How the #ChallengeAccepted Trend is Burying the Struggles of Turkish Women

One of the latest trends gaining momentum on Instagram is women posting black and white selfies/photos with the hashtags #ChallengeAccepted and #WomenSupportingWomen. The #ChallengeAccepted campaign was described as a way for women to support each other and show appreciation for the inspiring women in their lives by nominating them to take part in the challenge on their own accounts. There are currently over 5.8 million and 8.1 million photos posted tagged with the hashtag #ChallengeAccepted and #WomenSupportingWomen respectively as of July 29th, 2020.

As a group who believes it is important to empower women, we were thrilled by the challenge but were curious about how this trend gained popularity. We wanted to find out if there was any additional information on how you could play a part in empowering women so we decided to dig in and research where this trend originated from. Upon completing our research, we were surprised to find that the trend has gone through a game of telephone. The trend started out as a way to bring awareness to the violence faced by the women in Turkey, but the challenge has now been reduced to a simple vanity trend.

The top posts on Instagram tagged with the hashtag #ChallengeAccepted

What is the #ChallengeAccepted Trend?

There are no specific rules for how to take part in the trend, but the basis is to post a black and white photo of yourself on social media. Along with the photo, you can utilize the hashtags #ChallengeAccepted and #WomenSupportingWomen. In addition, you can also tag or direct message family and friends to participate in the challenge as well. While women empowerment is always a great cause to support, it’s sad to see that many are participating in this trend without doing proper research and learning about the true purpose of the trend. Ultimately, this diverts attention away from the original cause when it could have been spreading awareness.

The Usage of Black and White Photos to Support a Cause

This isn’t the first time that black and white photos have been utilized on Instagram to show support for a cause. In 2016, it was used to spread awareness of cancer. In the past couple of days, the black and white photo trend has quickly spread again and there are multiple reasons for this spike. According to Christine Abram, the public relations and influencing marketing manager for Later, the hashtag challenge has gained popularity due to a viral video from July 23rd, which consisted of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez addressing offensive remarks she received from Representative Ted Yoho. This sparked the utilization of the hashtag for women empowerment. The hashtag continues to gain visibility due to popular celebrities such as Kerry Washington, Khloe Kardashian, and Jennifer Aniston also taking part in the challenge.

While this movement and overwhelming support for women empowerment is heartwarming, many do not know the initial reason for the resurgence of this trend – to bring awareness to the rising rates of femicide in Turkey.

The Rising Rates of Femicide in Turkey

The trend was started by a group of women in Turkey to bring awareness to the victims of femicide and domestic violence in their country. The first mention of this trend is by a New York Times reporter named Tariro Mzezewa.

The original hashtags that were being utilized along with #ChallengeAccepted hashtag were #kadınaşiddetehayır (say no to violence against women) and #istanbulsözleşmesiyaşatır (enforce the Istanbul convention). As the #ChallengeAccepted hashtag started trending internationally, these two hashtags ended up getting dropped along the way, diluting the message from being about the deaths Turkish women to general support for women empowerment. 

Femicide, as defined by the World Health Organization, is:

“Violence against women comprises a wide range of acts – from verbal harassment and other forms of emotional abuse, to daily physical or sexual abuse. At the far end of the spectrum is femicide: the murder of a woman.”

While there are many countries that deal with the issue of femicide, Turkey is one of the top countries that have the highest rate of femicide. In just 2019 alone, there are at least 500 recorded femicides but the true number is unknown as many femicides go unrecorded. According to a study conducted by British Medical Journal (BMJ), it was found that out of 202 cases of femicide it was typical for the victim to have known the perpetrator and for the place of death to be at the victim’s home. With the COVID-19 restrictions and many people staying at home, this number is expected to increase. The right shows charts to show the breakdown of key statistics from the study in relation to femicides in Turkey.

Turkey’s current government and justice system do not enforce laws to stop these crimes and many of the perpetrators end up not being charged. Due to the system’s failure to punish the perpetrators for such crimes, this normalizes such behavior and allows violence against women to continue. While it’s not only heartbreaking to hear, the Turkish government is currently attempting to abolish the Istanbul Convention, a human rights treaty signed in Istanbul on May 2011, that protects women against domestic violence and discrimination. The treaty defines offenses that would be classified as violence against women which includes:

  • Psychological violence
  • Stalking
  • Physical violence
  • Sexual violence, including rape and explicitly, covers all non-consensual acts of a sexual nature with a person
  • Forced marriage
Photo of Pınar Gültekin.

The movement began upon the coverage of the most recent victim, 27-year-old, Pınar Gültekin, who was violently murdered by her ex-boyfriend, Cemal Metin Avci. She was reported as missing on July 16, 2020. Upon the police showing Avci CCTV footage found of them together, he confessed to the murder and lead the police to the location of Pinar’s body. Her body was found strangled and partially burned inside of an oil drum in the forest. The reports of the details of Pinar’s death has resulted in the rise of protests in Turkey. Pinar’s tragic and brutal death has resulted in the women of Turkey to speak up and call focus on the danger that Turkish women are facing daily. 

Every day, the people of Turkey wake up to see a new black and white image of a woman murdered on their social media, newspapers, and tv screens. The black and white photo challenge started as a way for women to raise their voice and advocate for the women in Turkey who are being brutally murdered. The women want to show that it could just as easily be their picture that is being shared next if we continue to ignore the issue happening in Turkey.

Social Media and its Role in Societal Awareness

The misunderstanding of the true intent behind the recent resurgence of the black and white photo challenge reminds us of what occurred with #BlackoutTuesday on June 2, 2020. While the initial intention for posting black squares on your Instagram timeline was to show solidarity with Black people and share Black Lives Matter related information, the social media movement quickly became a way to silence the voices that were actively battling to make a change. Users flocked to post the black squares with the hashtags #blm and #blacklivesmatter in order to take a stand on the issue but most failed to adequately provide the proper resources to their followers to make a long-lasting change in the movement. Those who were posting informative content relevant to the cause failed to show up in search results due to the over-utilization of the movement’s hashtags.

It’s important for users to remember that while these trends and challenges are easy to complete, it’s more important to understand the meaning behind them. We need to take on the responsibility of educating ourselves on why something is trending and not fall into the trap of joining the bandwagon because of the fear of missing out. We need to help raise awareness and advocate for the causes that these challenges are created for, instead of derailing the message and silencing their meaning.

I already posted a black and white photo, now what?

If you are one of the users that already posted a black and white selfie to participate in the challenge, take the time today to learn about the true origin of the challenge. If you are reading this article, you have already taken the first step, but don’t stop here! Do your own research!

On Instagram, you can update your caption or post to your stories to reflect upon your new knowledge of the femicides in Turkey and provide ways on how your followers can support the cause.

How You Can Help the Women of Turkey?

  • Sign the petition which demands that Turkish President Erdoğan take legislative steps to repeal the abusive laws in Turkey.
  • Educate yourself on the protests currently happening and the history of femicide in Turkey. Some good sources include: 
  • Share posts that discuss the femicide and domestic violence issues in Turkey to inform those who follow you. Here are a couple of posts on Instagram that you can share with a breakdown of the situation:
  • Talk to your family and friends, as well as your local community to bring awareness
  • Share this article on your social media channels
  • Donate to organizations that are raising money for the cause. Reputable organizations include: 
  • Read books. Here’s a link
    • ‘The Time Regulation Institute’ (1954) by Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar
    • ‘The Museum of Innocence’ (2008) by Orhan Pamuk
    • ‘Istanbul Istanbul’ (2015) by Burhan Sönmez
    • ‘Three Daughters of Eve’ (2016) by Elif Shafak
    • ‘The Bastard of Istanbul’ by Elif Shafaf
    • ‘Ayse’s Trail’ by Atulya K Bingham
    • ‘Honour’ by Elif Shafak
    • ‘The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age 1300-1600  by Halil Inalcik
  • Talk to your family and friends, as well as your local community to bring awareness
  • Share this article on your social media channels. We’ve also created posts on our social media to relay the information included in this article.


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