Instagram is notorious for its pictures of scantily clad women, many of whom are underage. The social media platform has no problem with this, so long as they are not technically “violent, nude, partially nude, discriminatory, unlawful, infringing, hateful, pornographic or sexually suggestive”. But when one Rupi Kaur, as part of a photoseries project for her visual rhetoric course, posted a fully clothed picture of herself with a small period stain, Instagram immediately took it down.
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
Citing the fact that she’d broken none of the service’s rules, she reposted the photo only to have it taken down a second time. She struck out at Instagram, “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 … 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”
It wasn’t long before the internet exploded with support for Rupi and invective against Instagram’s actions. Just as the furore was reaching a fever pitch, Instagram sent her a message, claiming that the photo had been taken down in “error” and reinstated the picture to its former place. Rupi Kaur claimed it as a victory not for herself but for those who came out in support of her. “it has been my greatest honour to witness your magic at work. it has been an honour to work alongside you. we are a force to be reckoned with.”
The incident highlights a disturbing social media trend that blithely endorses the sexualization of women, but balks when it comes to the depiction of natural events like breastfeeding or menstruation. If Rupi Kaur and her mass of followers is any indication though, it seems that as long as women speak up for themselves, these internet giants will be forced to listen.