This is what the #challengeaccepted trend on Instagram is *actually* about

Celebs need to stop hijacking the movement for self promotion

You may have noticed your Instagram feed has got a lot more monochrome over the last week. It probably features a lot of celebs posting a fit selfie in a black and white filter with the hashtag “Challenge Accepted” – is this a desire to return to the days of classic black and white photography? No, it’s a new Instagram trend in the name of feminism of course.

The #challengeaccepted, black and white challenge or #womensupportingwomen – whatever you want to call it, is a new trend that’s taking over Instagram. The “Challenge Accepted” hashtag has got nearly four million posts already.

Celebrities are sharing a black and white picture of themselves along with a caption about inspiring women and tagging more of their gorgeous celebrity friends to share their own post.

You can easily make your own “Challenge Accepted” photo by applying a black and white filter to a photo of yourself and posting it on Instagram.

Though hugely popular, a few people have questioned what the purpose of this challenge actually is. And with celebrities like Khloé Kardashian, Jennifer Anniston and Hilary Duff taking part, the photos are reaching a large global audience. So when did this challenge start and what does it achieve?

What is the “Challenge Accepted” trend?

This trend involves celebrities and normal people sharing a black and white picture of themselves, usually a selfie and tagging it with the hashtag challenge accepted. They often write something “empowering” about lifting women up and supporting the sisterhood. And usually they will tag others to do their own challenge.

It’s supposed to be about showing your support for other women and to encourage love for fellow women.

How did it start?

This trend has actually been around for a number of years and was thought to have started in 2016 as a way to raise awareness for cancer.

The recent surge in popularity was thought to have started last week after Alexandra Ocasio Cortez spoke out against a male Representative, Ted Yoho’s sexist comments about her in congress. And Instagram traced the more recent restart of the photos from a Brazilian journalist’s account last week.

The challenge has now been linked to raising awareness for rising violence against women in Turkey after the murder of Pinar Gültekin. Pinar was a 27-year-old university student, who had been found dead last Tuesday.

Pinar’s death was the latest in a string of violence against women in Turkey and the latest use of the hashtag was used to bring awareness to this issue. New York Times reporter Tariro Mzezewa spoke to many Turkish women who were using the hashtag and were accompanying it with hashtags #kadınaşiddetehayır #istanbulsözleşmesiyaşatır which translate as “say no to violence against women” and “enforce the Istanbul Treaty”.

As time went on these other hashtags fell to the sidelines and “challenge accepted” was the only one that stuck.

Why are some people questioning the relevance of the “black and white challenge”?

Just like the Black Square that was supposed to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement, a lot of people have suggested the “Challenge Accepted” trend is just another performative gesture.

Taylor Lorenz for the New York Times argued this challenge allows celebrities to be seen as advocates without having to do anything to support others in a tangible way.

She wrote: “Influencers and celebrities love these types of ‘challenges’ because they don’t require actual advocacy, which might alienate certain factions of their fan base.”

Many are arguing that instead of posting a black and white selfie, you should be doing more to support the women in your life and to educate yourself around women’s issues.

Lots of Instagram photo trends usually have a charitable cause associated with them, like Run 5 Donate 5, which happened at the start of lockdown as a way to raise money for the NHS. The fundraiser has now raised over £5million for NHS charities.

Others have criticised what is meant to be a moment of uplifting women is being used as a justifiable excuse to post a fit selfie. Now there’s nothing wrong with posting a nice photo of yourself, but attaching it to a cause in the name of “supporting women” just feels off.

Fresh off the back of a global pandemic and the Black Lives Matter moment it seems absurd that rather than sharing resources, petitions, businesses and donation links some of the most famous women in the world are using their huge platforms to post a nice picture of themselves and tag their mates, in a tradition usually left to teenagers in chain mail text messages. Especially those who make empowering women part of their brand are doing nothing visible to physically support women.

The pictures in question which have gained the most public attention are those of cis-gendered, white, able bodied and generally thin women. And many argue the trend would be a lot more powerful if it contained trans women, women of colour and differently abled women.

Podcast host Ali Segel told the New York Times: “I think that if this ‘movement’ featured trans women or differently abled women, or showcased female businesses or accomplishments or women in history, it would make more sense.

“But the idea of this as a challenge or cause is really lost on me.”

And now in recent light that the challenge was used by Turkish women to draw attention to rising violence against women, it feels extremely unsettling that these photos are used to showcase fit selfies.

Granted the celebs may not, like many others, have know the challenge had origins in Turkey – but that is exactly the point of why it should be so heavily criticised. None of them appeared to investigate what this challenge was actually about, they were happy to post a pretty picture and write something about “empowering women” without considering the wider context it may have been part of.

And so far none of them have been vocal about sharing support for the women of Turkey. Are they really going to stick by the strong women they pledge to support? Or does the sisterhood only extend to fellow celebrities with millions of Instagram followers?

Featured image credit before edits: W on Unsplash

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