Bleeding is normal, natural and healthy, but there’s still a long way to go before period pictures are accepted and all the social taboos surrounding periods are obliterated. Which is why we salute anyone willing to push the boundaries: whether that’s by starting conversations and sharing stories about bleeding, busting menstrual myths, or being brave enough to show the reality with a bold image – just like the YouTuber Grace Victory did last week.
The power of a picture can’t be denied, after all. Take a look at some of the most thought-provoking period pictures taken in the last few years, and the motivation behind the shots.
The yogi's period pictures
When yoga teacher Steph Góngora, leaked into her white leggings during a practice, she decided not to redo the video she’d just shot, but to post it on instagram anyway in a bid to end the cycle of period shame.
Steph said in her post, “I am a woman, therefore, I bleed. It's messy, it's painful, it's terrible and it's beautiful. And yet, you wouldn't know. Because I hide it. I bury things at the bottom of the trash. I breathe, ragged and awkward through the cramps, all the while holding onto this tight lipped, painted on smile. Tampons? Shhh. We don't say those words out loud. Hide them. In the back pocket of your purse, in the corner of the bathroom drawer, at the very bottom of your shopping cart (please let me get a female cashier).
"Events or engagements get missed. I'll tell myself it’s the PMS, sure, but it has more to with the risk of being "caught," at what...I'm not quite sure. And I’m lucky. Over 100 million young women around the globe miss school or work for lack of adequate menstrual supplies, & fear of what might happen if the world witnesses a natural bodily function.
"Why? Because hundreds of years of culture have made us embarrassed to bleed. Have left us feeling dirty and ashamed. Stop pretending. Stop using silly pet names like Aunt Flo because you're too afraid to say "I'm bleeding" or "vagina". Stop wasting so much effort hiding the very thing that gives this species continuity. Start talking about it. Educate your daughters. Make them understand that it can be both an inconvenience and a gift, but never something to be ashamed about. Educate your sons so they don't recoil from the word tampon. So when a girl bleeds through her khaki shorts in third period (pun intended), they don't perpetuate the cycle of shame and intolerance.”
The photographer's period pictures
Photographer Harley Weir is known for her images that challenge traditional attitudes to the female gaze. When she shared period pictures from a shoot for i-D magazine – showing a model on her period, instagram shut down her account for five days.
Instagram apologised and reinstated Harley’s account, but their actions proved the conversation around period censorship is set to run, with Harley questioning their focus. She told the Independent, “When you Google ‘Instagram' you see girls in thongs taking mirror selfies and they are fine. What actually is ok? I think there are much more perverted things on the internet and a lot more hateful comments - it’s funny where they draw the line.”
The fitness blogger's period pictures
In a bid to challenge the unrealistic ideals of body perfection, Malin Olofsson shared period pictures of her bloated stomach while on her period – telling other women they shouldn't be ashamed of the changes that happen to their bodies.
She told her followers, "Hey guys, let's be real for a moment. No, I'm not pregnant, and no, this is not a food-baby This is how pms looks like for me, and many other women. And it's nothing to be ashamed of. It is simply water retention and yes, it is really uncomfortable. But you know what makes it even more uncomfortable? Walking around hating your body because of it.
"There are already a lot of hormones affecting your mental state in quite a difficult matter, and during this period many of us need some extra self-care and gentleness. Trying to fight your physical body and how it appears during this time will not be a good idea since you're already more sensitive to physical neglect and self-loathing.
"It is really important that you learn to love yourself no matter how your body looks/how you perceive it - 'cause your body's shape/size/form will not be a constant factor. And this is what I look like for at least one week a month. And that is many weeks in a lifetime. So, I wanted to show you this - to show you that it is ok, that no one looks like the pictures they post on instagram at all times. We choose to show others what we are proud of - but I think it is important to be proud of the totality of you - to learn to be proud of you, no matter what your body looks like."
The activist's period pictures
Transgender activist and artist Cass Clemmer, doesn’t identify as a woman but menstruates. They shared period pictures of them while bleeding to spread the message that periods aren’t just something that happen to women.
Cass posted a poem to explain the picture, "Y’all know I’m trans and queer, And what that means for me all around, Is something that’s neither there nor here, It’s a happy, scary middle ground. So when I talk gender inclusion, And I wrote these rhymes to help you see, I’m not tryna bring up something shallow, Periods are honestly pretty traumatic for me..."
The poet's period pictures
Performer and poet Rupi Kaur threw a spotlight on periods when she created a photo series of powerful menstruation-themed pictures – one of the period pictures was removed by instagram for “violating policies”. Rupi challenged the social networking site and gained praise from women all over the world for her raw, natural depiction of periods.
Rupi explained her images, “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.
"In older civilizations this blood was considered holy. In some it still is. But a majority of people, societies, and communities shun this natural process. Some are more comfortable with the pornification of women. The sexualization of women. The violence and degradation of women than this.
"They cannot be bothered to express their disgust about all that. But will be angered and bothered by this. 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.”