Here’s Why Women Are Posting Black And White Photos Of Themselves For #ChallengeAccepted
And why you maybe shouldn't join in.
Your social media is probably inundated with black and white selfies and portraits of women at the moment, all using the hashtag #ChallengeAccepted and tagging several friends to take up the ‘challenge’. Divorced from much context, it can be a little unclear what’s exactly happening — and it seems that as it went viral, the challenge lost its original meaning.
Over the last day, influencers and celebrities began posting pics with the hashtag, occasionally also using the hashtag #WomenSupportingWomen alongside a few lines in honour of those they’re tagging. Almost five million photos have been uploaded to Instagram with the #ChallengeAccepted hashtag.
Here’s an example from Eva Longoria, though she’s far from the only celebrity to get on-board: everyone from Paris Hilton to Florence Pugh and Bella Thorne to Peppermint have used the hashtag.
As the challenge takes over social media, it’s been both celebrated for being a sweet moment and criticised for lacking any real intention or ties towards any issue surrounding women — effectively acting as a chance to post a flattering selfie without being deemed insensitive due to the myriad global crises.
“Imagine being in the middle of a global pandemic, an economic collapse, and a fight for racial equality while rallying thousands of people to participate in a selfie challenge that doesn’t raise money or awareness for a single cause,” tweeted podcaster Allie LeFevere.
Or, as author Caroline Moss put it: “I literally cannot get over challenge accepted, here’s a hot photo of myself because I support women”.
Sorry I missed your call. Women on Instagram started posting their most flattering selfies in black and white and calling it an “empowerment challenge” and I threw my phone into the sea.
— Bess Kalb (@bessbell) July 27, 2020
Defenders say the hashtag is a rare chance to spread positivity on social media, though it appears that the challenge once had a much more directly political meaning.
According to The New York Times, it’s likely (but difficult to confirm) that the hashtag originated/first took off in Turkey as a response to the country’s femicide crisis.
Over 50 Turkish women are believed to have been murdered by men this year alone, and the brutal murder of Pinar Gültekin by her former boyfriend last week has resulted in mass protests across the country as women call for their government to do more to prevent further deaths. One form of protest is #ChallengeAccepted, where Turkish women posts black and white photos of themselves alive and well, in comparison with the photos of dead women found too often in newspapers.
“Just so you all know #ChallengeAccepted campaign was started by women of Turkey to raise their voice against femicides in Turkey; to show solidarity with these women; to show there could be a day when their black & white photos can be published in a newspaper declaring them dead,” shared activist Nabiya Khan on Twitter.
“It isn’t about women supporting women. The important message about gender violence shouldn’t lose its meaning.”
It isn't about women supporting women. The important message about gender violence shouldn't lose its meaning. #ChallengeAccepted pic.twitter.com/BlRrUstxKn
— Nabiya Khan | نبیہ خان (@NabiyaKhan11) July 28, 2020
The #ChallengeAccepted co-opt has been compared to the black squares which overran the #BlackLivesMatter tag on Instagram back in June, erasing on-the-ground updates in an act of ‘solidarity’ that did little than obscure the original cause.
There has been a continued defence of the hashtag though, with some arguing that the challenge does stand for something when it’s used by minorities to declare beauty in the face of violence, such as trans or BIPOC women, or people with differently-abled bodies.
Elsewhere, the likes of Padma Lakshmi and Susan Sarandon are re-re-purposing #ChallengeAccepted to share photos of Black women who have died in police custody, including Breonna Taylor, whose murderers have not been charged despite months-long public pressure.
These are four women we should be lifting up:
Michelle Cusseaux #SayHerName #ChallengeAccepted pic.twitter.com/06Ze5kkbqr
— Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) July 28, 2020
Justice for Breonna Taylor!
Call Mayor Fisher at (502) 574-2003 and tell him to arrest Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hakinson & Myles Cosgrove for her murder now! https://t.co/pgNMlJxTan pic.twitter.com/LshbFtVL72
— Susan Sarandon (@SusanSarandon) July 28, 2020