you want to keep
the blood and milk hidden
as if the womb and the breast
never fed you
-rupi kaur (4)
These powerful words are only a snippet of Rupi Kaur’s well-known and beloved work. As a performer, artist, and activist whose work targets women, particularly those of a young age, Kaur discusses a variety of sensitive topics, including but not limited to: racism, love, femininity, sex, female empowerment, and menstrual stigma (3). Kaur’s first collection, Milk and Honey, sold over 3.5 million copies and is available in 40 languages (9). Her other works include The Sun and Her Flowers and Home Body (3). With over 3 million followers on Instagram, the world adores her distinct style and challenges to the status quo (9).
The roots of Kaur’s literary voice began with her cultural heritage. At the age of four, Kaur moved from her birthplace of Punjab, India to Toronto, Canada. Consequently, she spoke only Punjabi at home (5). To honor her culture, Kaur imitates the simple grammar of Punjabi by using only lowercase letters and no punctuation marks other than periods (3).
For Kaur’s position on menstrual stigma, one can look back to 2015, when Instagram banned a picture of hers twice (5). What did the picture, which she took for a school project, show? Kaur wearing sweatpants with a small period leak (5). As she put it, “I will not apologise for not feeding the ego and pride of a misogynist society that will have my body in underwear but not be okay with a small leak.” (6). In poetry form, Kaur says:
apparently it is ungraceful of me
to mention my period in public
cause the actual biology
of my body is too real
it is okay to sell what’s
between a woman’s legs
more than it is okay to
mention its inner workings
the recreational use of
this body is seen as
its nature is
seen as ugly
-rupi kaur (2)
Kaur’s experience grabbed the attention of even the major headlines (8). Her message resonates with women who felt objectified and sexualized. For students, this can take the form of school dress restrictions against shorts or exposed shoulders because they “distract other students.”
As an outspoken woman who is unapologetically herself, Kaur serves as a role model for young women in a world that undermines their self-worth. We will always need more people like her.
To learn more about Rupi Kaur or purchase her work, you can visit https://rupikaur.com/. For instagram, @rupikaur_ is where you can find her.
We wish you well.
About the author:
Hi! My name is Eowyn Ream, and I am a sophomore at Liberty High School. After understanding the severity of period poverty around the world and the lack of conversation surrounding menstruation itself, I decided to change the narrative alongside the SAPP community- one sentence at a time.
Kassam, Ashifa. “Rupi Kaur: 'There Was No Market for Poetry about Trauma, Abuse and Healing'.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 26 Aug. 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/aug/26/rupi-kaur-poetry-canada-instagram-banned-photo.
Kaur, Rupi. Milk and Honey. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2018.
Kaur, Rupi. “My Story.” Rupi Kaur, https://rupikaur.com/pages/about-me.
Kaur, Rupi. The Sun and Her Flowers. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2019.
NewsHour, PBS, et al. “How Poet Rupi Kaur Became a Hero to Millions of Young Women.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 2 Jan. 2018, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/poet-rupi-kaur-reaches-new-audiences-in-a-new-way.
Radnor, Abigail. “'We're Having a Menstrual Liberation': How Periods Got Woke.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 11 Nov. 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/nov/11/periods-menstruation-liberation-women-activists-abigail-radnor.
Rakhetsi, Aaron. “9 Influencers and Activists Who Are Shaking Up the Menstruation Conversation.” Global Citizen, 28 May 2021, https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/9-activists-changing-menstruation-conversation/.
Saul, Heather. “Menstruation-Themed Photo Series Artist 'Censored by Instagram' Says Images Are to Demystify Taboos Around Periods.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 31 Mar. 2015, https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/menstruation-themed-photo-series-artist-censored-instagram-says-images-are-demystify-taboos-around-periods-10144331.html.
Yuan, Karen, and Faith Hill. “How Instagram Saved Poetry.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 21 June 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/10/rupi-kaur-instagram-poet-entrepreneur/572746/.