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.
Update: Instagram has apologised for the removal of the photo and added it back to the service, Vice reports. A rep for the company told Vice that the image did not violate the community standards and apologised for the mistake. “In this case, we wrongly removed content and worked to rectify the error as soon as we were notified. We apologise for any inconvenience," a spokesperson for Instagram told Vice.
This story was originally published on 27th March 2015 and updated on 28th March 2015.
Instagram hasn't exactly developed a stellar track record when it comes to handling photos of women's bodies — at least when those photos are of women breastfeeding, having nipples, or being fat. Thin, nearly naked models? Bring 'em on. Natural female physical functions? Ew. Another discouraging example joined the list after college senior and poet Rupi Kaur posted the above photo of herself menstruating earlier this week. Within 24 hours, Instagram had removed the photo. "We removed your post because it doesn't follow our Community Guidelines," its message to Kaur read. "Please read our Community Guidelines to learn what kinds of posts are allowed and how you can help keep Instagram safe."
Kaur's photo is one of a series she shot with her sister for a visual rhetoric class. The series is accompanied by a poem, which reads, in part: "communities shun this natural process. some are more comfortable with the pornification of women. the sexualisation 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."
In the case of Instagram, Kaur's poem proved prescient. She reposted her photo after Instagram removed it; Instagram removed it again. And so, two days ago, Kaur took to Facebook to call out the platform and rally support around her right to share her photo — which is, in line with Instagram's "Community Guidelines" mandate, not "violent, nude, partially nude, discriminatory, unlawful, infringing, hateful, pornographic or sexually suggestive."
"Thank you Instagram for providing me with the exact response my work was created to critique," Kaur wrote. Her post went viral, and the photo was suddenly restored to her Instagram.
Usually, Instagram removes photos on the basis of reports from users flagging "inappropriate content," and it's not hard to imagine that a team inundated with such reports might act on the wrong ones. But, the fact remains that the photos of women the app removes are systematically those that fail to meet cultural norms of attractiveness. Instagram is just one microcosm of a cultural environment in which sexualised women are seen, while women who share other physical realities are erased. As Kaur put it to Motherboard, "I never thought it was such a big deal. It’s just a red spot."