Rupi Kaur has taken on social media and won. Photos from her series focusing on the natural process of being on her period were removed from Instagram, even though there was no nudity or pornographic aspect to the pictures. It was, in fact, the menstrual blood itself that led to the photos being removed by Instagram. Twice.
Instagram has since apologized for removing the photos, but I, for one, don’t believe the social media site is sorry at all. After all, Facebook is notorious for similar removal of photos that show women in the natural act of breastfeeding their babies. However, because women’s natural breasts being used for their natural purpose of nourishing infants is too icky for the patriarchal institutions of social media, breastfeeding and NIP pictures are verboten. And yet, women can always be shown in skimpy lingerie, barely-there bikinis, or sexualized in some other context, and that’s perfectly fine.
Anyone who is shocked or disgusted by Rupi Kaur’s photos is actually shocked or disgusted by the very process that continues this species. Menstruating girls and women are ridiculed on a regular basis by young males, older males, boyfriends, husbands, films, comedic TV shows, and anyone else who doesn’t understand or appreciate what we put up with for decades of our lifetimes.
Our periods begin when we are around 10 years old and happen every month until we are around 50 or 55 — or older. Twelve periods per year, multiplied by 40 to 45 years of menstruation, equals 480 to 540 periods. At an average of one week each, that means women spend 480 to 540 weeks — that is, 9.2 to 10.4 YEARS actively bleeding. Not to mention the spotting before, the spotting after, the cramps before, during, and after a period, the headaches, even nausea, the chaos and uncertainty of peri-menopause, and other side effects men never have to experience directly.
Men also never have to experience the embarrassment of bleeding through their clothes in public; always keeping a restroom within eyesight in case of a flooding emergency; sitting for a time only to stand and see a biohazard stain on the chair; or skipping going out in public all together except for necessities such as work; bleeding through the sheets at nighttime; having to spot-clean the mattress in the middle of the night when you’re half-asleep, then sleep to the side of the bed so you don’t have to sleep on a cold, wet spot; or toddling to the bathroom with your thighs clenched together because you’re afraid of a big, bloody clot sliding out of your vagina and landing on the carpet; having to clean the bathroom floor, even spot-clean the bathmat, clean the toilet seat every time you go, even clean the wall if the weight of a blood-soaked tampon garnered too much velocity when being pulled out, flinging blood outward; feeling the sticky blood stuck in your ass crack; using miles of toilet paper to make sure there’s no sign your blood was ever there. Because we wouldn’t want anyone to know that women’s bodies have a purpose other than being ogled or used by men.
Women are ridiculed for this very basic act called menstruation when it should be celebrated. Without our periods — without our uteruses, humanity would end.
Women put up with a lot just being female. Societal ridicule and male-dominated institutions do not need to add to the shame already heaped on women just for being women. So I congratulate Rupi Kaur for standing up for herself and for all girls and women. See more of her pictures and read her story on her website.