This poet and pho­tog­ra­pher re­frames pe­ri­ods to be a cel­e­bra­tion of life rather than just another em­bar­rass­ing day where you had to dry your cargo pants in a Dyson Air­Blade.


There’s a party in Rupi Kaur’s pants, and you’re all in­vited. Yep, it hap­pens once a month and it is a jam­boree down there. It’s the foun­tain of life. A mir­a­cle of bi­ol­ogy. She’s rid­ing the cot­ton pony, aka has got her pe­riod, and Kaur wants ev­ery­one to em­brace it. Celebrate it. Stand by the bowl of Dori­tos and re­ally talk about it. The Cana­dian poet, artist and pho­tog­ra­pher be­came the sub­ject of an online con­tro­versy ear­lier this year when she up­loaded an im­age de­pict­ing a woman with a men­strual leak from her photo se­ries ‘pe­riod.’ to In­sta­gram and had it re­moved from her page – twice – by In­sta­gram cen­sors. She re­ceived a mes­sage to tell her that she had not fol­lowed the com­mu­nity guide­lines. Those guide­lines pro­hibit sex­ual acts, or­gan­ised crime, hate groups, vi­o­lence and nu­dity. Where did a woman’s pe­riod fit into that? Kaur’s re­sponse was mov­ing: “I will not apol­o­gise for not feed­ing the ego and pride of misog­y­nist so­ci­ety that will have my body in an [sic] un­der­wear but not be ok with a small leak when your pages are filled with count­less photos/ac­counts where women (so many who are un­der­age) are ob­jec­ti­fied, porni­fied, and treated less than hu­man… I bleed each month to help make hu­mankind a pos­si­bil­ity. My womb is home to the di­vine. A source of life for our species. Whether I choose to cre­ate or not. But very few times it is seen that way… We men­stru­ate and they see it as dirty. At­ten­tion seek­ing. Sick. A bur­den. As if this process is less nat­u­ral than breath­ing. As if it is not a bridge be­tween this uni­verse and the last. As if this process is not love. Labour. Life. Self­less and strik­ingly beau­ti­ful.” Af­ter Kaur’s words and the im­age went vi­ral, In­sta­gram un­blocked Kaur’s photo and apol­o­gised for the mis­take. Can you tell us a bit about your­self? My name is Rupi Kaur and I am 22 years old. My aunt, my mum’s youngest sis­ter named me. Rupi means ‘god­dess of beauty’ and Kaur means ‘al­ways pure’. I was born in Punjab, a state in north-west In­dia, and my mother and I im­mi­grated to Canada when I was three. What were you like as a kid? I was the most quiet, sen­si­tive, and emo­tional child you would have ever met. I cried all the time. I was timid and al­ways full of fear. I was al­ways so deeply af­fected by the things peo­ple said and did. You could be­gin to taunt me and I’d be bro­ken. I be­gan think­ing of lone­li­ness and death at this young age. I don’t know why that is. I think it comes from leav­ing ev­ery­thing you know as a child, leav­ing be­hind all your loved ones to come to a coun­try of strangers, and never see­ing a warm and fa­mil­iar face again. It was a big ad­just­ment. What did you want to be then? I wanted to be an as­tro­naut. And that’s ironic to me be­cause I hate science and the only rea­son I wanted to be an as­tro­naut was be­cause I had this itch for ad­ven­ture, that was al­ways what I was read­ing about. I read so much. Be­cause I was quiet and too timid to share my thoughts with peo­ple, I shared my time with books and blank pages, where I would draw and paint. My mum’s a pain­ter and so she taught me some of the vis­ual arts. When and why did you shoot the ‘pe­riod.’ photo se­ries? I’d been mean­ing to shoot that se­ries for the past year now but I never re­ally got the chance to do it; there were more press­ing projects to com­plete. But in Jan­uary 2015, I be­gan my fi­nal vis­ual rhetoric course at school. The ma­jor pro­ject was an as­sign­ment in­tended to start a crit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tion with the use of im­ages rather than words. And so as soon as my pro­fes­sor be­gan ex­plain­ing the pro­ject I knew ex­actly what my topic would be. Hav­ing to do this as­sign­ment for school was my ex­cuse to fi­nally ex­e­cute the ‘pe­riod.’ pho­to­shoot.

Right away my sis­ter Prabh and I went into shoot­ing. Over a pe­riod of two days, and maybe four to five hours of work, we had a se­ries of six im­ages that en­cap­su­lated the in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship, or the in­ti­mate ex­pe­ri­ence many women share with their pe­ri­ods. The idea of wak­ing up and hav­ing it sur­prise them while in bed. Then go­ing to wash up in the shower, sit­ting on the toi­let and wrap­ping your nap­kin or tam­pon to throw it out, and then rest­ing for the re­main­der of the day or wash­ing the sheets. Very rit­u­al­is­tic and tra­di­tional ex­pe­ri­ences for a woman. I knew the im­ages were go­ing to be jar­ring, and so I wanted to bal­ance the con­tent with blue and yel­low tones. This soft­ened the im­ages and gave them a lighter feel. I also pur­posely made them grainy to pro­vide a more in­ti­mate and warm feel. The art of pho­tog­ra­phy is just as im­por­tant as the con­tent.

I wanted to de­mys­tify so­ci­ety’s ideas of the pe­riod, and show that we are dis­gusted by some­thing so strik­ingly nor­mal, so strik­ingly uni­ver­sal, while be­ing so ac­cept­ing of im­ages of women be­ing ob­jec­ti­fied and overly sex­u­alised. I’ve al­ways been at­tracted to fem­i­nine is­sues. Be­ing a woman is some­thing that’s very im­por­tant to me, and so my ex­pe­ri­ences as a woman do push my work. Ev­ery month when I get my pe­riod, I am lit­er­ally dy­ing. It is so wretch­edly painful and I find my­self curs­ing the damn thing. But it’s been a year now where in the mid­dle of my curs­ing and scream­ing and cry­ing out in pain, I tell my­self, I re­ally, re­ally need to come to peace with this thing. I need to find a way

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