The Instagram guidelines are pretty straightforward: only post your own photos and videos (a guideline that is, at this point, blatantly disregarded by many users), keep your clothes on (a guideline that is partially or blatantly disregarded by many users) be respectful (LOL), don’t spam (DOUBLE LOL), HAVE FUN! (I’m fucking serious. The last Instagram user guideline is “HAVE FUN!” – like Instagram is a second grade art assignment. Have fun?! This isn’t fun. This is life, bro).
So when Rupi Kaur, a Sikh poet studying at the University of Waterloo in Canada posted the following image on her Instagram, she was surprised to see it was removed for failing to comply with the community guidelines:
Taken as part of a photo series for a visual rhetoric course (the rest of which can be found on Kaur’s website) the image does not violate any of Instagram’s five guidelines (except for maybe that last one). The reason why it was flagged is obvious: a user was offended or bothered by the patch of menstrual blood on the poet’s sweatpants and bed. Why this natural aspect of being a woman (not to mention, you know, thing that is crucial to the reproduction of both men and women) continues to be seen as “offensive” or “gross” by some is not only insanely bothersome but, in the worst cases, an unnecessary source of embarrassment.
Kaur, being the spectacular woman that she is, reposted the image with the following statement:
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.
this image is a part of my photoseries project for my visual rhetoric course. you can view the full series at rupikaur.com
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 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. 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.
Instagram, clearly unable to understand its own guidelines (have they even seen all the sad selfies on their platform? Those people are NOT having fun) took down Kaur’s photo AGAIN.
This time she took to Tumblr to repost the image, pointing out that most of the comments beneath it were positive.
Yesterday, Instagram apologized to the poet and put the photographs back up. Here’s what they had to say:
When Our Team processes reports from other members of the Instagram community, we occasionally make a mistake. In this case, we wrongly removed content and worked to rectify the error as soon as we were notified. We apologize for any inconvenience.
It’s safe to say this isn’t really an “inconvenience,” but rather another shining example of just how misogynistic our culture truly is. At any rate, BULLETT salutes you Kaur, and we’re glad you won this battle. Now let’s go flag all those assholes who aren’t having fun.