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Women, Read This Before You Participate in the Black and White Selfie Challenge

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There’s a new social media challenge every couple of weeks, and those of us who want to do better and be more aware of how our presence in certain spaces takes up room for the people whose voices need to be heard have become reticent to join in.

We need to ask questions before we accept a viral chain letter and post a selfie, take up a hashtag spot, and the like, even though someone we love and trust sent the challenge along.

Which is all to say, let’s talk about the origins behind this black and white women’s selfie challenge, because it’s a bit more than a simple and vague “women supporting women.”

Actress Florence Pugh (who blew you away in Little Women), shed light on the challenge’s background when she posted a silly black and white photo of her own.

“I’ve been told that the true meaning of this hashtag and this b&w photo – ‘It is to shed light onto the Istanbul Convention, women are being subjected to violence and this convention is to end forgiveness for the attacker/murderers.

With that in mind, adjust your hashtags if you didn’t already do so.

Let’s ride gals.”

New York Times writer Tariro Mzezewa also verifies this is how the challenge started, saying that she spoke to some Turkish women who said,

“It started there as a response to them being frustrated over always seeing black and white photos of women who have been killed.”

Dr.  Pragya Agarwal chimed in as well, adding,

“This was started by Turkish women to say that they are appalled by the Turkish govt decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, much like Poland.

This is to say that no woman stands alone, we deserve to take up space, we are all #womensupportingwomen.”

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Black and white selfies. It isn’t just a game of hot or not. Or an exercise in vanity. It is not just a mindless challenge that women are undertaking to post their sexiest snaps. These are some of the criticisms that this #challenge has faced. It is a very serious gesture of defiance in support of the Turkish Women (Turkey has one of the highest femicide rate), in support of Pinar Gultekin who was killed in the most violent manner, in support of every woman who has felt threatened and unsafe. This is show of solidarity to say that we stand together, we are unafraid, we are fed up of the lack of accountability for the perpetrators. This was started by Turkish women to say that they are appalled by the Turkish govt decision to withdraw from the Isanbul convention much like Poland. This is to say that no woman stands alone, we deserve to take up space, we are all #womensupportingwomen This is not just performative, this is hopefully not just tokenistic, this is for PINAR GULTEKIN. Say her name!! . (kindly tag me at the top if reposting) . #challengeaccepted . . . #pinargultekin #turkishwomen #westandtogether #domesticviolenceawareness #genderbias #genderinequality #shatterpatriarchy #blackandwhitephoto #selfie #womenempowerment #pınargültekin #empoweringwomen #genderequity #genderequalityforall #nooneisfreeuntileveryoneisfree #feminismisforeverybody #womenofcolor #turkishwomen #womenofcolour #kadinasiddetehayir #istanbulsözleşmesiyaşatır

A post shared by Dr Pragya Agarwal (@drpragyaagarwal) on

Poland left the Instanbul Convention, which is a European treaty aimed at protecting women against violence, and Turkey is considering doing the same.

While the original push behind the hashtag challenge has gotten a bit muddied, women like Padma Lakshmi and Alexa Chung have used their selfies and posts to lift up women like Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Natasha McKenna, and Michelle Cusseaux – all in need of justice after brutal treatment.

If you’re going to take part, keep all of this in mind, and maybe make your space somewhere that boosts the signals of women around the world who are in need of justice, of strength, and of support against power.

In the process, you and your followers are sure to learn something about the plight of the women we’re supporting around the globe, making the social media solidarity all the more meaningful.