With the hashtags #challengeaccepted and #womensupportingwomen, Instagram’s flooded with black and white portraits and selfies of women over the last several days. Some are famous in their fields. Many are the Instagram girls next door. In common, they have a hashtag and goal to uplift other women. Recently, the origins of this trend have been murky. As a photographer, I have been curious to know what sparked a movement. After all, the concept seemed to be one of female empowerment and nominations are an honor to bestow on other women as a means of love and support. So, #challengeaccepted, I started down a rabbit hole to find out what was going on.
The first theory I came across was it was in response to Taylor Swift’s poetic glances aimed at folklore.
While a departure from last year’s cotton candy colored imagery from Lover, it seemed merely coincidental that her social media seemed overrun by black and white.
The second theory was Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s rallying speech on the House floor last week. During the speech, she claps back after Florida Representative Ted Yoho allegedly called her a “fucking bitch.” In it, she states:
“Rep Yoho put his finger in my face. He called me disgusting, he called me crazy, he called me out of my mind. And he called me dangerous. And then he took a few more steps, and after I had recognized his comments as rude he walked away and said “I’m rude? You’re calling me rude?” I took a few steps ahead and I walked inside and cast my vote because my constituents send me here each and every day to fight for them, and to make sure that they are able to keep a roof over their head, that they’re able to feed their family, and that they’re able to carry their lives with dignity. I walked back out and there were reporters in the front of the Capitol, and in front of reporters, Rep. Yoho called me—and I quote—”a fucking bitch.”
Here’s her speech in it’s entirety:
While the “dehumanizing” language Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been subjected to is disturbing to say the least, it’s another day for a woman in America. So, was this the spark? Was the moment she shared how glad she is that her father remains dearly departed so he does not see people speak to his daughter in this manner the spark? Alas, it doesn’t seem so.
Why post black and white imagery to our social media feeds when AOC is vividly in color? I found it in Pink.
While first stumbling across the goddess herself, I saw it as simply another epic way she encourages other women. Her next post however, had me reeling.
“The #challengeaccepted movement was a way for the women of Turkey to band together with a B&W picture to say that any one of them could be next on the front page of the newspaper.”
Pinar Gültekin was a university student who reportedly died at the hands of her ex-boyfriend earlier this month in a so-called “honor killing.” Women in Turkey began posting pictures last week to protest femicide and domestic violence.
On July 16, 27-year-old Pinar Gültekin left her Muğla, Turkey apartment. About 3 o’clock in the afternoon, she talked to her sister Sibel about going shopping. Sibel attempted to call her a short time later, and her phone was off, striking her sister as odd behavior. With their mother, she travelled to Muğla to report her sister missing after several attempts to reach her. Days passed without word. Then, officers looked at CCTV footage outside the shopping center and discovered the final sighting of Pinar with ex-boyfriend Cemal Metin Avci. After initially denying any knowledge of Pinar’s location, the boyfriend finally confessed once shown video evidence. He sent police to an oil drum in the woods, where Pinar’s burned body lay. An ex, now a married man who wanted to have an affair with Pinar, he strangled her once she rejected his advances.
In 2019, 474 female murders occurred in Turkey. The vast majority died at the hands of partners or family. 2020’s numbers are expected to skyrocket in response to COVID-19 and the pressures it brings. There have been protests all over the Turkey. A Twitter campaign began on Twitter using pictures of Pinar followed by “enough.” According to New York Times journalist Taylor Lorenz, the sharing of black and white selfies actually started as part of a Brazilian chain mail message, and the #challengeaccepted movement began gaining notice on July 17th.
In statistics from 2017, 453 women were murdered by an intimate partner in the states of California and Texas alone. There were nearly 2,000 murders at the hands of a male partner for women in the same year. Women are dying all over the world at the hands of men who are supposed to love us.
I began this rabbit hole with the innocuous lyrics of folklore streaming through my AirPods and ended in a dark, mute place. A place where women can’t sing anymore because our voices are being stolen, one last breath at a time. Women do have a duty to lift one another up into life and light. We are a generation united, across the world. While a selfie seems frivolous to some, it’s empowering to others. In whatever manner you choose to honor the women around you, do so in truth and strength.
And to those who’d provoke us so that you might steal our voice, we see you. We light up the darkness. We will prevail.