On Sunday night, a record 15.8 million viewers tuned in for the Season 5 finale of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” Based on the volume of blood shed and flowing (via violent means) in any given episode of the hit zombie apocalypse gore-fest, it would seem a good amount of people are more than ok at the sight of the sanguine fluid. But when that blood is human, specific to a woman’s period, and captured in a still life photo of a fully clothed woman, that level of comfort seems to cramp right up, especially when it comes to social media censors. This is the story of sisters Rupi and Prabh Kaur’s photo series period., which was initially banned from Instagram for violating “Community Guidelines” until the artists fought back.
On March 23, Rupi Kaur, a poetess, spoken word performer, and author of Milk and Honey, posted six photos (view all images below) on her website that she shot with her sister Prabh. They comprised a photo series project – period. – she was working on for a visual rhetoric course, and were released with the following artists’ statement.
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 viAolence 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.
Rupi shared one of the photos from the series on her Instagram account (it’s the image we show above). Two days later, this is what she received from the Instagram censors, which was, as Rupi says, “the exact response my work was created to critique.”
Rupi then wrote the following to her community:
Instagram has chosen to once again, take down this image for violating community guidelines. Despite the fact that about 95% of comments were beautiful. Flowering. And in support.
This just goes to show who is sitting behind the desk. And whose controlling the show. Whose controlling the media and who is censoring us.
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.
Rupi vowed to share the photo again once she figured out how to go about it, and urged her following to express their thoughts to Instagram and share the photo across all social media platforms. Taking her own directive, she wrote to Instagram herself:
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 repost it again. i will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of 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 who are underage) are objectified. pornified. and treated less than human. thank you.
And by March 26 Rupi received the following notification from Instagram:
Rupi shared the victory with her social media community by making this powerful statement:
we did it. you did this. your belief in the work. it’s message. and your movement to not quiet down has forced instagram to place both deleted photos back on my grid. exactly where they belong. how they belong. imagine that. you made a giant see that it is only a giant cause you are part of it’s existence. you are a movement. that is the power you hold my beautiful people. and i am so proud of you. of us. always speak your heart sweetloves. because the truth no matter how terrifying it might be to the masses always remains the truth. and when they try to shut you down. my god speak louder. it has been my greatest honour to witness your magic at work. it has been an honour to work alongside you. we are a force to be reckoned with.
Based on the heinous, violent, and objectifying images we are all bombared with every single day on TV/cable shows, in movies and video games, and on social media, we have become a society desensitized to countless things that would, in the past, have caused most people to turn away, and still should. So why then is menstruation – a normal, healthy, bodily function – still so taboo?
That’s the very point Rupi and Prabh’s period. series aims to make. And if their images make you uncomfortable, they want you to ask yourself… why?
To bring this story full circle, and for visual perspective on what social media deems acceptable, here is a photo from “The Walking Dead” Instagram feed.