26/03/2015 18:38 GMT | Updated 26/05/2015 06:59 BST

I've Got a Confession to Make About My Body and You May Not Like It

It's taken me almost 18 years to pluck up the courage to say it publicly, but here goes: I am a woman and I have periods.

I had my first period aged nine (I was in primary school) and it's happened about once a month ever since. It lasts for about five days at a time (sometimes longer), it can be painful but it is always really annoying and inconvenient.

Most women menstruate, but we rarely talk about it. We hide tampons up our sleeves en route to the loo, we whisper when asking friends for a spare sanitary pad, and we exclude guys from any conversations about women's things.

The idea of me menstruating once a month - whether you're a close friend, colleague, stranger or even my mum - probably makes you feel a bit... icky. Writing about my period makes me feel a bit icky too, so much so that I was tempted not to blog about it at all.

Until now, I've never really thought about this revulsion or aversion. But when I learned that a photograph of a woman on her period had been reported and removed from Instagram (not once, but twice), it became clear that this anti-period problem runs far deeper than my own experiences.

thank you Instagram for providing me with the exact response my work was created to critique. you deleted my photo twice...

Posted by Rupi Kaur on Wednesday, 25 March 2015

This photo, by artist Rupi Kaur, was removed from Instagram twice. It has since been restored with a full apology.

Periods aren't pornographic and they certainly shouldn't be offensive. They are a regular reality for half of the world's population and, let's be honest, without them humankind wouldn't exist.

So the idea that an Instagram user could be offended by a picture of a woman whose period had leaked through her PJs and onto her bed sheets is downright ridiculous.

You might think there are bigger things to worry about in the world than a picture of a period stain being removed from social media, but this censorship is symptomatic of a wider problem that forces women to shrink to fit a culture that simply doesn't allow us to be women.

Cellulite, pubic hair, nipples and breastfeeding are just a handful of the female experiences airbrushed out of daily life. These experiences are therefore considered the other and that causes repercussions the world over.

In the west, the knock on effects of such attitudes are well documented. They cause everything from body image anxiety to insecurity.

Around the world however, the plot thickens. Women are excluded from society when they have their periods. They are unable to work, unable to go to school and ultimately unable to interact with the wider world.

It is estimated that more than 800 million girls around the world miss school for one week every month - that's 12 weeks per year.

Part of this is bred from a culture of shame, but it is also down to poor sanitary resources. While there are fantastic organisations, such as SHEVA, working to provide menstrual hygiene resources for women to help combat this absence from public life, it simply isn't enough.

It's up to all of us - women, but also men - to normalise periods by talking openly to our friends, mothers and daughters. After all, 52% of the population get them.

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