Not everything is black and white. Or perhaps it is? Yet, the online trend of women posting their black and white selfies under the #challengeaccepted hashtag has a different story to tell.
On one hand, feeds are flooded with self-portraits. On the other, the root cause or reason behind the surge of the challenge has clearly many hues to it.
What is #ChallengeAccepted?
#ChallengeAccepted or the more explanatory #WomenSupportingWomen hashtag is women nominating other women to post their black and white photographs online. The understood underlining emotion behind this challenge has been the idea of women empowerment and feminism. A number of women, including celebrities, have also accepted this ‘challenge’. They have posted their (sometimes) glamorous photos with various captions. Most of which boil down to ‘lifting each other up’, ‘power of women’, ‘walking together’, ‘spreading the love’, etc.
The ‘challenge’ – 2016
However, Instagram users had used the same hashtag way back in 2016 to raise awareness around cancer. As reported in the New York Times, the already used hashtag allowed for recent participants to gain faster traction. Since then it has been used to spread positivity and empowerment.
But the blurriness of the origins of the ‘challenge’ does not end here. Feminists in Turkey are reminding users on Instagram the real reason behind the movement! According to Turkish Twitter and Instagram users, the ‘challenge’ is a means to draw the world’s attention to the increasing number of deaths of women in Turkey. The country is witness to a horrific rise in gender-based violence. One of the most numbing atrocities that acted as a catalyst was carried out against 27-year-old Pinar Gultekin allegedly killed by her boyfriend. Fed up seeing black and white photos of the killed women in newspapers and online media, the women of Turkey decided to use #ChallengeAccepted hashtag as a way of protest and to spread awareness.
Added to this, there are other concerns. The present government in Turkey might repeal the Istanbul Convention. This legislation protects the victims and women from gender and domestic violence.
The effect without a cause
The hashtag raises a voice against the violence of women in Turkey. But the challenge often relegates to less than that. The debate around the relevance of bringing around actual change, let alone understanding the true cause continues. And there seems no clear black or white understanding of whether posting photos online can truly equate to supporting each other.
Many users have pointed out the ‘comfort-zone’ or cushion that such ‘challenges’ provide to users, especially celebrities. Most celebrities refrain from taking a stand on real issues; find such challenges as a good way to make their presence felt online. At the same time, they are able to expound motivating and philosophical captions that are inspiring to read. However, as a Twitter user pointed out, why not actually cut-off ties with a friend who is an abuser than upload selfies? Why not feature differently-abled women or women in history with achievements instead? Why not upload portraits of women who have inspired other women? Hence, many users are questioning the genuineness or impact that such a challenge can have.
#ChallengeAccepted – Why not?
But on the other hand, how much harm can a harmless black and white selfie really do? Should posting portraits without associating it with any cause other than just the emotion of woman-hood be accused of trivializing or being superfluous
We live in a world that functions more so today virtually than it ever it did before. The need for remaining in touch and conversing has found outlets through social media. So when a friend nominates you to post a black and white selfie as a means to show your support for other women it probably is nothing more than just that. If we start judging the content on social media and their actual utility, then posting selfies under a hashtag challenge may find a higher place in the rank of relevance. Also, after women have pointed out the real cause of the challenge, many users have apologized for their carefree photos. Nigella Lawson and Miranda Hart, amongst others have apologized for not knowing that the challenge drew attention to the femicide in Turkey.
In fact, some users are also using the hashtag to expose the ills of gender biases and violence in their own countries, such as Egypt.
Finally, it is always a fine line to tread when we think of what and how much of a change can our actions bring about. Whether it involves posting or not posting black and white selfies! The real #ChallengeAccepted should be of empowerment and standing up for those women who have lost their lives entrenched in violence. Yes, it is debatable if a selfie can stop all of it. But then a start somewhere and somehow is imperative too. After all, it isn’t black and white all the time, is it?