Millions of women around the world have joined an Instagram campaign, posting black and white photos of themselves captioned with the hashtags #ChallengeAccepted or #WomenSupportingWomen and sometimes both together, as apart of a campaign raising awareness on violence against women.The campaign has gathered traction in Iran and Turkey following a wave of murders committed against women, and in the US as part of the women's empowerment movement.
The origin of the campaign is controversial, as some claim the campaign originated in Iran as an outcry against honor killings, some claim it began in Turkey, while others claim it was initiated by a female journalist in Brazil. Some reports even state that the #ChallengeAccepted campaign began in 2016 as campaign intending to raise cancer awareness.
In Iran, the campaign gathered momentum after a wave of recent "honor killings", a term used to describe the murder of woman committed by a close male relative after the woman has performed an act perceived to taint the family's honor. After the third honor killing occurred in June, a murder of a 22-year-old-woman killed at the hands of her father, nationwide outcries demanded that the perpetrators of such killings be held accountable.
Her murder came just two weeks after the beheading of 14-year-old Romina Ashrafi from Talesh, northern Iran, who was killed by her father using a sickle after she attempted to elope with her 35-year-old boyfriend after her father disproved of the match. After being found by police several days later, she was returned to her home despite telling police that she feared for her life.
Under Islamic Republic law, a father who kills his child is not considered a murderer and is not eligible for the death penalty. However, the violence involved in Ashrafi's case was so egregious that Iran's Supreme Leader's office was forced to respond to the outcry it provoked. Khamenei's official Twitter account said that the Supreme Leader had called for "harsh confrontation" with those "who consider the violation of women their right."
The outcries caused parliament to move forward on a bill that would protect women against violence. "The best measure to prevent such murders is to accelerate the implementation of the bill on preserving women's security," said Masoumeh Ebtekar, vice president of Iran for women and family affairs, to Khabar Online News Agency in June, ABCNews reported.
Meanwhile in Turkey, the campaign quickly gathered traction after activists were already protesting violence against women and the lack of consequences for perpetrator. The protests began after 27-year-old Pinar Gültekin was beaten and killed to death by a man, some claim to be her former partner, the Syrian media outlet Al Arabiya reported. Following her death, Turkish women began posting black and white photos online as a a sign of solidarity with Gültekin and other similar victims who suffered a similar fate. "Turkish people wake up every day to see a black-and-white photo of a woman who has been murdered on their Instagram feeds, on their newspapers, on their TV screens,” one Instanbul based Instagram user wrote. "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 user added.
View this post on InstagramI have received several requests that wanted me to share this as a post as well. So here goes. I hope this will be able to inform people as to what is going on in Turkey and why the black and white photo challenge exists. Thank you all for sharing this information. #blackandwhite #challengeaccepted #womensupportingwomen #mensupportingwomen #istanbulanlaşmasıyaşatır #blackandwhitechallenge #istanbulsözleşmesiyaşatır
In light of her death, Instagram users in Turkey posted black and white photos accompanied with the the caption #İstanbulSözleşmesiYaşatır, which refers to the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe's human rights treaty to prevent domestic violence against women CNN reported. Turkey is considering withdrawing from the convention, adding to the nation wide protests.
However while much light has been placed on the women of Turkey and Iran using the campaign for violence against women, three separate officials have traced the first post to Brazilian journalist Ana Paula Padrão, who with one-million followers apparently intended the campaign to enhance solidarity among women.
The Instagram trend gained traction after Padrão's July 17 post, an Instagram spokesperson told CNN. New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz confirmed this, and Melek Önder of We Will Stop Femicide Platform told CNN that that the trend originated in Brazil, not Turkey.
In the United States celebrity figures such as US president's Donald trump's daughter Ivanka Trump, Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman, actress Kristen Bell, and model and public influencer Khloe Kardashian all joined the campaign. Their Instagram posts brought the campaign into mainstream light in the US, however in doing so, their posts ignited subsequent criticism over the campaign's inability to make genuine change.
During an NPR interview in which the campaign was discussed, Lorenz criticized the movement, commenting that, "ultimately these selfies just don't really further any of the causes that they purport to support, and they have this sort of veneer of activism without actually, you know, encouraging people to do anything."
She added that the campaign is "not getting people to sign a petition. It's not, you know, forcing employers to hire more women. It's not really accomplishing anything other than encouraging women to post photos of themselves, which, you know, in itself doesn't really do anything.
Moreover, she states that the campaign may even have a negative effect, as while the campaign encourages female empowerment, as least in the United States, some women feel pressure to join the campaign and upload photos of themselves even if the don't want to.
"A lot of people don't like to post photos of themselves on their Instagram or feel that pressure. But, you know, these types of campaigns sort of make them," Lorenz said.
Following the coronavirus pandemic, violence against women has intensified.
According to UN Women, emerging data shows that violence against women and girls has increased around the world as the pandemic forces women to stay at home with their abusers.
“We know lockdowns and quarantines are essential to suppressing COVID-19. But they can trap women with abusive partners. Over the past weeks as economic and social pressures and fear have grown, we have seen a horrifying global surge in domestic violence,” the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had said in April.Donna Rachel Edmunds contributed to this report.