Instagram: Filter our photos, not our femininity

Rupi Kaur, Sikh poet and talented amateur photographer has been the subject of online controversy this easter. The 22 year old posted a simple yet somehow provocative photograph on her Instagram account as part of a photo series project that she was working on for college. Instagram removed the image almost instantly.

The said photograph depicted a sleeping girl with bloodstains on her pyjamas and bed sheets, a monthly reality for over half of the population of the world. The image was removed as it did not ’follow’ the Instagram Community Guidelines and was deemed offensive and inappropriate for public viewing. What a way to empower women Instagram…Well done.

The Internet understandably exploded with complaints and Kaur informed the public that the censoring of her photography had in fact proved the very point of her project. “Thank you @instagram for providing me with the exact response my work was created to critique. You deleted a photo of a woman who is fully covered and menstruating stating that it goes against community guidelines when your guidelines outline that it is nothing but acceptable. The girl is fully clothed. The photo is mine. It is not attacking a certain group. Nor is it spam. And because it does not break those guidelines I will re-post it. I will not apologise for not feeding the ego and pride of a misogynist society.” True to her word Kaur did re-post the photo on Instagram, only to have it removed again.

One of the fundamental issues that was brought to light from this controversy was the questionable guidelines as to what is appropriate on Instagram and other social media sites and what is not. Something as natural as menstruating or breastfeeding is considered a taboo on the photographic platform and yet as Kaur highlighted on her Tumblr account: “Instagram is filled with pictures of underage girls who are ‘objectified’ and ‘pornified’.”    

Instagram has since restored Kaur’s picture and has apologised for censoring the image, deeming it a mistake, “in this case, we wrongly removed content and worked to rectify the error as soon as we were notified. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

We love instagram for filtering our pictures so beautifully, but there are some things in life that cannot and should not be filtered or edited, something as natural as being a woman is one of them.

Rupi Kaur, we stand behind you. You go girl.