Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 13:00 [IST]
Last Update: Thursday, Jul 30, 2020 07:20 [IST]
Over the past several days, many Instagram feeds have been overrun with black-and-white images of women both famous and not. These photographs are often posed and filtered, taken from flattering angles and accompanied by benign captions about “supporting women, “Love this simple way to lift each other up, #challengeaccepted.
The premise of the “challenge accepted” trend is that these photos promote female empowerment, and that nominating friends to take part in the campaign is a way for women to support each other. More than 5.2 million women—from stars such as Natalie Portman and Gal Gadot to millennials you may know—have shared their black and white images on the Facebook-owned social media platform in a bid to “support women". Such pictures have proliferated under the hashtag, #challengeAccepted. While seeing aesthetically taken photos is fine, and most women have put these up just for fun, a little background digging reveals an ugly story behind it. The real meaning behind the challenge is more sombre than it may seem.
Reportedly, the hashtag started last week after Brazilian journalist Ana Paula Padrão posted a photo of herself. Other views suggest that the trend started as a response to the gruesome murder in Turkey of university student Pinar Gultekin by her former partner, which had led to many protests in the country. Gultekin’s was not a one-off case. Turkey has seen horrific crimes against women. Last year, as many as 474 women were killed, and data suggests this year’s count so far is already close to 150. This is a country that has ratified the Istanbul Convention, a 2014 Council of Europe agreement on fighting violence against women and domestic abuse, but that seems to matter little. Last year, the Berlin-based women’s rights activist Sehnaz Kiymaz Bahceci had alleged that “the government lacks the will to meet the obligations of the agreement". Earlier this year, the government went so far as to propose a “marry your rapist" bill that could help men accused of having sex with under-18 girls avoid punishment.
Critics of the challenge have called it an empty gesture that's clogging up social media feeds during the dual crises of protests against racism and the Covid-19 pandemic. Those participating defend the photo challenge as a harmless way to support their friends and take a breath from those crises. Violence against women is a serious matter that gets trivialized when it’s reduced to a social media challenge, especially one that does nothing to promote any real sensitivity to the plight of victims. Women must support one another, sure, but not by posting selfies. Those who care must speak up and fight for justice.