Dolma Lhamo: The Illustrator Dismantling Fat-Phobia and Misogyny Through Art

“voice in my head told me by exercising, throwing up, losing enough weight, I would finally become the “right” size to leave the house”

Hello, my name is Dolma Lhamo and I am a Nepali illustrator based in England. My drawings weave together topics of women, beauty standards and it’s negative impacts on women’s mental health. 

I try to use my medium to urge women to put themselves first. To stop letting other’s judgements define them, to stop being so critical about their exterior spacesuits, and instead to look within themselves to find their own voice as an individual. Find such strength in the quality of their interior, that at every different size their body goes through, their “pretty” is always plenty on the exterior. I’m currently going through this transition mentally, and it feels glorious. I just want everyone to feel the same magic. 

Growing up in a south-asian community where thinness is glorified, everyone had an opinion to say because I was a bigger girl. Dealing with a fat-phobic community was not easy, because with the shame comes internalising fat-phobia. In all honesty, I remember when I was 16, I spent two years in my bedroom. Literally. I had this self pitying voice in my head that told me by exercising, throwing up and losing enough weight, I would finally become the “right” size; to leave the house, and do everything I ever desired to. I wasn’t even that “big”. Sure, I lost 20kgs, but I also lost two of my teenage years. In a community where opinions are constantly thrown, when I allowed my exterior to be scrutinised, I ultimately let others control how I lived my life. It took experiences like this for me to realise that finding my own power, and owning it was so important for my mental health.

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I think that my body not being socially correct growing up, is deeply rooted in the sexual objectification of women’s bodies in Nepali culture. How marriage is perceived is an important example, because the idea of women existing to cater to men is romanticised. In Nepal, marriage is a method of survival, domestic households perceived as a business partnership between two families. Traditionally, men are encouraged to be the sole financial providers, thus for the bride’s families, a women’s beauty is money. A country where arranged marriage customs are the norm, beauty wins financial stability, therefore stakes are high when “she” doesn’t fit beauty standards. 

Sure things are not “extreme" anymore because of western influences, but the objectification of women still bleeds into Nepali households, justified by old cultural traditions and gender roles. Body-shaming is an example of the side-effect- that not only affects Nepali women, but women every race and size. Quite frankly, its the 21st century, women are such multifaceted magnificent beings, that we don’t deserve misogynistic behaviour towards us. It stunts our growth in huge amounts. 

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I want to keep spreading my message to help women to connect the dots of their own experiences, to openly speak to other women to share experiences too, because realisation is the only way to become the best version of yourself. You would be surprised as to how many intangible aspects of your life sexism impacts. Our bodies are never the problem, the problem is sexist mindsets towards a woman’s capabilities outside their bodies and I want to be really clear on that. It’s time to reclaim of bodies. 

When I complete a drawing, a small part of my childhood mends. When others see my drawings I hope it helps mend a small part of them too.

Article by Dolma Lhamo