The challenge is so much more than a selfie.

Lia Beck
Jul 28, 2020 @ 2:52 pm

If you’ve been on Instagram in the past few days, you’ve probably seen women participating in a new “challenge” in which they post a black-and-white photo of themselves and then tag friends, prompting them to do the same. In many of the posts, the reason behind the black-and-white Instagram challenge isn’t explained any further than it being about women supporting women. So, a photo is posted on a platform that is meant for posting photos anyway in order to support women? You’re not alone if you didn’t think that explanation added up. And now, Florence Pugh is shedding light on where this Instagram trend really came from. 

On Monday, July 27th, Pugh shared her own black-and-white photo—hers shows her making a goofy face—and wrote “challenge accepted” in the caption. But rather than leaving it there like some other Instagram users have, she wrote, “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.” Pugh added, “Let’s ride gals."

"Post your b&w in support of this movement, these women need the world to hear,” she wrote.

Pugh doesn’t say where she got this explanation, but she’s not the only one to note that background for the trend. As reported by Forbes, New York Times writer Tariro Mzezewa tweeted that she spoke to some Turkish women who said “it started there as a response to them being frustrated over always seeing black-and -hite photos of women who have been killed.” Mzezewa added in additional tweets, “The Turkish hashtags about domestic violence and femicide were dropped as the challenge went viral … The original accompanying hashtags were #kadınaşiddetehayır #istanbulsözleşmesiyaşatır which I’m told translate to say no to violence against women & enforce the Istanbul Treaty/ Doctrine (where rights to protect women are signed.)”

The U.K.’s You magazine also reports of the challenge’s original ties to women in Turkey and references an Instagram post from Dr. Pragya Agarwal. Dr. Argarwal explains in her post, “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.” She references in particular the killing of college student Pinar Gultekin.

The Istanbul Convention is a European treaty aimed at protecting women against violence.

While these details have made it into relatively few posts from the Instagram challenge, some women, unaware of its origins, have worked to make the challenge more meaningful, anyway. Padma Lakshmi did the challenge on Twitter and posted details about “four women we should be lifting up: Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Natasha McKenna, Michelle Cusseaux” in a series of tweets. Similarly, other women have been using the challenge to fight for justice for Taylor, including model and TV host Alexa Chung.

It’s interesting how the challenge circled around, from starting out with a deeper meaning to losing that meaning to people adding meaning back in. There’s nothing at all wrong with posting a photo and giving a shout-out to the supportive women in your life. There’s also nothing challenging about it, at least in the usual meaning of the word. But, as Pugh and others have brought to light, you can challenge yourself by learning more about women who have and are continuing to face violence.