It isn’t just the hyper-patriarchal ethos in India that should be subjected to a ‘feminist vivisection’ but that of the world as a whole. For all those of you, who scroll through massive kilos of feed on social media regularly, this might not be news! But as for those of you, who have happened to miss it, or worse, ignored it by scrolling past in a huff, this is exactly the article you must be reading.
Rupi Kaur, a Sikh poet studying at the University of Waterloo, Canada, had put up an image on her Instagram account, which was a part of her photoseries project for a visual rhetoric course. The picture was subsequently taken down by Instagram citing violation of ‘Community Guidelines.’ Want to know what was so offensive? Take a look:
One need not look at it twice to decipher why it was deemed inappropriate for a website that feeds off of the millions of images of half-naked girls and highly sexualized photos. After all a Kim Kardashian can splatter nude pictures all over the forum, a semi-clad Miley Cyrus can get thousands of likes and comments, thus revving up traffic for the site, and a filthy misogynist like Dan Bilzerian can, with his highly objectifying pictures of babes clad in nothing but bow ties, shaving his beard can be hailed as Instagram king! But this picture – a picture that stains the website’s dignified image with a blood stain – no! Against ‘Community Guidelines’!
In an open letter to Instagram, Rupi Kaur challenges their decision,
Thank you @instagram for providing me with the exact response my work was created to critique. You deleted a photo of a woman who is fully covered and menstruating stating that it goes against community guidelines when your guidelines outline that it is nothing but acceptable. The girl is fully clothed. The photo is mine. It is not attacking a certain group. Nor is it spam. And because it does not break those guidelines I will re-post it.
She adds why she is unapologetic (and rightfully so) about the post that the ‘behind-the-desk’ authorities at Instagram deem inappropriate because it is against ‘Community Guidelines.’
I will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of a misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak when your pages are filled with countless photos/accounts where women (so many of whom are underage) are objectified, pornified, and treated less than human. Thank you. This image is a part of my photoseries project for my visual rhetoric course. you can view the full series at rupikaur.com 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 is it 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, 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. (sic)
We have been fighting against the taboo related to menstruation for a long time now. And it is repetitive, but necessary nonetheless, to reiterate upon the need to see this ‘natural’ process as really natural. Why can’t the world accept that it owes its very existence to the process they seem to be so disgusted and repelled by? It isn’t the blood that leaks out of our vaginas that is repugnant, it is your mindset. And Rupi Kaur, in putting up her pictures, is attempting to challenge and vanquish just that.
I am thankful to her for bringing the discussion center stage, in a way that not only is a blatant token of the imperative need to defy and defeat the highly patriarchal culture that can hungrily devour the shameful objectification of women but cannot seem to accept a normal function of their bodies by adjudging it ‘shameful’ instead, but also capture moments in time that every woman can relate to.
After her re-post, Instagram went ahead and took down the photo a second time. She came back, even more powerful and stronger than before:
Dear tumblr family,
Instagram has chosen to once again, take down this image for violating community guidelines. Despite the fact that about 95% of comments were beautiful. And in support.
This just goes to show who is sitting behind the desk. And who’s controlling the show, who’s controlling the media and who’s censoring us.
It’s sad that this is still happening in this world. I know that some communities and cultures go out of their way to shun and oppress a woman on her period. I guess Instagram is another one of them.
Some women aren’t allowed in their religious place of worship or out of their homes to do certain things. And are told they are sick. As if the period is a common cold.
Yes. This is what happens even here, in North America.
I have been hospitalized many times because of issues associated with my period. I have been suffering from a sickness related to my period. And ever since I have been working so hard to love it. Embrace it. Celebrate it. Even though it’s given me so much pain in the past few years. and they want to tell me I should be quiet about this. That all of this we experience collectively does not need to be seen. Just felt secretly behind closed doors. That’s why this is important. Because when I first got my period my mother was sad and worried. And they want to censor all that pain. Experience. Learning. No.
I am going to share the photo again once I figure out how to go about it. I would appreciate if you could @instagram and express your thoughts. Or even share the photo on whatever social media platform.
Their patriarchy is leaking. Their misogyny is leaking. We will not be censored.
It couldn’t be summed up better. And I guess it was the compelling message in her words and the continually pouring in (or is leaking-in more apt here?) support of countless women and men too that has made Instagram acknowledge and accept her move. Yes, Instagram has put the picture back up on her grid. She expresses her ‘thank you’ to the thousands of people who were as unabashed in their support of the cause as she is in her belief of championing it. Read her thank you note here:
Yes, we need this. This change. Is this a baby step toward the shift in attitude we so badly need? Is this the change that Twinkle Khanna sought when she wrote about how our society is still grappling to come to terms with something that is the sign of healthy womanhood? In ‘Let’s Talk About It. Period,’ she wrote:
Why are sanitary napkins treated like radioactive isotopes? They are wrapped in layers of plastic and newspaper, then someone ties a string over this mysterious package and then it’s put in a bag of its own — separate from any vegetables or cereal boxes that it may contaminate by its very presence.
Is it the fact that men will see a corner of this packet and read ‘Whisper with wings’ and collapse with empathy at the thought of the agony we go through every month? Or is this biological function which, in fact, enables us to give birth to specimens like them, still considered sort of unclean by mankind?
Is it the wake-up call that has rightfully been triggered by thousands of ticking-woman-alarms? Is it REAL CHANGE? Or is it Instagram’s move to save face? Hard to tell.
I mean, it’s a pity even that we have to fight for something so natural.
But Rupi Kaur has picked up arms. Let’s join in too, shall we?
It’s all peaceful – the only bloodshed we allow is healthy blood-shed!! And let’s get acceptance for it!