‘Challenge Accepted’: Why Women Are Posting Black-and-White Selfies on Instagram

insta selfies cat

If you've been on Instagram in the past day and a half (if you're anything like us, you definitely have), you've probably seen at least a few black-and-white photos of your friends, family members and random celebrities you follow. 

Some are casual selfies, while others look like outtakes from Vogue cover shoots. Almost all are accompanied by a caption featuring the words—or hashtag—Challenge Accepted, along with messages about supporting and empowering women. It's kind of like modern-day chainmail, with participants tagging their friends to join in when they post their own photos. There are already more than 4 million photos tagged #ChallengeAccepted, including celebrities like Katie HolmesKhloe Kardashian, Kerry Washington, Kristen Bell and more. 

According to The New York Times's Taylor Lorenz, "Back in 2016, black-and-white photos with the hashtag #ChallengeAccepted were meant to spread a message of 'cancer awareness.' Over the years the photo trend has also been used to 'spread positivity.'" A representative from Instagram told The Times that the earliest post for this current cycle of the challenge was posted a week and a half ago by the Brazilian journalist Ana Paula Padrão. 

Many Instagram and Twitter users have pointed out that the current incarnation of the challenge actually started in Turkey, as a way to raise awareness about the high rates of femicide (an intentional killing based on gender) in the country. On Instagram, Istanbul-based philanthropist Zeycan Rochelle Yildirim explained further: "The true reason behind this viral trend is for more than just vanity. Turkey, with its 6th most global users for Instagram, began the viral trend to bring light to Femicide and how common it is for us to see black & white photos of women murdered by the senseless arrogance & uncontrolled violence of men. We're no strangers to waking up to a new black & white image, a new hashtag on Instagram & a solidarity of outcry of the nation banding together for the change we desperately hope to see."

As with any internet moment, there has been some backlash, with several folks calling the challenge (not the Turkish origin) a vain way to support women without really doing anything. As writer and editor Alana Levinson tweeted, "Ladies, instead of posting that hot black-and-white selfie, why don’t we ease into feminism with something low stakes, like cutting off your friend who’s an abuser?"

Our suggestion? Go ahead and post that photo if you want to, but maybe afterward consider signing a petition to demand justice for Breonna Taylor, donating to an organization that's helping trans women of color or even buying something from an Indigenous woman-owned business

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sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...