This week, media headlines were overrun with images of a woman doing yoga in white active wear with a single, red patch in the centre of her crotch.
Steph Gongora, AKA Casa Colibri, is a yoga instructor with an important message about periods to share with the world.
She caught the attention of scrollers on Instagram with a video of herself performing yoga while bleeding. The video has already been viewed almost 350,000 times.
In the caption, she wrote an essay highlighting the shame that women feel about their periods, and the pressure to hide them.
“I am a woman, therefore, I bleed,” she writes. “It's messy, it's painful, it's terrible, & it's beautiful. And yet, you wouldn't know. Because I hide it. I bury things at the bottom of the trash.”
Most women might relate to the feeling of embarrassment that can come with your period. Who hasn't buried their tampons at the bottom of their shopping basket while they're doing the supermarket shopping? Or felt a pang of embarrassment when a tampon accidentally rolls out of their handbag?
And it's true that Steph’s video is certainly confronting. Your initial reaction might be even be disgust.
And in fact hundreds of comments have described it as exactly that, calling it ‘disgusting’ and ‘unnecessary’. One commenter said, "dude what the heck that's nasty", while another commented, "this is the definition of cancer".
And this is why Steph’s message is so important. She encourages women to normalise their periods (albeit in more subtle ways), and encourage education for both sons and daughters to end the shame we experience and put on other women.
“Educate your daughters,” she writes. “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.”
Steph’s video isn’t the first time women have tried to normalise period blood on social media.
Artist Rupi Kaur famously posted a menstruation-themed photo series on Instagram which was later removed as sensitive content. Instagram has since apologised and allowed it to remain on the site.
A hashtag also took off in 2015 called #LiveTweetYourPeriod to encourage women to share their struggles on Twitter.
Importantly, Steph clarifies that this video wasn’t ‘free-bleeding’ - it was actually just a leak. Her message isn’t one against sanitary products, which empower women to do activities they were once prevented from doing in the past. In fact, the whole intent of the message was to promote Cora Women, a 100% organic tampon company who donate a box of free pads to girls who can’t afford menstruation products.
So here’s why we need to move past the feeling of disgust.
Periods happen. Accidents happen too. At the end of the day they are a natural bodily function that almost every woman goes through in her life.
If you're a feminist that doesn't feel compelled to be as... open about your period as Steph has been, tearing down her cause is not productive for anyone. Feminism has a history of shaking up cultural norms, and this is no different. Offering our support to a sister for her bravery will go a lot further.
The sheer fact that this video has drawn so much negative attention indicates that something has to change. And it starts with us.