Challenge Accepted

Why you may be seeing lots of black and white photos of women on your social media feeds

The trend has taken off in the last week and has now been linked to a Turkish campaign to highlight femicide.

READERS MAY HAVE seen their Instagram feeds begin to fill up this week with black and white photographs of the women they follow on the site. 

A social media trend called the Black and White Challenge, which first appeared in 2016 (initially for cancer awareness), has taken off again, with more than seven million posts tagged with the #WomenSupportingWomen tag. 

The challenge works like chain mail, with posters nominating other women to post their own black-and-white photos and then nominate more people. Most of the posts include the hashtag #WomenSupportingWomen and the phrase ‘Challenge Accepted’.

Those who are nominated are often sent a message by the woman who nominated them. These messages vary, but generally talk about how they have chosen women who “share an empowered mentality”, who are “badass” or “beautiful and strong”.

And the messages end with the line: “Let’s love each other.”

Celebrities like Kerry Washington, Kristen Bell, Paris Hilton and Eva Longoria have posted photos with the tag. 

Hilton wrote: “I love when women come together to support each other. My dream is that every woman feels loved, feels safe, feels happy and support in their dreams.”

An Instagram spokesperson told The New York Times that the trend had doubled between Sunday and Monday this week.

“Based on the posts, we’re seeing that most of the participants are posting with notes relating to strength and support for their communities.”

Some have seen it as a positive trend, promoting the general idea of women supporting each other.

However others have described it simply as an opportunity to post a ‘vanity selfie’ or a challenge lacking any real motivation, unlike the recent #BlackOutTuesday trend to express solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. 


Tweet by @Camilla Blackett Camilla Blackett / Twitter Camilla Blackett / Twitter / Twitter

According to Instagram, the earliest recent post for this challenge was a week and a half ago by a Brazilian Journalist Ana Paula Padrão.

Women in Turkey have also recently been posting black and white photographs of themselves to raise awareness about femicide.

One Turkish social media user accused those posting photos without linking it to violence against women as “tone deaf”.

“Just this week we have had several women murdered. The government and our justice system does nothing to stop these crimes. Most often the murders barely get a slap on the wrist or no charges at all,” she said.

“Turkish people wake up every day to see black and white photos of a woman who has been murdered on their Instagram feed, on their newspaper and on their TV screens. 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.”

Tweet by @ايمأن 🇵🇸 ايمأن 🇵🇸 / Twitter ايمأن 🇵🇸 / Twitter / Twitter

The majority of posts outside of Turkey over the last week did not reference any specific cause for which they are trying to raise awareness, other than the general sentiment of women supporting each other.

Many posts also did not explain how posting a black and white selfie symbolises this support for other women. And the private messages sent to those nominated encouraging them to post their own photo did not appear to make any reference to violence against women.

It’s not clear whether the link to femicide in the Turkish posts was the trigger for the general worldwide trend in the last week, or how it made that transition if so.

But whether the two are linked or not, the wider campaign has now led to more widespread highlighting of the Turkish campaign and a discussion about violence against women by their partners. 

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