By now, you’ve probably seen women posting black and white photos of themselves on social media, proudly declaring #ChallengeAccepted. You may have even taken part yourself, stating you’re all for #WomenSupportingWomen.
Dozens of celebs have shared their own version of the “challenge” in the past week, with the likes of Natalie Portman, Cindy Crawford, Gal Gadot and Eva Longoria among the biggest names taking part. Australian stars such as ‘Home and Away’s Ada Nicodemou and Sam Frost.
And women from all walks of life have joined in, with more than five million images on Instagram now posted alongside the hashtag.
Most posts contain a message about women raising one another up, with the poster nominating a friend to take part. But the trend hasn’t been without its critics, with some labelling it as an excuse to post a “hot selfie”.
But the very criticism of the challenge is receiving criticism itself, with some arguing that the backlash is just another way to throw hate at women.
So what does this challenge actually mean – and where did it start?
There are differing opinions on where the hashtag originated from, meaning the motivations of those posting the images may be different. Black and white photos were initially shared with the hashtag #ChallengeAccepted back in 2016 to raise cancer awareness.
In recent weeks, however, some speculated that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s speech in the House of Representatives, where she criticised Ted Yoho for calling her a “fucking bitch”, may have inspired the current trend of female empowerment. Cristine Abram, marketing manager for Later, a social media marketing firm, believes this to be the case, telling 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.”
Instagram told the publication this current cycle of the challenge appears to have been started by Brazilian journalist Ana Paula Padrão, who shared an image on July 18.
The most likely origin, however, is that the challenge was started to raise awareness of domestic violence and the killing of women in Turkey. The Instagram account @auturkishculturalclub posted a series of Instagram stories, which have been widely shared, stating that Turkey is one of the “top countries when it comes to femicides”.
“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.”
The account also shared a post detailing what women can do to practically support women in Turkey, including donating to shelters.
Some have said the Turkish hashtags associated with the challenge, which explicitly called for an end to violence against women, have been removed as posts have gone viral.
Many on social media have not called for an end to the trend, but have instead encouraged women to educate themselves about the origins of the hashtag and edit their posts to offer vital context.
“I’ve said it before – question your activism and understand why you’re doing it,” author and journalist Poorna Bell wrote on Instagram. “If your reaction to this is that you wouldn’t have posted it knowing what it’s about, ask yourself why you feel comfortable posting a photo of yourself to support women in a vague way, but not women from Turkey who are being senselessly killed in domestic violence situations – a number that has risen 200% since 2013.
“Women support women, the end. Not just the women in our own lives. Also, very proud of people that have edited their posts and flagged the change. We are all learning, and you are amazing.”