Dear Malaysians: Before Posting Your B&W #ChallengeAccepted Photo, You Need To Know What It’s For

Social media trends are about as confusing as Jada Smith’s ‘entanglement’ comment. Their origins are even more difficult to track and because of how much content is created every second of every day (over 100 million+ photos and videos are uploaded onto Instagram a day). As a result, what starts as a social movement for awareness often turns into a post for #asthetics and to ride the trend wave. The most recent wave involves black and white photos of women. The photos are accompanied by the hashtags, “#ChallengeAccepted” and “#WomenSupportingWomen” in an attempt to show appreciation for other women who inspire and support each other. The trend calls on women to tag other women who have inspired and supported them and for them to do the same.

 

Unfortunately – in the same way that empty black squares drowned out important information for supporters during the peak of the Black Lives Matter movement – the “#ChallengeAccepted” and “#WomenSupportingWomen” is drowning out a real issue that is happening in the world; more specifically, in Turkey.

 

 

The hashtags and grey images have a darker, more serious origin…

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We wanted to address the recent events happening in Turkey regarding femicides, so here is a post compiling some of the relevant news. This is extremely important so we encourage you to read the post thoroughly. Femicide is something that has been a problem in Turkey for so long yet is only getting worse. Something to note: the term “women” refers to all women including LGBTQ+ women, transgender women, and anyone who identifies as a woman. The photos in our first slide are a repost from @beelzeboobz For a less dense reading on this: @minaonthemoon has created an awesome infographic. For more constant updates check out @auturkishculturalclub For more information on the black and white challenge: @beelzeboobz has a good post that goes further in detail. When commenting please be mindful as hate towards anyone will not be tolerated. #pınargültekin #istanbulconventionsaveslives #challengeaccepted #womensupportingwomen

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It all started in Turkey and concerns with femicide. Following the brutal murder of a 27-year-old student named Pinar Gültekin (who was beaten, strangled to death before being burned and covered in concrete by her boyfriend), protesters in Turkey have been fighting for more support for the government for the issue of domestic violence and violence against women. The hijacked hashtags – “#ChallengeAccepted” and “#WomenSupportingWomen” – were originally written as “#kadınaşiddetehayır” and “#istanbulsözleşmesiyaşatır”. These translate to mean: “Say no to violence against women” (kadına şiddete hayır) and “Enforce the Istanbul convention” (Istanbul sözleşmesi yaşatır). According to activists in the country, there has been little done by the government to protect women and as such, the number of women murdered year on year is on the rise. In 2019, 474 women were killed there—a 200% increase since 237 women were lost in 2013. Figures for  2020 are already expected to be almost double what was it was before as a result of coronavirus lockdown. If that isn’t bad enough, it is said that the government is looking at pulling out of the Istanbul Convention, which is a treaty by the Council of Europe that fights for an end to violence against women. Officials have said that such a convention “threatens traditional family values.”

 

As for why the photos posted are in black and white – the reason is quite grim. According to activists in Turkey, the black and white photo symbolises the image that is plastered across newspapers and media, of someone who has been murdered. Photos in the challenge are meant to push people to confront the fact that it could be a woman that they know – their mother, sister, friend – whose photo is posted in black and white because they have been lost to domestic violence.

 

 

However, since the start of this black and white photo challenge, as many as over 5 million photos – from celebrities and non-celebrities alike – have been posted, effectively burying the issue that protesters are trying to raise awareness for in Turkey. They have since been buried under the flood of #womenempowerment and #womensupportingwomen hashtags.

 

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Black and white selfies. It isn’t just a game of hot or not. Or an exercise in vanity. It is not just a mindless challenge that women are undertaking to post their sexiest snaps. These are some of the criticisms that this #challenge has faced. It is a very serious gesture of defiance in support of the Turkish Women (Turkey has one of the highest femicide rate), in support of Pinar Gultekin who was killed in the most violent manner, in support of every woman who has felt threatened and unsafe. This is show of solidarity to say that we stand together, we are unafraid, we are fed up of the lack of accountability for the perpetrators. This was started by Turkish women to say that they are appalled by the Turkish govt decision to withdraw from the Isanbul convention much like Poland. This is to say that no woman stands alone, we deserve to take up space, we are all #womensupportingwomen This is not just performative, this is hopefully not just tokenistic, this is for PINAR GULTEKIN. Say her name!! . (kindly tag me at the top if reposting) . #challengeaccepted . . . #pinargultekin #turkishwomen #westandtogether #domesticviolenceawareness #genderbias #genderinequality #shatterpatriarchy #blackandwhitephoto #selfie #womenempowerment #pınargültekin #empoweringwomen #genderequity #genderequalityforall #nooneisfreeuntileveryoneisfree #feminismisforeverybody #womenofcolor #turkishwomen #womenofcolour #kadinasiddetehayir #istanbulsözleşmesiyaşatır

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But… what is ‘Femicide’?

Coined by the WHO, femicide is the term to be used to represent the shocking number of women who are intentionally abused and murdered at the hands of their partners. Although usually used to apply to cases where women are abused by men, it can also be used to describe abuse and murder by female family members. The difference between male homicide (murder of men) and femicide is the specification that ‘femicide’ cases are perpetrated by “partners or ex-partners, and involve ongoing abuse in the home, threats or intimidation, sexual violence or situations where women have less power or fewer resources than their partner”.

 

 

This is not the first time the “#ChallengeAccepted” hashtag has appeared on Instagram…

In fact, back in 2016, “#ChallengeAccepted” made its rounds on Instagram as a way to spread awareness for cancer. 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.

 

And in a new turn of events, it seems like the “#WomenSupportingWomen” trend did not originate in Turkey nor is it related to cancer awareness…

According to CNN, the hashtag reappeared over a week ago and gained traction when a Brazilian journalist posted a black and white photo of herself for – you guessed it – women empowerment. CNN cites Instagram as its source and confirms that this version of the “Challenge Accepted” trend started in Brazil.

 

 

Amazingly enough, despite where the trend may have originated from, awareness of domestic violence and violence against women in Turkey has risen. More and more people are rallying with women and protesters there, who are members of the ‘We Will Stop Femicide Platform’.

 

 

The celebrities have posted black and white photos include…

1. Jennifer Anniston, who openly admits that she “doesn’t really understand this #challengeaccepted thing”.

 

2. Malaysian host Marion Caunter, who posted the image of herself alongside the caption, “When women support each other, incredible things can happen”.

 

3. Khloe Kardashian’s post also made no reference to any movements (be it whats happening in Turkey or the older cancer awareness issue), but calls on people to be kinder.

 

4. Malaysian heiress and daughter of Vincent Tan posted a stunning image with the simple caption, similar to that of Marion.

 

That being said – it’s important to check why people are using a hashtag that is trending and ensure that you are not clogging up and misusing hashtags that may be intended for educational or awareness purposes.

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