The pantheon of feminist goddesses houses a formidable gallery of thinkers, visionaries, and revolutionaries: Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, Eva Peron, Coretta Scott King, Gloria Steinem, and Malala Yousafzai, and others occupy this rarefied altar of feminism. And to these champions of women’s rights we can now add the name Rupi Kaur, whose arduous fight against that most patriarchal of oppressors — Instagram — is a true profile in courage.
At the heart of this tale of misogynistic tyranny is one of Kaur’s photos that was twice removed by Instagram for violating the site’s community guidelines. Here is that photo:
Just in case you were wondering, that isn’t excrement. It’s menstrual blood, and it’s just one such captivating photo in Kaur’s project for her “visual rhetoric course” at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.
In recalling her traumatic experience with Instagram, Kaur had some powerful words of truth to convey to her phallic would-be overlords:
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.
All hail The Womb.
Without any exaggeration whatsoever, Kaur also noted,
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.
Lest you think she’s being hyperbolic, recall that ‘oppress’ means “toburdenwithcruelorunjustimpositionsorrestraints;subjecttoa burdensomeorharshexerciseofauthorityorpower.” Also recall that the right to post photos of menstrual blood on an online file-sharing site is a fundamental human right and one of the most important feminist issues of our time. As such, the removal of Kaur’s photo — however temporary — was nothing short of a crime against feminism, and by extension, humanity. At the very least, therefore, the act warrants the scrutiny of the International Criminal Court.
Instagram has since apologized for removing the photo, but not before Kaur had some truth bombs to drop on Facebook:
Their patriarchy is leaking.
Their misogyny is leaking.
We will not be censored.
Well said. And just in case you haven’t been sufficiently entranced by the powerful draw of menstruation, here are three other photos Kaur has included in her project:
Inspiring. Yet, that photo is merely a drop in the bucket.
And if that didn’t bowl you over:
It truly is a shame to see such beautiful blood exit its divine source. See you next month, holy hemoglobin.
Last, and most enigmatic of all:
Kaur says blood is sacred, yet quizzically she sees fit to expunge this blessed fluid from the fabric of her bedsheets. Why?
That surely is a question beyond the understanding of mere mortals, who can only look up to the heavens with arms outstretched at the gods pleading for guidance, and perhaps the occasional menstrual shower.
There are currently some 2.5 billion people around the world — probably at least half of which are women — who don’t have access to the kind of adequate sanitation depicted above. Still more — 4.2 billion — don’t have access to the internet. And perhaps that is a blessing since that means 60% of the world’s population is beyond the reach of the patriarchal tyranny of Instagram and other sites and apps like it. But no doubt if word of these photos ever does get to these unfortunate souls, they will surely take great solace in the fact that Rupi Kaur is out there and online fighting the good fight for them.
Image credits: Rupi Kaur