’s experience with an eating disorder? Exactly. Eating disorders are very prevalent in these communities. So that's my next journey and of course everything involves money. It’s about money so for the white people this is one way of solidarity. Is recognizing you cannot do this work because the injury is there and whenever white people have tried to do this work they end up just sometimes creating more problems so this is a way to support this liberation work. It’s liberation work it’s supporting those who are already doing this work. Etsy, Instagram, Facebook, and support groups. I have different support groups. If you have clients, if you have friends or loved ones that are struggling with an eating problem. we do have a monthly online support group that they can stay anonymous they could call in or they could even do they video if they choose to. But they can stay anonymous.
PAIGE: Great and you’ll send me those links so that I can include that in the show notes and everybody can be able to find that. That's great. Thank you so much Gloria.
GLORIA: thank you!