A viral challenge on Instagram encouraging women to post photos of themselves to show support for other women has evolved into mass social-media confusion and led to clashing narratives over the challenge’s true origins.
The “challenge accepted” trend, which called for women to share black-and-white pictures of themselves to show vague support of women, spread mostly on Monday. As of Wednesday morning, there are more than 5.5 million posts on Instagram using the hashtag, including pictures from celebrities like Khloe Kardashian, Gabrielle Union, and Vanessa Bryant.
🤍 Challenge Accepted 🤍 @vanessabryant and @malika thank you for choosing me for this! To all my Queens- Let’s spread love and remember to be a little kinder to one another 🤍 #womensupportingwomen
A post shared by Khloé (@khloekardashian) on Jul 26, 2020 at 4:01pm PDTJul 26, 2020 at 4:01pm PDT
As Taylor Lorenz of The New York Times wrote, the trend spread like chain mail, as participants tagged other women encouraging them to post their black-and-white images. Similar “challenge accepted” challenges have gone viral on social-media on multiple occasions, including the 2016 #ChallengeAccepted trend advocating for cancer awareness, Lorenz noted. As many women participated in the challenge, others criticized it as a form of slacktivism.
The challenge was popularized at the same time as a similar black-and-white photo trend in Turkey, as many protest the high rate of femicides, or murders of women, in the country. Last week, the remains of 27-year-old student Pınar Gültekin were found in Turkey, after she was allegedly beaten and strangled to death by a former partner. Gültekin’s killing sparked outrage throughout the nation and on social-media. The news of Gültekin’s murder comes after the rate of femicides has increased in recent years, according to the Guardian.
Some officials in Turkey have expressed interest in pulling out of the Istanbul Convention, a treaty by the Council of Europe that fights for an end to violence against women. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s conservative party has “tried to roll back legislation politicians say threaten traditional family values,” the Guardian reported. A representative for the Council of Europe, the human rights agency that wrote the Istanbul Convention in 2011, told Insider that while the council has no knowledge of the Instagram challenge being connected to their work, posts on social media do help support the missions of the convention.
As more people who participated in the challenge learned about the situation in Turkey, many were quick to edit their captions and show support, despite the lack of clear connection. The current resurgence of the challenge in the US and elsewhere can be traced back to a mid-July post from Brazilian journalist Ana Paula Padräo, according to a representative for Instagram. Padrao’s post only used the #WomenSupportingWomen hashtag.
A post shared by Ana Paula Padrão (@anapaulapadraooficial) on Jul 17, 2020 at 7:47pm PDTJul 17, 2020 at 7:47pm PDT
Zeycan Rochelle Yildirim, who works in education development for a private foundation and lives in Istanbul, told Insider she noticed the black-and-white photos circulating just one day after the trend had popularized in her own community with two Turkish hashtags, #ChallengeAccepted and #WomenSupportingWomen. “Initially I was confused,” she said of seeing Americans participate in the challenge without a connection to the Turkish movement. “I felt a little bit sad that the message was being lost.”
Yildirim said that the idea of sharing a black-and-white picture to show support for Turkish women made sense because when women are killed in femicides, it’s often black-and-white photos of the victim that are shared on social-media.
A post shared by Zeycan Rochelle YILDIRIM (@zeycan_rochelle) on Jul 26, 2020 at 12:00pm PDTJul 26, 2020 at 12:00pm PDT
Still, as Instagram feeds began to fill up with information about femicides and the Istanbul Convention, many celebrities who had participated in the challenge edited their posts to show support for Turkish women. Actress Florence Pugh added in her caption that she’d been told that the challenge was meant to “‘shed light onto the Istanbul Convention, women are being subjected to violence and this convention is to end forgiveness for the attacker/murderers.’ With that in mind, adjust your hashtags if you didn’t already do so.”
Challenge accepted. #istanbulconventionsaveslives #womenempowerment #womensupportingwomen – I’ve been told that the true meaning of this hashtag and this b&w photo- ‘It is to shed light onto the Istanbul Convention, women are being subjected to violence and this convention is to end forgiveness for the attacker/murderers.’ With that in mind, adjust your hashtags if you didn’t already do so. Thank you @jessicaroseweiss, @bellathorne and @edibow for inviting me. Let’s ride gals. Post your b&w in support of this movement, these women need the world to hear.
A post shared by Florence Pugh (@florencepugh) on Jul 27, 2020 at 2:25pm PDTJul 27, 2020 at 2:25pm PDT
Regardless of the challenge’s true origins — and the intentions of international participants — Yildirim said she’s glad more people are learning about the Istanbul Convention. “I think if we have enough pressure from international media, maybe we can get more justice for women who are abused in these cases,” she said, adding that the pressure might stop the Turkish government from pulling out of the convention.
World news – FI – How the ‘challenge accepted’ Instagram trend went from hollow slacktivism to a campaign to raise awareness about Turkish femicide