Guest blog by Britta Wiebe, co-founder of Vulvani
Many of us internalise damaging menstrual/ gender myths to the point that we prefer not to touch, talk about, or even look at, our own menstrual blood. Instead, we make a big effort to conceal this healthy (and important) human experience. As if it does not even exist. Tampon out, quickly disposed of, new one in, done. How we think and feel about menstruation and our own bodies influences how we feel when we see it.
The same goes for images of menstrual fluid and associated management products. Just think about all we do to hide or prevent period stains on our clothing, or how people react when someone accidentally reveals, or drops an unused pad or tampon in public. The assumption is that we should feel ashamed about this (healthy and non-toxic) feature of the female body.
This is exactly why period photography is so important for the normalization of menstruation. Capturing images of real menstrual fluid makes the everyday reality of millions of people all over the world more visible and less ‘taboo’. When menstrual blood is reframed as beautiful, as a piece of art, these harmful gender myths are intentionally challenged. The aim is to change damaging and incorrect societal beliefs about menstrual bleeding, to redefine and improve the perception of menstruation and those who experience it.
Launching the Vulvani Gallery
This is why we launched the Vulvani Gallery in November 2020. It’s the world's first free stock photo gallery exclusively about menstruation. We are tired of seeing images that simply reproduce prejudices about periods (e.g., the ‘blue blood’ used in disposable product advertising or even bright red watery liquids without any signs of oxidised blood, endometrial tissue, or clear menstrual fluid). We create and curate high-quality photos with real menstrual fluid and sustainable menstrual products. These photos are available for free at the Vulvani Gallery: https://vulvani.com/en/vulvani-gallery-free-stock-photos-menstruation
Breaking the period taboo one picture at a time
Our motivation? Millenia-old menstrual taboos do not disappear by themselves and as we all know, a picture is worth a thousand words. For too long, the menstrual health and rights movement has struggled to access decent and accurate images of this normal human experience [Ed: Yes! I must have spent hundreds of hours trying to source good images for the Menstrual Matters website!]. We do not want the movement to fail simply because good visual material is unavailable or too expensive for unpaid activists and researchers to afford![Our photography has a Creative Common license - we simply ask you to give us credit for our work when publishing them (in the captions and in the alt text ‘Photo by Vulvani – www.vulvani.com’ with an active link. If you publish the pictures in social networks, please link to our account (@vulvani_) both in the caption as well as on the picture itself). Thank you!]
Redefining the meaning of menstruation through period photography
We want to show the world through our period photography that menstrual blood is not gross, toxic, or dirty (although it can stain, just like food or ink!). You will be surprised how beautiful menstrual blood can be! We want to show people that menstruation is a natural part of human life. Menstruation is necessary for the survival of all humans and so our blood will always flow. It is nothing to hide or be ashamed of. As long as menstruation taboos exist, we will continue to be creative. We want to be part of creating a world where we can all talk about periods freely. When menstruation is perceived and depicted more consciously and accurately within society, it gains status. The goal is to better appreciate and respect the female body and, therefore, feel comfortable about discussing menstruation.
Vulvani, founded in 2020 by Britta Wiebe and Jamin Mahmood, is a digital educational platform about menstruation, female health and sexuality. Vulvani is turning taboo topics into a digital educational product that is fun to use. We are aiming to close knowledge gaps about the female body through our interactive online courses at the Vulvani Academy as well as our period photography.
Author’s Bio: Britta Wiebe is the Co-Founder of Vulvani (https://vulvani.com/), a bilingual educational online platform all about menstruation, female health and sexuality. You can follow them on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/vulvani_/).