'The Fat Lady Scribbles': Meet the Kerala artist who challenges body shaming on Instagram

Nimmy Mohammed Saffir uses the Instagram handle The Fat Lady Scribbles, a name that many had asked her to change, but one she proudly sticks to.
'The Fat Lady Scribbles': Meet the Kerala artist who challenges body shaming on Instagram
'The Fat Lady Scribbles': Meet the Kerala artist who challenges body shaming on Instagram
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At first, ‘The Fat Lady Scribbles’ was just a name she chose to have an identity of her own. Nimmy Mohammed Saffir didn’t think too much about it, just needing a handle on Instagram when she decided to come back to art after many years. It had been a hobby once, but it’s quite a stress reliever now, an answer perhaps to all the body-shaming comments she and many other women face every day of their lives.

“It was when people began suggesting that I should change the handle that I decided to stick with it. I mean, random people – strangers on the internet – were telling me what I should name my handle,” says Nimmy, on a day she is visiting Thiruvananthapuram.

Nimmy grew up in Kollam, finished her electronics engineering and became a lecturer. Not for long, though. She went on to learn graphics and the web. “But then I got married, had a child, moved to Dubai and took a long break from work and art,” Nimmy says.

She’s moved back to India now, and is rediscovering her love for art. “It began as lettering and inking. I put quotes – my own words or else ones that inspire me for which I give credit. And then I began using digital media, and with it, pictures of fat women in the nude,” says Nimmy.

It didn’t take long for the moral police to come with their unasked-for opinions, suggestions, commands - sent to her as direct messages. “A Muslim woman should wear a hijab,” one said. “You should not be drawing women in the nude, especially fat women!” said another.

It didn’t bother Nimmy. It used to – body shaming comments said in person, over the internet, random people she met giving her tips to lose weight. “It stopped bothering me after a point. I think I just matured. I wouldn’t lose weight to please anyone, but I would if I need to for health reasons.”

There’d be comments of concern too. “People who never met me saw my handle and said don’t worry, I am not fat. And then I would say, yes of course I am fat, you have not met me!” It is just a fact that she has accepted, but somehow others are not able to. Nimmy could not understand what everyone’s problem was with the word fat. Some would advise her to make it ‘broad’ because fat is just unhealthy. Nimmy responds to all such comments with a hash tag ‘fatisbeautiful’ and then that would bring another bunch of offended reactions – ‘you are glorifying something unhealthy’.

But what keeps Nimmy going is the need to do this for herself and other women like her, burdened every day by body-shaming comments. “Once I got a message from a 20-year-old, who weighed 100 kgs. She seemed suicidal, she said she just couldn’t take it anymore. I am happy I am able to help out such young people, through my art.”

From being a naïve young woman once, Nimmy has grown into a confident artist, very sure of what she wants in life. She didn’t think she was a feminist until she realised all the women she admired and followed were one, and it is that quality that attracted her – the stands against patriarchy, male chauvinism and the decision to take control of your life. “The feminichi (word used to mock Malayali feminists, but one many proudly attach themselves to) inside me just came out,” she says, laughing.

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