The real story behind Instagram’s new ‘Challenge Accepted’ black and white selfie trend

You may have woken up to see your Instagram feed awash with black and white selfies hashtagged with #challengeaccepted from the accounts of celebs and your friends alike. If you’re feeling a little confused as to where the trend that seems to have sprung up overnight has come from, you’re not alone.

challenge accepted
Instagram/@jenniferaniston/@halleberry

What is the ‘Challenge Accepted’ Instagram trend?

While it may at first appear that the trend popped up over night, the concept of posting a black and white selfie to Instagram with the hashtag #ChallengeAccepted has actually circulated social media for years in various different forms, including for cancer awareness as far back as 2016.

There’s been a lot of confusion over where the challenge originally stemmed from, especially as, on the face of it, posting a flattering selfie to Instagram seemed a stretch on the term ‘challenge’ (which normally indicates undertaking an arduous or difficult task). But first, let’s look at what people have been posting since Monday 27 July.

While the selfies you are seeing across Instagram this week have most likely been captioned with a generic, positive message about female empowerment, friendship or sisterhood, a post from Dr Pragya Agarwal shared on Tuesday explaining that the Instagram challenge was created as a way for women to show their solidarity with women in Turkey, where violence against women is one of the highest in the world. In particular, the posts were intended as a show of solidarity with a woman called Pinar Gultekin, a 27-year-old Turkish university student who was horrifically murdered recently.

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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, a woman of colour. Say her name!! . . . Thanks to @naomiyoga #challengeaccepted . . . #pinargultekin #turkishwomen #westandtogether #domesticviolenceawareness #genderbias #genderinequality #shatterpatriarchy #blackandwhitephoto #selfie #womenempowerment #pınargültekin #empoweringwomen #genderequity #genderequalityforall #nooneisfreeuntileveryoneisfree #feminismisforeverybody #womenofcolor #turkishwomen #womenofcolour

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

However, since then, New York Times journalist Taylor Lorenz has discovered that, while Turkish women had recently shared black and white posts relating to women’s rights, it’s not where the trend first originated from.

Using data from Instagram and Facebook, Taylor found that, while Turkish women have participated, the recent resurgence of the black and white selfie in the US, UK and Brazil was predominantly ignited by a post by Brazilian journalist Ana Paula Padrão, which was then fuelled by Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s recent speech about sexism which went viral on the internet. This chain of events appears to be how the current photos you are seeing with messages of female empowerment came to be.

Why the confusion?

Unsurprisingly, many people have been confused about the trend, questioning where it came from and why it started, leading to conversations on Twitter of women showing concern as to how the challenge, for whatever cause, actually helps anyone or achieves anything.

Podcaster Ali Segel wrote on Twitter: ‘I just hate that women want to feel empowered and the first thing they think of is selfies’, to which writer and digital producer Natalia Buia replied: ‘You’re not alone here. I don’t get this new “challenge” either. wouldn’t it be more appropriate to instead post work we have recently enjoyed that was created by other women? (Books, docs, magazine articles, beauty products, apps, charities, etc…)’.

As the background of the movement is so unclear, not all of the posts reflect one message: some have used theirs to draw attention to other important causes, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, or registering to vote in the US.

However, whatever your reason for posting a #ChallengeAccepted selfie on Instagram during this resurgence, it’s not a bad thing that is has brought to light the toxic environment that women in Turkey face. In addition to Dr Pragya Agarwal’s informative post, below are more explainers on the cause in more detail.

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The gruesome murder of #pınargültekin is spawning a movement against Femicides in Turkey. Take action with us now. Please Share! #eminebulut #gülistandokunerede ———————- UPDATE: By Turkish Women, we mean TURKISH WOMXN, TURKISH WOMEN, WOMEN IN TURKEY, WOMXN IN TURKEY & honor/celebrate ALL different communities in Turkey that are also at risk at this time. We have outlined many of these groups before & will continue to accept edits from groups we have missed. With that in mind, we ask for patience & logic as we work to make this better. For example, our inclusion of Kurdish women is not an attempt to erase the legacy of Armenian/Assyrian/Arab/All Aramaic women. Please continue to hold us to do better while understanding we are literally 2 people dealing with 100,000+ notifications, most of which are spam. Please refer to our Stories & first Story Highlight for the most up-to-date clarification & info as Post Content on IG cannot be edited. #challengeaccepted

A post shared by AU TCC 🇹🇷 (@auturkishculturalclub) on

Who has posted a #ChallengeAccepted selfie so far?

A whole host of celebrities have joined in with the Challenge Accepted posting, including Jennifer Anniston, Andrea McLean, Kerry Washington, Kristen Bell, Halle Berry, Jennifer Garner, Reese Witherspoon and plenty more.

Should you join in with the Challenge Accepted trend?

If you still want to with the #ChallengeAccepted challenge, you can either wait to be tagged by a friend in their Instagram post, or just go ahead and post a black and white selfie of yourself to Instagram. You can tag the women in your life you want to show some love and appreciation for, or use it as a chance to educate your friends and followers on what women in Turkey are currently facing. You can also donate to a women’s shelter in Istanbul, as suggested in the posts above.

While posting a selfie and tagging a few important women in your life isn’t going to hurt anyone and is a nice way to spread some good vibes amongst your friends, it’s important to remember that Instagram trends always start somewhere and if you’re unsure of their background, it’s always worth digging a little deeper to find out more before you hit upload.

UPDATE: This piece has been edited to reflect the emergence of further details about the origins of the trend.