In 2015, Canadian poet Rupi Kaur posted a photo of her period blood-stained bed on Instagram. It was subsequently removed multiple times by the platform for violating community guidelines (before eventually being restored after she complained on Facebook). The incident started a worldwide conversation about how photos of women's bodies, and specifically period blood, are received online.
The visibility of period blood in the media has increased slightly since then (thanks to some TV ads, the free-bleeding movement and various "subversive" Instagram accounts), but there's still a long way to before it's stigma-free. Case in point: a British influencer just lost more than 1,000 followers in 24 hours for posting a photo of her own period-blood stained sheets.
On Wednesday, blogger and YouTuber Grace Victory uploaded a photo of herself lying on her blood-stained sheets and has since lost over 1,000 of her almost 148k followers. She told Refinery29 UK this is the most she's ever lost in one go.
She accompanied the image with a poem: "For the redness turns to shame / and the inner peace blends to hate / and the sweetness of chocolate to cure the pain does nothing." She thanked people for their support of another of her recent poems about period poverty, and proclaimed, "Let's normalise bleeding," before asking how her followers how her latest most makes them feel.
The response was a surprise. While most were supportive, describing the image as "beautiful," "raw" and "true", and praising it for making them "feel normal", others were less pleased to see the image on their timelines. Some described it as unnecessary or gross, while others were even less articulate, saying simply, "Ewww".
"Some people felt it was 'disgusting,' 'unneeded' and 'too shocking'. I also had some comments and private messages saying that the photo was too much for them due to cultural and religious beliefs," Grace told Refinery29 UK. She believes she lost many followers because people are more accustomed to seeing "curated" and "perfect" images on the platform.
Losing so many followers "was initially quite hard if I’m honest," she said. "My inner child felt rejected and full of shame but when I sat with that uncomfortable feeling it eventually left." Today she's glad to have posted it and has no regrets. "I actually feel that it's even more important now and has proven the stigma and shame linked to periods. It’s just followers and my worth isn’t based on any number, but as a blogger panic does set in: 'Oh my God, what if I lose every single follower?'.
"My content won’t be for everyone and this was just a lesson in emotional growth and not trying to put out stuff because people want to see it. It’s important to me to produce content that I also love and that inspires me. My post did just that."
Grace, who works with the brand Always on their campaign to end period poverty, doesn't think it will affect her career, because she's known for being outspoken and comfortable talking about uncomfortable topics. "If anything, it’s liberated and empowered me – I don’t really care what brands think. It opened up a conversation and that’s what I wanted. I try not to take people’s opinions personally."
Regardless of the drop in followers, she's not going to stop posting taboo-busting content, she told us. "I'm working on a video at the moment about sex toys, shame and sexuality. These are the things that make me feel fire in my belly. I’m here to stay."