Kill the Shame: Women Digital Artists Talk About Body Positivity

Meet three women illustrators who are leading India’s body positivity movement on Instagram.

4 min read

Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas
Shot by: Abhishek Ranjan, Hiba Beg, Arpita Raj

“I grew up believing fat is bad.”

“I kind of felt bad being skinny.”

“I would give myself hell for putting on weight.”

These are the words of women illustrators and digital artists who are leading the body positivity movement in India. Waging a war against the society’s idea of an ideal body, these artists are using their work to celebrate different shapes, sizes and colours. But each of them have a story behind their passion – one that begins with how they body-shamed themselves for a long time.

Meet Mounica Tata, a Bengaluru-based comics maker and storyteller, who has over 100,000 followers as @DoodleODrama on Instagram. While she says she draws about “anything under the sun,” a recurring theme in her work is to ‘normalise’ the word ‘fat.’

“It obviously took me a lot of time to understand this and come to terms with the word ‘fat’ and accept it. Honestly, I don’t feel bad if people call me fat. I identify as a fat person. That is one thing I do through my work, which normalises the word ‘fat’. It is just another word.”
Mounica Tata

Speaking to The Quint, Tata said that her journey towards body positivity started when she moved to Bengaluru to pursue her masters.

“I realised that that’s not the first thing people notice about me. If I start noticing that, people would stop noticing me as a silhouette which is a fat silhouette.” 
Mounica Tata

For Delhi-based illustrator and visual artist Damini Gupta, body positivity also means unlearning and “getting out” of the space which forced her into a bad relationship with food.

“I had my own trials and tribulations with my body. I have had a very bad relationship with my body, growing up. If I put on weight, I would really give myself hell for it. And as a result, I had a very bad relationship with food as well for a long time. So I think, I am also in the process. of unlearning that and getting out of that space of mine, even now.”
Damini Gupta

Damini’s Instagram page @haraminni has over 7,000 followers where she hopes to inspire people to create their own mold instead of trying to fit a ready-made one.

“I feel I have a certain duty because illustration takes such a large space in visual representation today, to represent many different kinds of bodies and shapes and as many kinds of bodies as possible.”
Damini Gupta

Story-telling Through Art

Mumbai-based Indu Harikumar aka @individuality tells stories about body positivity – not just her’s but also those of her followers.

“A struggle we go through with our bodies also is very shame-inducing, it makes us feel like we are alone. A lot of my work has come through stories that have come to me, which I felt we should be talking about because I have been worrying about this. This is something that has given me an emotional vocabulary.”
Indu Harikumar

For her projects ‘#Identitty’ and ‘#BodyOfStories’, Harikumar used Instagram as a medium to reach out to people who want their story to be heard.

“What are the different ways to have a body? That is a question I put out when I heard from different people and you know, there were lots of things I learnt. Instagram has basically become a space where you could have these smaller conversations on DMs.”
Indu Harikumar

Do Women Struggle More With Body Image?

While most of these conversations about body positivity on their pages happen with women followers, it only ‘very, very, very rare’ for a male follower to come forward with similar thoughts – the artists agree.

Which brings us to the question – is body positivity perceived as a ‘women’s issue’? Do women struggle a lot more with body image than men?

“When I talk about body positivity on my channel, I have a lot of women who come forward and share their stories but it is very, very, very rare for a man to come forward and share his story and his or their experiences about body positivity because it circles back to patriarchy.”
Mounica Tata
“I wouldn’t say that it is just a women’s issue because I hear from a lot of men too, saying that ‘what makes you think we don’t have problems?’ And I completely agree that there is this pressure of being a certain way. But I think the pressure on women is way higher.”
Indu Harikumar

However, as Gupta points out – what’s body positivity if it is not “inclusive”?

“I think it is important to bring all sorts of people into the fold, otherwise body positivity is nothing if it is not inclusive. Is important to bring men into the conversation. It is also important to bring trans people in the conversation or whoever can be helped by the movement.”
Damini Gupta

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