Photo: #challengeaccepted Trend
Quarantine has undoubtedly brought an abundance of social media trends, some as a product of boredom and resulting entertainment, while others serve to promote powerful social justice issues. Most recently, the “#challengeaccepted” trend became popular on Instagram during the last week of July, as celebrities and common people alike began circulating black and white selfies with the accompanying hashtag.
The social media trend – #challengeaccepted
The premise of the “challenge,” as it quickly became popular within high-profile celebrity social circles, was that posting a black and white selfie promoted female empowerment. Nominating friends to take part in posting a photo became a way for women to support each other and display female solidarity. Over 4 million people posted photos using the hashtag, including celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston, Eva Longoria, Kerry Washington and Kristen Bell, many of whom also used the hashtag #womensupportingwomen. However, the challenge quickly became criticized as many began calling it directionless and meaninglessly performative, while others had no idea what its actual purpose was.
Aniston even said in the caption of her post, “Truth be told, I don’t really understand this #challengeaccepted thing … but who doesn’t love a good reason to support women! Soooo… challenge accepted!”
Original use – Brazil
This is not the first time that the #challengeaccepted hashtag or the black-and-white selfies have been used in an Instagram trend. Back in 2016, the same hashtag and selfie format was believed to be first circulated as means of raising cancer awareness, and made the rounds again at a later point in time to “spread positivity.” 2020 saw the latest re-purpose of the concept, with the same methods of tagging several women to help the “challenge” gain traction. In this recent case however, there has been controversy surrounding where the reiteration actually originated from.
Theories include that it sparked from an initial post from Brazilian journalist Ana Paula Padrão that encouraged women to support each other, while others believed that it was created as a response to the verbal assault against Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez by Rep. Ted Yoho.
The Reason the #challengeaccepted was trending RECENTLY
Then, social media users started to trace the challenge’s origin back to Turkish women spreading awareness about the gender-based violence that is unfortunately hugely prominent within the country. A post on Twitter discussed the message of the original social media campaign: “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 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.”
What this post is referring to is femicide in Turkey, which is an atrocious but unfortunately pervasive phenomenon that has grown dramatically over the past several years.
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The horrific femicide in Turkey
The frequency of femicide in Turkey is truly awful, and the black and white social media posts were originally employed as a form of activism to emphasize this serious situation that is pervading the country. Nearly everyday people in Turkey see a monochrome picture end up in the news of yet another woman who has been murdered by a man close to them, and the posts were serving to bring attention to the commonness of situation, with the added implication that any of them could be one of those photos next.
The posts were accompanied by hashtags such as #kadınaşiddetehayır and #Istanbulsözleşmesiyaşatır, that translate to “Say no to violence against women” and “Enforce the Istanbul convention.” The Istanbul convention, or the Council of Europe Convention, is a human rights treaty that prevents and combats violence against women and domestic violence, but it is now being threatened by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party, who is in discussions to withdraw Turkey from the convention, which has been in place since 2011 and works to effectively prosecute offenders.
Recently, a 27-year-old Turkish woman named Pinar Gültekin was killed at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, who confessed to killing her and trying to hide her remains after she rejected his advances. It is believed that her death served as a catalyst for the spread of social media posts, as her senseless murder additionally sparked outrage in Turkey in the form of thousands of women mobilizing to protest against femicide, with marches in four Turkish cities taking place to mourn her death.
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This is Pinar Gultekin. She is the reason behind #challengeaccepted Given what we have all learned in the recent months with BLM viral posts made me want to go deeper and get more context before posting. What came out of it is a few versions of its origins but this particular one was most quoted and felt instinctually like the reason it went viral. For those who haven’t yet caught up on this story..This one is very important. It is about gender based violence. I have quoted the journalist Bethan McKernan, Turkey and Middle Eastern Correspondant for The Guardian. The Murder/ The Incident: Pinar Gultekin a 27-year-old woman was allegedly brutally murdered and burned by her jealous ex-boyfriend. Her body was found on July 21st. Her murder had sparked outrage in Turkey, shining a light on the country’s shockingly high femicide rate and Turkish government efforts to roll back legislation designed to protect women from gender-based violence. What Followed: Marches in four Turkish cities mourning Gültekin’s death and calling on Turkish politicians to uphold the Istanbul Convention were accompanied by hundreds of thousands of social media posts: one initiative involved posting photos on Instagram with hashtags such as #challengeaccepted and #İstanbulSözleşmesiYaşatır, or “Enforce the Istanbul Convention”, quickly took off in Turkey to emphasise how pictures of murdered women end up in black and white in newspapers. The Istanbul Convention Keeps Turkish Women Alive: Campaigners are also deeply worried about fresh efforts by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling party to repeal a Council of Europe treaty known as the Istanbul convention, groundbreaking legislation from 2011 that protects victims of domestic and gender-based violence and effectively prosecutes offenders. Final Words by me: As a South-Asian woman who constantly reads about violence against her country women, rape and honour killings in her own country, I couldn’t help myself from not re-iterating and highlighting the need for context when we co-opt a viral movement in the West.This movement is for Pinar Gultekin and the many victims of femicide #İstanbulSözleşmesiYaşatır
Freida Pinto posted about the tragedy of Pinar Gültekin being the true meaning behind the challenge in a lengthy post on Instagram, which she concluded with a heartbreaking yet crucial message. “As a South-Asian woman who constantly reads about violence against her country, I couldn’t help myself from not reiterating and highlighting the need for context when we co-opt a viral movement in the West. This movement is for Pinar Gültekin and the many victims of femicide. #Istanbulsözleşmesiyaşatır”
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Actresses Melissa Fumero (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) and Gina Torres (Suits) were also among those to later give credit and recognition in the captions of their posts to the women in Turkey and their cause. “…I support the women in Turkey who started this challenge to help fight femicide,” Torres said, while Fumero gave a similar shout out in what she acknowledged was an edited caption. “I stand in solidarity with the many women we have lost. Go to @auturkishculturalclub for more info.”
As it turns out, the original context of the challenge, that came to be deemed as vaguely inspiring at best and shallow at most, had been lost among its entry into the U.S. where it became entangled among online influence of celebrities. It is therefore imperative to recognize that the challenge was not about celebrities nor the vague inspirational female solidarity that they used it to promote, but is instead was a call to action from Turkish women that brought about attention globally to the violence against women that continues to plague the country.
Because unfortunately, Pinar’s murder is only the tip of the iceberg. In Turkey, the We Will Stop Femicide Platform reported that in this past June alone, at least 27 women across the country were murdered by men and 474 women were killed last year, half of which were at the hands of current or former spouses or romantic partners. Domestic violence is a huge source of the problem and has only been exacerbated as a product of the coronavirus pandemic, where women and their potential assailants may be forced to isolate themselves together, posing a serious threat against women who may be trapped in abusive or dangerous relationships or situations.
So even as the meaning of the challenge was confused and discredited, with some people further continuing to debate its origins, the focus should continue to be on the disproportionately high femicide rates in Turkey and ways that we can help Turkish women receive the justice they deserve.
Hollywood Insider stands in full solidarity with women in Turkey as we do with women all over the world.
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