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Let’s get over period terror!

Examining the bloodbath in the comments on this photograph

By Deepa Menon  March 27th, 2015

When Rupi Kaur posted a picture on Instagram to start a conversation on the menstruation taboo, the response she got wildly overshot her goal. The image was taken down for violating the site’s community guidelines. In other words, it made people uncomfortable—which was, of course, exactly the photographer’s point. In her own words, Kaur created this image “to demystify the period and make something that is innate “normal” again cause rape categories in porn are okay. objectification and sexualization is okay. people getting off on naked underage women. bondage. torture. humiliation. abuse is okay but this makes them uncomfortable. that’s what this work is supposed to do. make you as uncomfortable as you should feel when you watch others get abused and objectified.”

Thanks to the widespread support Kaur received, Instagram has since allowed this image to be posted. But reading the angry comments on her FB post is like diving into a raging mob that raises one of these four objections:

Why not post a photo of someone shitting next? Shit is also natural.

Since men also shit, there is no gender-based taboo regarding taking a dump. No one asks you to not got to a temple/touch pickle/enter the kitchen if you have the loosies. (Although, I’d stay off pickle for a bit.)

What if a guy posted a picture of himself covered in semen—that’s life-giving fluid too. Would we celebrate that?

First of all, no one is expecting you to hand out party hats—we’ll settle for stripping the shame from menstruation for now. (But how awesome does a period-themed party sound, with fun games like Panicked Groping for Tampon String, Surreptitious Adjusting of Sanitary Pad in Public and a drinking game where you have to take a sip every time someone has a cramp. Bloody Marys all around!)

Secondly, semen is all over the Internet. (And all over my friend when a stranger ejaculated life-giving fluid into her dupatta during the musical fountains show at Lumbini Gardens in Hyderabad. However, she was standing with her back to him, so she was clearly asking for it.) But even Youporn won’t touch period sex with a lubed-up pole. More people need to read this NYmag article about the pleasure of ‘strawberries and cream’ sex.

 I am a woman and I’m disgusted.

No one said women are immune from this brand of prejudice. It’s probably a woman who taught you to be ashamed of your period—who taught you that it smells bad and makes you unclean, weak and vulnerable. Women are also a product of this same patriarchal mindset, one that believes the defeat of a sportsman can be attributed to random things like the presence of his girlfriend in the audience, but will judge a sportswoman for mentioning the very real effects of swinging hormone levels on her game. We have all imbibed and passed on this sense of shame about our bodies, about staining our clothes or our boobs jiggling when we run or our bra strap showing FOR GOD’S SAKE WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL ABOUT MY BRA STRAP SHOWING LET ME BE, ANNOYING AUNTY ON THE LOCAL TRAIN.

It’s a fact of life, but why do you have to show it?

As an artist, Rupi Kaur is shining the light on the shame associated with women’s bodies. The message is not that stain on the bedsheet—it is your reaction to the stain. Art can make you uncomfortable, that is one of its prerogatives. Examine your discomfort and find out where it comes from. If you discover that it comes from thinking that menstruation is gross, you can liberate yourself from one more stupid hang-up that keeps you from being a decent human being. And that calls for Bloody Marys all around!