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How a photo of a woman on her period unleashed an online revolution

Free expression

Instagram apologizes to woman for censoring her photo

By Purvi Thacker on March 27, 2015

When Rupi Kaur, a Sikh poet based in Toronto posted a picture of a girl sleeping with blood stains on her pajamas and sheets, Instagram immediately flagged it and took it down as the image apparently was in violation of the site’s community guidelines. This happened not once, but twice, which led Kaur to fight back and sparked an outpouring of support toward her. After the backlash, Instagram reversed course and reinstated the photo.

As part of a photo series project for a visual rhetoric course depicting both her and her sister’s menstrual cycles, Kaur set out to make the point that society is uncomfortable with women menstruating, but is comfortable with women being objectified.

According to Kaur’s Facebook post, the photo is one of many in her series that is attempting to depict the various stages of a woman’s menstrual cycle — cramps, leaking, changing of sanitary napkins, and spots of blood — and make periods seem “normal” and “natural.”

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Instagram’s response to the photo only strengthened her perspective that the photo sharing site is symbolic of a “misogynist society,” she wrote on Instagram.

According to Vice, Instagram has apologized to Kaur for removing her pictures. “When our team processes reports from other members of the Instagram community, we occasionally make a mistake,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to Vice. “In this case, we wrongly removed content and worked to rectify the error as soon as we were notified. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

Kaur also added that she feels like she won and can’t believe anyone thought it was a big deal in the first place since “it’s just a red spot.” On her Facebook page, too, she thanked the online community for unleashing a revolution that helped spread her overarching message.

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