What’s common to the superheroes of our time? They’re all male, they’re all white and they’re all muscular. Superwomen are few and far between and when they do make an appearance, they’re so ridiculously sexualized that it’s a wonder they’re able to breathe inside those costumes, let alone save the world.
This is why it’s so refreshing to chance upon the Miss Moti comics, conceptualized by Nepali artist Kripa Joshi. Miss Moti, as her name suggests, is fat. It’s actually a relief to say this word out loud because we’re never supposed to call anyone fat any more – we have to use ‘kinder’ euphemisms like ‘rounded’ or ‘curvy’. ‘Moti’ also means ‘pearl’ and Miss Moti is certainly as precious as they come.
As Joshi says, Miss Moti is ‘an ordinary woman with an extraordinary imagination’. She is fat, she is brown and she is getting by life just fine even if she has moments of self-doubt. Who doesn’t?
Originally from Nepal, Joshi won a Fullbright Scholarship to pursue an MFA in illustration from the School of Visual Arts in New York. Apart from illustrating and conducting art workshops for children, Joshi is also the UK editor of The Strumpet, a woman-centric comic zine.
On her website, Joshi says, “The protagonist of my comics, Miss Moti, was born out my own issue with negative body image. In a world that places so much important on appearance, Miss Moti is an unlikely ‘hero’. She is plump and big and, on the outside, her life might seem very ordinary. However, as her fertile imagination blurs the line between fantasy and reality, we realize that her life, like her personality, is indeed extraordinary."
Miss Moti’s adventures could be as super-heroic as saving someone’s life or giving it back to her neighbours who’re too noisy in the sack. The comics are mostly wordless and feature short episodes from Miss Moti’s life – real and fantastical.
Chris Ware’s ‘Building Stories’ (2012) which features an unnamed woman with a missing leg as its central protagonist is a graphic novel that explores body image, body politics, gender, sexuality and a host of other things. There are barely any such comics that explore the lives of brown women though, making Miss Moti all the more relevant.
Kripa Joshi also has a ‘Miss Motivation’ series that shows Miss Moti doing inspirational things with inspirational quotes! Fat people usually appear as losers in popular culture and it’s good to see a brown, fat, South Asian woman challenging that stereotype with some sass.
All images source: Miss Moti website and Facebook page