A series of wall-sized black-and-white paintings of women spreading their legs wide to reveal a red splotch of period blood, on public display in Stockholm’s underground system, have proven divisive among passengers of various ages.
Painted by feminist cartoonist Liv Stromquist, the posters, featuring female figure skaters doing leg lifts, dominate the platforms of the central Slussen station. The metro station, like most others in the Swedish capital, serves as a display space for an ever-changing art exhibition.
Reactions since the images were put up in late September have varied – from urban indifference, to tourist picture-taking, to upset commuters posting on social media to signal their displeasure.
One Twitter user said that it’s “not enough to just get periods, now you have to stare at them in the subway,” while another complained that the posters forced them to explain periods to their alarmed four-year old. Someone simply called the images “disgusting.” Several objected to using a public space and a captive audience to display such controversial images, while one meme compared the stately dignity of Moscow’s Stalin-era underground with Stockholm’s tunnelbana, which is ridden by about 1 million people each day.
Stromquist, who does not herself live in Stockholm, and who has previously spoken about her own childhood shame over periods, has refused to engage those objecting. “This discussion always comes when I exhibit my art, because it’s a taboo in society and evokes strong emotions,” she told national broadcaster Sverige Radio. “I’ve not commented on the discussion, and it’s not my place to give judgements to my own art… I’m very excited that some people have enjoyed it.”
The committee of public transport company SL responsible for choosing the posters has said that Stromquist’s work “celebrates the human body in all of its shapes and forms,” and does not plan to remove it prior to the scheduled date next August.