Amid all the graphic content on Instagram—from photographs of roadkill to surgical videos—one photograph from a senior philosophy major has sent the internet into an international frenzy, inciting some violent responses in the process.
The post shows “Louelle Denor”—whose real name is being withheld for safety reasons—holding a used menstrual cup with a bloody hand. It was posted to her account four weeks ago.
“It’s come to my attention that women are having their accounts banned for showing menstrual blood (and no nudity),” the caption reads. “This is very seriously f—ed up. If this was blood from a finger laceration, there’d be no issue.”
The post has received more than 2,000 likes and 1,000 comments, and was covered by major news carriers like the Huffington Post and Daily Mail. While some reactions have been supportive, others are hateful.
“There was the [commenter] who suggested that ‘feminazis’ like me should be sprayed down with ‘male semen’ and then set on fire,” Denor told The Temple News. “A lot of people just wanted me to kill myself.”
The attacks have found their way beyond the Instagram sphere, as Denor said some self-proclaimed “men’s rights activists” have attempted to hack her online accounts and continue to send death threats via email.
“I think people carry with them a lot of anger, a lot of assumptions, a lot of dissatisfaction with life,” she said. “And I think that sometimes people like myself, who really go ahead and push against the grain of normativity, make ourselves easy targets.”
“And then there’s the whole anti-feminism thing,” she added. “Internet culture is very hard on women.”
Undeterred by this pushback, Denor continues to defend her reason for posting the image.
“We know we have bodies—we know they perform functions,” she said. “But we want to pretend that those kinds of things aren’t happening, and this is especially the case for women. It’s irrational and irrationality is harmful.”
Denor owes her awareness of this issue to other activists, most notably the poet and student Rupi Kaur in Toronto, Canada. Her own photograph of a woman with a blood stain on her pants and bedsheets was removed twice from Instagram in March.
“I will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be okay 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,” Kaur wrote on her Facebook account.
Instagram released a public apology and returned Kaur’s photograph to its website.
Despite this small victory, the aggression geared toward Denor proves the stigma behind such photographs still persists. That is why she continues to bring attention to the issue, by participating in interviews and posting essays on Medium, a blog-publishing platform.
“Mostly, I’ve just been continuing the conversation surrounding this particular event,” Denor said. “When this begins to blow over and my life returns to normal, I’ll be starting some new related projects. I’m excited.”
“I’m part of a bigger movement of women willing to put themselves out there to defend equality and fairness,” she added. “Change only happens when individuals come together.”
Brianna Nicole Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.