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Instagram bans menstruation

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Soviet cogitations: 4764
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Jul 2007, 06:59
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
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Post 15 Apr 2015, 08:29

The following is taken from here (in Spanish):

Every 28 days (approximately), women in fertile age begin a process called the menstrual cycle. This process, though physiological, continues to upset a society too advanced as to be shocked by a completely normal bleeding.

To “demystify remove the stigma from normal and regular processes of the female body”, and with the goal of “not be embarrassed of them or rejecting them”, Pakistani poet and photographer Rupi Kaur, with the aid of her sister Prabh, decided to present a series of images under the title Period, showing different scenes with the objective of making menstruation normal.

One of them, whose purpose was to criticize that periods are a “taboo subject in society”, was shared and later censored in Instagram, corroborating the meaning behind the iniciative. “Thank you, Instagram, for giving the exact response that my work was made to criticize”, acknowledged the author in Facebook, after her post was deleted.

It is paradoxical, says psychologist and gender consultant, Ana Carolina Ortiz Asensio, that “the blood that has given live to humanity and the body that gestates that same life is censored when it menstruates”.

The image of Kaur, completely dressed, lying in bed and with her back to the camera, violated the rules of the community. The bloodstains in her pajama and sheets were deemed offensive for the social network that, twice, decided to eliminate it. “I will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of a mysoginistic society that wants to see my body clad in underwear, but is uncomfortable because of a little stain”, argued Rupi. In the end it was the Facebook-owned company that had to backtrack and state that it was all a simple “mistake”.

“We have given a leap towards normalcy avoiding showing the wounds”.

Erika Irusta, specialist in menstrual education and author of th eblog “the ruby path”, defines Kaur's initiative as “menstrual pride movement” and states that “this lack of shame is contagious; you stop being embarrassed when you see that your neighbor is no longer embarrassed. It is an unstoppable and very necessary virus”.

Indeed, the propagation did not take too long. Following the rules of the Streisand Effect (where an attempt at censorship backfires and becomes widely shared), the censored image became viral and has brought the discussion to the front: why is menstruation still a taboo subject?

“Menstruation is still an active taboo because we deny its symbolism”, explains Irusta. “We have given a leap towards normalcy while avoiding to show the wounds, skipping the process of visualization and without redeeming the menstrual process itself”.

In that sense, Rupi's image becomes a “socio-media convulsion” in a world that sells the idea that menstruation is an awkward process that must be hid. “The work of women who photograph this is revolutionary because it shows another eye, another way of looking at oneself. What happens to me is not because I am flawed; this I can only know when somebody else speaks up and snaps her camera and shares it.”

Instagram bands images that have “full or partial nudity, are in bad taste, pornographic or with sexual content”. It follows that the company decided to eliminate Kaur's image because of aesthetic objections. For Irusta, however, what should be censored is the “gaze that turns us into objects, that cannot see us and does not want to see us in any other way.”

Julia Mas, sociologist and gender expert, states that “women who menstruate and stain are upsetting and uncomfortable because they don't respond to what men expect”, admitting that “menstruating is incompatible with the image of a woman-object” that part of society is “striving to spread, feed and consolidate”.

Kaur herself, in statements to the BBC, questioned that “nobody seems to mind that we can see everywhere women in the nude or with scant clothing, as mere sex objects”.

The sexual objectification of women

Often, advertisement includes with complete freedom in its ads images of women in degrading contexts in order to make their products more attractive, presenting their women as mere merchandise. Images that show just a body part, women that are used to hold objects or are even represented as food contribute to this sexual objectification. To objectify means to reduce to a thing something that is not. The message for Mas is clear: “You are your body and your worth is that of your body”.

This devaluing of the female form, which Mas defines as a “battle field”, perpetuates the notion that the period is something that should be hid, to favor the sexual image of women as something that is to be posessed, which harks back to ancient times but is carried on through the media, particularly in advertisement and movies. “We have made women's bodies prisons, fields that we feed with insecurities and that we project as impossible”, she says. For Irusta, although “we are still limited by an imaginary that is foreign to our body, that it fears, admires and envies it”, it is women themselves who ignores that they can “stand up, and seek liberation in their body and in those of other women”.

This limiting imaginary is found in advertisment, when they sell pads and tampons. This advertisement shows, according to Ortiz Asensio, “how easy it is to silence organic processes that are integral for women for the continuation of life. To present menstruation as a blue liquid that gives bad odor harms its normalcy. “They sell us menstruation as something dirty, to be hidden, instead of treating it as something normal that all women go through”, states Mas, for whom ads would be more effective is they showed reality just as it is: “An image of a girl menstruating humanizes her”.

Irusta warns that publicity emphasizes that “something else” regarding menstruation that makes us feel uncomfortable, dirty and strangers to our own bodies, though change should not start with an ad. “To expect advertisement to change without changing ourselves is, in my opinion, a shying away from responsibility”, sentences Irusta.

Meanwhile, we still don't know what do odorless things smell like.

"You say you have no enemies? How is this so? Have you never spoken the truth, never loved justice?" - Santiago Ramón y Cajal
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