#challengeaccepted is more than a vapid exercise in narcissism with an empty call to action, it is consciousness raising and feminism at its very best.
In the past two days, a growing number of articles have denigrated the recent #challengeaccepted trend of women supporting women with black and white pictures of themselves on Instagram as vapid slactivism. The Guardian asked if #challengeaccepted was simply a Miss Instagram Pageant and The New York Times used questionable and leading wording to introduce their article on the subject stating, “a campaign that purports to be about women supporting women is posting black and white selfies.” An article from Indy100 on the Independent even went so far as to urge women to , “Stop saying #ChallengeAccepted is 'empowering'. Posting a selfie isn't feminism.”Everywhere I looked I found writers misunderstanding the movement and questioning its integrity from the outset.
Yet, the truth is, #challengeaccepted is about far more than posting a flattering picture of oneself looking hot, sexy or beautiful in order to receive love, likes and complimentary feedback from our peers on social media. #challengeaccepted is a consciousness raising exercise that is actively uniting women across nations, racial divides and social classes to stand up against growing femicide in Turkey, violence against women, and in support of BlackLivesMatter and one another. This simple act of publicly recognizing women for their private support and friendship creates a circle.
And violence against women only occurs when there is a break in the circle of women.
Time and again, women, particularly if they are wearing lipstick and looking “pretty” are called out for their lack of sincerity with regard to feminism. Wolfe in her 1991 book, The Beauty Myth, argues that beauty is a social construct of men. Western Feminists in the Seventies threw away their bras and broke out of their domesticity to forge new paths in the workplace and break down glass ceilings everywhere. Yet by the eighties it was clear that in order to be successful in a “man’s world,” most women felt they had to emulate men in the workplace; or at least the male notion of power over another, exuding strength and self-confidence, doing whatever it takes to “win” at goodness knows what in order to get ahead. I never bought into this notion that to be a feminist meant I should not be feminine. Femininity to me was never equated with oppression or domesticity, it always meant standing in my own power as my whole self, body, mind and spirit, safe and free to be, me.
The #metoo movement suffered much the same fate. Men and women alike were quick to dismantle the efficacy of the movement and/or the legitimacy of the stories of women being told, sadly perpetuating the long held belief that what a woman has to say is irrelevant, untrue, overblown on the one hand or not expressed strongly enough or powerfully enough on the other: as if women standing up together without direct action is automatically equated with meaningless action that does not effect real change. Yet we have forgotten that the simple act of raising awareness on an issue is a necessary first step in effecting positive and lasting social change.
Domestic Violence has been on the rise during the global pandemic, as jobs are lost, household incomes rapidly decrease, and women are forced in lockdown with their abusers with no means of escape. The Black and White Selfie is a nod to all the women who have lost their lives during this tumultuous time to a world that still equates power with oppressing another - and being a man, or a person of note, with being powerful in this way. Since the dawn of man, sexual violence against women has historically occurred as acts of war and aggression and a sign of power over another. The #metoo movement began to raise awareness for the need to change power systems that continue to promote, permit and perpetuate sexual violence. The #challengeaccepted movement is focusing on all violence against women and the need for women to support women.
In most cases of domestic violence, the victim is isolated from their friends and family, and a case built against them by their abuser, that they are the ones to blame, that their word is meaningless. If the victim maintains a close connection to their circle, the others around them will inevitably notice the signs long before the victim is able to see how their world has changed around them, and are more likely to get those suffering the help they need as they need it.
In a time of food and water shortages, climate emergency and Black Lives Matter, simply standing up for other women with a hashtag and/or selfie may seem inconsequential at first glance. But this selfie movement is not just for the selfish benefit of a woman, with women supporting women against the slightest indiscretions of men. No, this is creating a strong circle of solidarity.
A few days ago, I read a story about a group of grandmothers who stood silently in their local park to “save the world.” They were laughed at, and largely ignored. How could a group of women standing silently in a park save the world? Yet it was not long before they were joined by other women, of all ages and races and backgrounds simply standing there, silently. They could not be evicted from the park because they were not officially protesting anything. They did not need a permit to be there, because all they were doing was gathering together, silently. The news spread and people asked, but what is it that they are actually trying to do? What are they standing for or against? What is their agenda? Yet, their agenda was simple, they wanted peace.
We are so busy fighting for air, for change, for peace that we have forgotten the only way to effect change is to be it. If we want peace and unity, be peace and unity and stand in solidarity with our global family. During this tumultuous time in history, social media affords us the opportunity to gather together and hold hands across borders by naming our greatest supporters and friends and creating a chain that cannot and should not be broken.
And frankly, it really should not matter how I dress or whether or not I am wearing lipstick while I’m doing that.