In late July, women all across social media platforms began posting black-and-white selfies with the hashtag #womensupportingwomen or #challengeaccepted. Thousands of women hopped on this trend including Bollywood actress Katrina Kaif, American actress Kerry Washington, and celebrity influencer Khloe Kardashian. Women across the world uploaded nearly 3 million photos under the hashtag #challengeaccepted, and many more have appeared without it.
Women began to nominate other women to follow the trend. But only a few of these women behind the black and white filters knew the meaning of the trend. The intent was not to post a cute selfie with a meaningless hashtag to indicate support of female empowerment. Rather, Turkish feminists designed this trend specifically to raise awareness against Turkey’s femicide. They hoped the trend would go viral while carrying the original message: an obscene amount of women in Turkey are dying due to gender-based violence.
Pınar Gültekin’s murder triggered the recent protests. On July 16th, 2020, a Kurdish woman from Turkey named Pınar Gültekin disappeared from her home in Ula, Muğla, Turkey. She was a 27-year-old student at Muğla University School of Economics, and lived alone in the town of Ula. Five days later, authorities found her body beaten and strangled to death in a garbage bin covered in concrete. The main culprit was her boyfriend.
Pinar’s death is not a lone incident. Gender-based violence is a widespread issue in Turkey. In 2019, women’s partners or relatives murdered 474 women in Turkey. This is the highest rate in a decade by which the numbers have increased year on year. And these are only the reported incidents. Women’s rights activists in the country have labeled this a femicide; This is the purposeful murder of women and girls due to their gender. This is a growing pandemic that if kept unchecked will only continue to manifest.
As the Instagram feminist page @stopfemicides wrote on July 28th, “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 black and white trend is not necessarily new. In 2016, women used the black and white trend to raise awareness for breast cancer. But recently, Turkish feminists had revived this trend in order to raise awareness for their cause.
The reality is that very few people who participated in the challenge did so to raise awareness against femicide. Most women used the hashtag as an opportunity to post a cute selfie. The reality is, we enjoy challenges such as the “black and white challenge” because we can conveniently label ourselves as women’s rights activists without actually engaging in advocacy. This challenge became a way to post a pretty selfie and add to Instagram’s aesthetic with the illusion that we are participating in a women’s movement. In reality, the desire to create or further their Instagram aesthetic blocked information and the ability to instigate change for a feminist cause.