The Real Meaning Behind Instagram’s #ChallengeAccepted Black-and-White Selfies

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From Harper’s BAZAAR

A deluge of black-and-white selfies has probably flooded your Instagram feed in recent days. The driving force is a new Instagram challenge that’s ostensibly all about “women supporting women,” conveniently dubbed #ChallengeAccepted. However, the real meaning behind the challenge is more somber than it may seem.

For the women involved, the idea is to post a color-free photo of yourself, and then tag other women who you want to uplift to do the same. The hashtag currently has around 4.5 million posts on the platform, with celebrities including Jennifer Lopez, Gabrielle Union, Jennifer Aniston, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Eva Longoria propelling the challenge into the latest social media fad with their own languid selfies.

But, Instagram user @beelzeboobz revealed that the challenge originated in Turkey in order to raise awareness about the high rates of femicide in the country. “Turkish people wake up every day to see a black and white photo of a woman who has been murdered on their Instagram feed, on their newspapers, on their TV screens,” the post reads. “The black and white photo challenge started as a way for women to raise their voice. To stand in solidarity with the women we have lost. To show that one day, it could be their picture that is plastered across news outlets with a black and white filter on top.”

Some have additionally speculated that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s recent speech in the House of Representatives—in which she lambasted fellow Representative Ted Yoho of Florida for calling her a “fucking bitch” on the steps of the U.S. Capitol—may have lent a hand to the popularity of the feel-good feminist pursuit, until it eventually lost its original meaning.

Cristine Abram, a public relations and influencer marketing manager for Later, a social media marketing firm, told writer Taylor Lorenz for the The New York Times, “That was the spark that led to the resurgence of the hashtag challenge. It’s all to do with female empowerment. There was this hashtag that already existed to raise awareness around other large issues. Tapping into that allowed participants to gain traction a lot faster because the algorithm was already familiar with the hashtag.”

Still, some also criticized the challenge’s warped evolution, from raising awareness about femicide to “women supporting women,” as a seemingly toothless approach to feminism. Ali Segel, cohost of the podcast Web Crawlers, wrote on Twitter, “I challenge everyone who has posted a black and white photo to post a screenshot of the organization or charity they’ve donated to that actually supports women. Thanks!” She later added, “Im just saying… as women…could we possibly…equate empowerment….and solidarity…with more….than a selfie…..that is all.”

Alana Levinson, deputy editor of MEL Magazine, tweeted a screenshot of Ivanka Trump’s #ChallengeAccepted Instagram post, showing the limits of vague grandstanding and social media crusades.

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