Three years ago, bestselling author Rupi Kaur, known for her book Milk and Honey, and musician Madame Gandhi, who has toured with major stars like M.I.A., came together to destigmatize menstruation and raise funds for menstrual health.
Now, on the 28th day of Women’s History Month, to symbolize the 28 days of a menstrual cycle, the #LetsFaceItPeriod campaign is repromoting the video for the song they wrote together, titled “Sun Spills.”
Shot in New York City, the nearly seven-minute music video and mini-documentary captures the artists’ first meeting and collaboration. The two discuss their individual rises to fame for breaking menstrual taboos and highlight the connections between menstruation and nature.
At the time of filming, Kaur had recently posted a photo of clothes stained with fake period blood for a school project that went viral, and Gandhi free-bled while running the London marathon. Drawing attention to the global stigmas against menstruation, some saw the young women as controversial, while others showered them with praise.
After receiving backlash for posting the infamous photo, Kaur found safe pairing up with Gandhi.
“We were brought together by different organizations that cared about this cause, and they supported us,” Kaur told Global Citizen.
“They created an environment where we could take something that we were passionate about and create something in.”
Organized by activists Marianne Bauer, Erin Levi, and Agnieszka Wilson, #LetsFaceItPeriod helped support health, education, and menstrual hygiene management initiatives, led by women-run organizations such as Girls Health Ed, Stand 4 Education, Femme International, and Huru International. Wilson said the campaign reached people across four continents through the #RedLipstickChallenge, which asked people to post red lipstick selfies alongside their thoughts on menstruation.
“Sun Spills” feels “timeless” to Gandhi. She told Global Citizen she wants the video to be a resource for all people who menstruate, especially if they’re experiencing the process for the first time.
Yesterday morning I spoke at an all-girls school in Los Angeles about period positivity, fourth wave feminism, trans-inclusivity, and how gender exists on a spectrum. I also shared with the girls some of my life lessons such as how we must be brave enough to fail forward, stay consistent in our pursuits, own our voice when we want to question something oppressive and continue to invest in our skill sets and passions. I also shared that to me, leadership is about using your privilege or power to elevate the voices of those less heard, and to ask what you can contribute, rather than what you can take. I am still on such a high from the positivity, love and good vibes the students showed me!!!! 💛😍🙏🏽❤️🙋🏽 #thefutureisfemale #ownyourvoice
“For folks like me, who have had a period about half of their life, I want us to have a kind of heightened awakening about loving ourselves and loving our bodies,” she said.
Menstruation is still not normalized, and women’s health doesn’t receive the same attention or resources as men’s, Kaur told Global Citizen.
“Until women are equal, it [“Sun Spills”] will remain important,” Kaur said. “Until we're no longer whispering the word period, it's still relevant.”
Movements like Time’s Up and the Women’s March are opportunities to keep talking about menstrual equity, according to Kaur. With women’s bodies still under attack, the lyrics “I own my own body, and no, I am not afraid,” still apply.
Both Kaur and Gandhi believe that since “Sun Spills” came out in 2016, the public conversation around menstruation has changed. One of the signs of progress, according to Kaur, is that the short film, Period. End of Sentence, won an Oscar this year.
Gandhi has noticed a few other shifts, including a wider range of media coverage that takes all aspects of menstrual equity into account, from lack of access to period products and sanitation facilities to education and activism. She’s seen more people taking on big corporations and starting safer period product companies that use sustainable materials. And policies are increasingly being passed to guarantee access to safe menstrual health for marginalized groups, including incarcerated people.
Empowering women is still central to both artists’ work. Ever since she was young, Kaur said she believed it was her calling to stop the persecution of women. After receiving overwhelming attention for her viral period photo, Kaur admits she was scared to be a menstrual health advocate. But now, she explained, she uses every opportunity to show up for the cause.
Encouraging people to use their voices to speak up against injustice is a central message to Gandhi’s music.
“Stigma is one of the most effective forms of oppression because it denies us the ability to talk comfortably and confidently about our own bodies and experiences,” Gandhi said.
But people don’t need to have a large platform to speak up, both artists believe.
“The little things, like having those tough conversations, teaching, learning, and listening to each other, can make a huge difference,” Kaur said. For example, she fights stigma in her daily life by not hiding period products on the way to the bathroom, and openly discusses periods with men.
“I would advise everyday people to prioritize their own comfort and make choices that allow them to show up for themselves,” Gandhi said.
She remembers her choice to free-bleed during the marathon was an “everyday act.” Gandhi’s story only went viral when the media picked up a blog post she wrote about it, months later, she explained.
“When we show up for ourselves, we may not realize who we might be showing up for as well.”