Artist Rupi Kaur Criticizes Instagram for Censoring Photo Showing Period Blood

The Instagram-censored photo from Rupi Kaur's photo series "Period."

Instagram is now censoring photos of fully clothed women, apparently under the assumption that visible signs of a woman’s period are too gross for the public to handle.

The photo, which shows a woman lying in bed, her sweatpants and sheets stained with blood is part of a project from artist and poet Rupi Kaur for her visual rhetoric course at the University of Waterloo.

Kaur’s images or a pair of feet standing over a shower drain and blood-spattered tiles, are meant to demystify women’s menstruation, which is seen as taboo, even as women are overtly sexualized without a second thought.

When Instagram first removed the photo of the woman in bed, Kaur reposted it, only to receive a second message stating the image had been removed for breaking community guidelines.


An image from Rupi Kaur's photo series "Period."

An image from Rupi Kaur’s photo series “Period.”

The popular social media app’s guidelines prohibit “nudity or mature content,” as well as violence, spam, and rudeness, but it is hard to conceive of how menstrual blood could fall into any of those categories. (Plus, as Jezebel was quick to point out, “with a certain level of gloss, Instagram loves stuff you wouldn’t show to a child, a boss, or a parent.”)

“They allow porn on Instagram, but not periods?” a frustrated Kaur told the Washington Post. “How dare they tell me my clothed body, the way I wake up at least once every month, is ‘violating’ and ‘unsafe?’”

Kaur fired back in a post on Facebook. “Thank you Instagram for providing me with the exact response my work was created to critique…. 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 . . . are objectified, pornified, and treated [as] less than human.”


An image from Rupi Kaur's photo series "Period."

An image from Rupi Kaur’s photo series “Period.”

As Kaur’s outrage against the censorship of her work picked up online support, Instagram quickly back pedaled, issuing this statement: “when removing reported content from the Instagram community, we do not always get it right and we wrongly removed this image. As soon as we were made aware of this error, we restored the content.”

That would be more believable if the “offending” photo had not been targeted by censors on two separate occasions.

Both Instagram and its parent company, Facebook, have been known to get a little censorship-happy when it comes to art. Currently, a French court is hearing the case of a man who was banned from Facebook for sharing Gustave Courbet’s racy 1866 painting L’Origine du Monde (see Parisian Court Rules It Has Jurisdiction in L’Origine du Monde vs Facebook Case and L’Origine du Monde Sparks Facebook Legal Battle), and even art critic Jerry Saltz has been kicked off the social network for posting graphic artworks (see Jerry Saltz Got Banned From Facebook–About Time).

“Their patriarchy is leaking. Their misogyny is leaking. We will not be censored,” Kaur concluded.


For more artnet News coverage of online censorship see:

Facebook Censors New Media Art Festival Over Nude Image

Instagram Apologizes to Artist Over Topless Cartoon Ban

Accused of Charlie Hebdo Censorship, AP Removes Piss Christ Image

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