What violates Instagram’s community guidelines? Periods, apparently. Instagram has an ugly history of policing bodies. Over the last year the social media site has come under fire for banning images of women’s pubic hair — even though, according to Mic, Instagram has tolerated men’s pubic hair.
This week, Instagram told visual and spoken word artist Rupi Kaur that her self-portrait violated the app’s community guidelines. Her crime? The photo, which you can see below, shows Kaur with a small period leak.
The photo is gorgeous — but apparently periods, like women’s pubic hair, offends Instagram’s misogynist sense of propriety. In taking down Kaur’s photos, Instagram promotes a long tradition of shaming people who menstruate, most but not all of whom are women, as though their bodies are naturally dirty. Kaur wrote on herTumblr:
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…
After Kaur spoke out, Instagram restored her photo, but its claim of an “accidental removal” rings hollow. Instagram doesn’t need to correct one mistake; it needs to shift how it understands bodies.
You can find more of Kaur’s photos from this series at www.rupikaur.com.