Toronto-based spoken word poet Rupi Kaur uploaded a picture of herself on Instagram this week, and unleashed a revolution.
The image, seen below, showed the back of a woman's body, including a spot of blood between her legs, as well as blood on her bedsheets. As most women will recognize, this is what happens when your period leaks. It was part of a photo series Kaur placed on her Tumblr account depicting her and her sister's menstrual cycles.
As she wrote on Tumblr:
"i bleed each month to help make humankind a possibility. my womb is home to the divine. a source of life for our species. whether i choose to create or not. but very few times it is seen that way .. in older civilizations this blood was considered holy. in some it still is. but a majority of people. societies. and communities shun this natural process. some are more comfortable with the pornification of women. the sexualization of women. the violence and degradation of women than this. they cannot be bothered to express their disgust about all that. but will be angered and bothered by this. we menstruate and they see it as dirty. attention seeking. sick. a burden. as if this process is less natural than breathing. as if it is not a bridge between this universe and the last. as if this process is not love. labour. life. selfless and strikingly beautiful."
Instagram, however, determined the image violated their community guidelines, and took it down — twice. Which led Kaur to fight back, garnering massive amounts of support along the way.
Take a look at the deleted image here and Instagram's response, as well as Kaur's extensive and important commentary:
After approximately a day, Instagram reversed its decision and allowed the photo back on the site. As they wrote in a statement issued to The Huffington Post Canada, "When our team processes reports from other members of the Instagram community, we occasionally make a mistake. In this case, we wrongly removed content and worked to rectify the error as soon as we were notified. We are sorry for this mistake."
While Kaur's work is jolting and certainly designed to make people feel uncomfortable, it also draws attention to massive issues that exist outside of Instagram. Despite being experienced by almost half of the world's population once a month, menstruation has been a taboo topic for centuries.
As HuffPost U.K. editor Brogan Driscoll writes in a blog on the topic, "We hide tampons in up our sleeves en route to the loo, we whisper when asking friends for a spare sanitary pad, and we exclude guys from any conversations about women's things." And of course, there are the bigger issues.
Historically, women were sent away from society when they had their periods, and in many cultures, it's still considered a dirty and shameful event.
A squeamishness with talking about menstruating likely informs such problems as lack of access to feminine hygiene supplies in developing countries, which can lead to infections from using alternative methods, as well as missing school or work. Similarly, at food banks in North America, sanitary pads and tampons are some of the most requested items.
While Kaur's photo may be considered graphic by some, her use of it to make a larger point about society got plenty of attention, and possibly even changed how one of the most influential platforms in the world approaches their treatment of women, periods and all.
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