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A Bestselling Author Got Death Threats for Posting About Her Period, and We Need to Talk About It

A screenshot of a notification that an Instagram post has been taken down for violating community guidelines

In 2015, just a year after the release of her bestselling poetry collection Milk and Honey, Rupi Kaur got candid about menstruation on social media. She shared of photo of herself, fully clothed, with a small period stain on her sweatpants on Instagram. It was a photo she had taken for a university project to destigmatize menstruation, and she decided to carry the conversation on to social media.

Nothing was shocking, horrifying, or graphic about Kaur’s photo. It was a sight that anyone who has menstruated or anyone who has lived with someone who menstruates should be fully accustomed to seeing. Leaks and period stains are just a fact of life for individuals across the globe. It’s an inconvenience and, for some, maybe embarrassing, but it’s real life. Women can’t always neatly and perfectly hide their womanhood nor should they have to.

Kaur’s photo quickly gained traction on Instagram and was subsequently removed by the platform twice for allegedly violating its Community Guidelines. The message she received about the removal suggested the photos made Instagram “unsafe.” Fortunately, Kaur fought against the deletion of the photos questioning why Instagram, a site notorious for allowing the pornification and sexualization of women, would delete a photo of a fully clad woman just because of a period stain.

Instagram eventually apologized and allowed Kaur to keep the photos. While many were shocked at the blatant stigmatizing of periods by the social media platform, Kaur recently revealed that the photo sparked far scarier reactions than we knew at the time.

Rupi Kaur received death threats for menstruation photo

Given that it has been eight years since the initial photos were posted, Kaur recently reposted them on her Instagram page. In her post, she revealed that the photo sparked so much more than just censorship and reinstatement. It also brought out horrific vitriol from men who left Kaur the most gruesome and hate-filled comments on her post. One comment she received read, “this is disgusting. you’re disgusting. thank god we’ll be able to make babies in labs soon and won’t need women anymore.”

Not only did she actually receive a comment that said that, but she received multiple messages with similar sentiments, including from men that she personally knew. Additionally, she got “sent death and rape threats from around the world.” Kaur also mentioned how the vitriol, backlash, hatred, and harassment seemed endless, all because she posted a photo of a period stain for a college project.

The horrific response to Kaur’s photo only further drove the point home that the destigmatization of periods is vital. Even this many years later, she noted that not enough has changed in how people around the world view periods. Lack of understanding and awareness means that millions are left without menstrual products or the ability to maintain menstrual hygiene. Additionally, women and girls around the globe are discriminated against, shunned, and even barred from attending school while on their periods. Even in the West, women deal with periods widely being seen as something disgusting, shameful, or weak, and many suffer the consequences of a noticeable lack of research on menstruation.

Kaur highlights why we need to talk about periods

As one reads of the horrific response men had to Kaur’s photo, the main question is why? What are men so afraid of? Girls as young as 9 live with menstruation just fine, but grown men claim to be traumatized from seeing a period stain? Do these men, who flew into a rage upon seeing Kaur’s photos, react in the same manner in real life?

Men like this are part of the reason why things like menstruation huts still exist (or existed until very recently) in some parts of the world. Even though Nepal recently made menstruation huts illegal, the practice is still going on today in some parts of the country where young women and girls are banished to unsafe huts for the entirety of their period cycle, where many are susceptible to exposure, unsanitary conditions, and abuse.

In what has been dubbed “period poverty,” an estimated 500 million individuals live without menstrual products and hygiene facilities around the globe. In the U.S., one in five menstruating students report missing all or part of the school day every month because of their periods, and in India and parts of Africa, studies have shown millions of girls miss school every month and drop out annually due to discrimination and a lack of menstrual products. Millions of women worldwide live with chronic pain due to menstruation research being neglected.

And yet any attempts to normalize periods and raise awareness for the situations detailed above are met with vitriol. Kaur received death threats for having a period stain, parents tried to boycott Turning Red for daring to mention menstruation, and a Redditor admitted to berating his wife for throwing away a wrapped menstruation pad in his brother’s garbage can. It’s unclear why men (and in many cases even women) are so uncomfortable with a natural bodily function that signifies health and the ability to reproduce and make the existence of men possible. Whatever the reason, those who menstruate are unfairly expected to give up their own comfort, health, hygiene, and safety for the sake of making others comfortable.

The fact is people menstruate, menstruation will always exist, and the health of those who menstruate will always be more important than the discomfort of men who dislike the topic of menstruation. Instead of treating it like a forbidden and shameful topic, let’s work on making sure that people who menstruate have the resources, facilities, and understanding they need to embrace this natural, oft unavoidable, aspect of their life.

(featured image: screenshot)

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Rachel Ulatowski is a Freelance Writer, blogger, and aspiring author. As a Freelancer Writer she hopes to give readers the same comfort and enjoyment that she finds in all things nerdy and noteworthy, as a blogger she enjoys snarking on YouTubers and reality stars, and as a future novelist she hopes to raise awareness for child abuse through literature.