Drawing on Rupi Kaur’s recent Instagram post displaying menstrual blood on her pants and bed, having been removed twice before being restored to her profile, the different bodies that are “allowed” to take up online space remain governed by minds (still) ruled by the asymmetrical gender norms established by our society.
As menstrual blood is something that women are meant to hide and “keep quiet” about, Rupi Kaur refused to pertain to that social norm, and chose instead to share the realities of womanhood by posting a photo considered explicit to Instagram. In a Facebook post that went viral this past weekend, Kaur explained her horror at the removal of the photo and her disbelief at the stigmatized notions surrounding menstruation, as demonstrated by the initial deletion of the photo.
The lack of self-surveillance represented by Kaur’s post, as it was non-conforming to what is expected and accepted by the dominant hegemony, exposed a truth that half of the world should be able to publicly identify with. Instead, for many, the notions of shame attached to menstruation lead to an initial reaction of rejection of that particular identity of the woman, as characterized by menstruation, displayed by Kaur.
Although Kaur is an “attractive” woman by most stereotypical standards: an able-bodied, fairly light-skinned young woman, her body was rejected from the public online space of Instagram because of the direct affiliation between her body and the period stains representing menstruation which remains a stigmatized topic.
What is fascinating about her post going viral is that these archaic notions surrounding menstruation are being confronted and discussed by those who have viewed, and shared, the photo. Dominant ideologies concerning menstruation that involve silence and shame, are now being criticized and re-conceptualized as empowering. In her Facebook post (which has 71 301 likes and 71 206 shares) Kaur encourages people to think of menstruation not as a disgusting bodily process but, rather, as “a source of life for our species,” considered holy by many civilizations. In this way, Kaur questions the mysogyny and patriarchy demonstrated by the people working at Instagram, and how these old-fashion ideals must be confronted with vigour.
One might even say that Kaur has become a micro-celebrity with this post. Characterized by the interaction she has with her followers online, she has inspired many to openly critique the negative reactions of those at Instagram, and of society at large. In fact Rupi continues to interact with her followers through a website that she has created which features a photo series of similar work: http://www.rupikaur.com. The photo series publicly displays the realities of her body in private space, dealing with the realities of the natural process of menstruation. Once again, through another online space, Kaur calls into question censorship, gender, and identity.
Do you think that Rupi’s work would have been as well received if it was placed in a public space such as a gallery rather than made public through an online space? Do you think that the fact that Rupi has an “attractive” body facilitated the acceptance and popularity of the post?