Yoga instructor Steph Gongora did something bold this week. Dressed in white, she got onto her mat and filmed herself in various poses that revealed a red stain from her period.
Then she put the clip on Instagram, where she now has more than 258,000 followers.
By Saturday, the post had been viewed 208,000 times and elicited more than 4,400 comments, both cruel and kind. Some were disturbed by the imagery while others were inspired by Gongora’s message.
Her hope, she said in the post, was to help people who menstruate feel less ashamed of a natural bodily function.
I am a woman, therefore, I bleed. . 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. I breathe, ragged and awkward through the cramps, all the while holding onto this tight lipped, painted on smile. . Tampons? What are those. We don’t say those words out loud. Hide them. In the back pocket of your purse, in the corner of the bathroom drawer, at the very bottom of your shopping cart (please let me get a female cashier). . Events or engagements get missed. I’ll tell myself its the PMS, sure, but it has more to with the risk of being “caught,” at what…I’m not quite sure. . And Im lucky. . Over 100 million young women around the globe miss school or work for lack of adequate menstrual supplies, & fear of what might happen if the world witnesses A NATURAL BODILY FUNCTION. . WHY? . Because hundreds of years of culture have made us embarrassed to bleed. Have left us feeling dirty and ashamed. . STOP PRETENDING. Stop using silly pet names like Aunt Flo because you’re too afraid to say “I’m bleeding” or “vagina.” Stop wasting so much effort hiding the very thing that gives this species continuity. . START talking about it. Educate your daughters. 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. . This #StartSomethingSunday , I want to highlight @corawomen . . Cora Women is a 100% Organic tampon company. . But thats not all. They are also breaking barriers. Making it ok to talk about periods, even on social media. Providing personalized, delivered tampon/pad orders right to your door. AND for every box purchased, donating a box of sustainable pads to girls who can’t afford menstruation products. . Fuck yeah. That’s the kind of stuff I can galvanize behind, no money or even product needed. Just a mission I support on a topic we should ALL be talking about. . More
“I am a woman, therefore, I bleed,” she wrote. “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. I breathe, ragged and awkward through the cramps, all the while holding onto this tight lipped, painted on smile.”
Gongora urged people to talk openly about menstruation so that girls will understand it both as an “inconvenience and a gift” and boys will never “recoil from the word tampon.”
Her post is the latest high-profile effort to defy period shame. Last year, Newsweek ran a cover story on how the fight to end the stigma was going “mainstream.” In 2015, musician Kiran Gandhi received viral coverage for running the London Marathon without a tampon and, in 2016, YouTube star Ingrid Nilsen drew a big audience for asking President Obama about the sales tax on pads and tampons.
Gongora, who recently started sharing causes and nonprofit organizations with her followers, also used her post to highlight Cora, an organic tampon company that donates pads to some of the estimated 100 million girls around the world who lack access to menstrual products.
“That’s the kind of stuff I can galvanize behind, no money or even product needed,” Gongora wrote. “Just a mission I support on a topic we should ALL be talking about.”