You can get away with a lot of things on Instagram. You can post a photo of your butt in a thong bikini or your breasts (as long as your nipples are covered). But apparently, the one thing you can't do is show natural female bodily functions.
22-year-old college senior and spoken word poet Rupi Kaur uploaded a picture (below) of herself on Instagram this week which includes a spot of blood between her legs, as well as blood on her bedsheets — clearly, a period leak.
But Instagram removed the photo within 24 hours, citing violation of the "Community Guidelines."
It seems that these guidelines only allow for the "sexy" parts of the female body. Menstruation? Ew, no way. Seems a little misogynistic, doesn't it?
So Kaur posted the photo again — and once more, it was removed.
Kaur's photo is part of a series she shot with her sister for a visual rhetoric class. This is an excerpt from a poem that accompanies the series:
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.
In its terms of service, Instagram does spell out what kind of content is restricted on the platform: images that are "violent, nude, partially nude, discriminatory, unlawful, infringing, hateful, pornographic or sexually suggestive." But I'm sure we can all agree we've seen plenty of partial nudes and violent images. Plus, there's no mention of menstrual blood.
So after the photo was taken down a second time, Kaur posted the image to Facebook, accompanied by a passionate call to action to her followers:
It's sad in this world. That this is still happening. 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. Their patriarchy is leaking. Their misogyny is leaking. We will not be censored.
Her post went viral, and both deleted photos were magically restored to her Instagram.
While this may be the case, the fact remains that the photos of women the platform removes are typically those that don't meet cultural standards of attractiveness. While (hopefully) times are changing, we still live in a society that expects the "less pretty" habits of women to be kept under wraps — and this incident demonstrates the ever-present existence of this school of thought.
"I never thought it was such a big deal," Kaur said. "It's just a red spot."
And FYI: women poop, too.
Photo Credit: Rupi Kaur