#Culture: Women Posting Black And White Photos With #ChallengeAccepted Could Actually Be Hurting A Women’s Right Protest Against Femicide In Turkey
Everybody wants to be Barney Stinson from HIMYM these days and say ‘Challenge Accepted’ to almost any random thing on social media. Especially if it calls for posting a nice selfie of themselves or their friends and loved ones, because god knows the pandemic has deprived us of the chance to create new happy memories. So someone tags you to post a black and white picture of yourself, tag a few female friends and say this is #womensupportingwomen and you don’t even question it. What’s the origin of this #ChallengeAccepted? How is it going to help? Well, I decided to research before blinding aping the trend. And guess what? With our selfies, we might be undermining an important women’s rights campaign to protest femicide in Turkey.
Rising Femicide in Turkey
Femicide (n.): Femicide or feminicide is a sex-based hate crime term, broadly defined as “the intentional killing of females (women or girls) because they are females”.
According to media reports, the rising incidence of violence against women in Turkey is a shock that its people wake up to almost every morning. According to Arab News, a women’s rights group called ‘We Will Stop Femicides Platform’ has revealed that last year, 474 women were killed in gender-based violence in Turkey. In the first half of 2020, the number had already reached 146.
The most recent femicide case was the brutal murder of 27-year-old university student named Pinar Gültekin. She went missing on July 16, and eventually it was revealed that her ex-boyfriend had murdered her, and dumped her strangled and partially burnt body in an oil drum.
Gültekin’s murder seems to have been the last straw for Turkish women, who erupted in protest against gender-based violence in the country, which has only been on the rise. Even if the culprits are caught, their punishment is not commensurate to the crime they’ve committed.
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What is the Istanbul Convention?
The Istanbul Convention is the shortened name of the Council of Europe Convention On Preventing And Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. Signed in May 2011, in Istanbul, the Istanbul Convention is the first ever legally binding “comprehensive legal framework and approach to combat violence against women”. It focuses primarily on preventing domestic abuse, protection of victims and prosecution of offenders. In decrees that violence against women be viewed as a violation of basic human rights and should be considered a form of discrimination.
The acts that are criminalised under the Convention include femicide, sexual violence (including rape) and all forms of non-consensual sex, physical and psychological violence, female genital mutilation, honour crimes, forced marriage, forced abortion, sexual harassment and even stalking.
As reported by Euro News, currently, 34 countries have both signed and ratified the Istanbul Convention and enforced it from August 2014. Turkey was the first one to do so, followed by 33 other countries. However, there are 12 countries that have signed the Convention but not ratified/enforced it, including Armenia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and the UK. Russia and Azerbaijan have refused to sign it altogether.
The Protests In Turkey
Now here’s the disturbing bit. Despite signing the Convention, the femicides rates are only rising in Turkey. The recent murder of the female student has triggered protests because it comes on the heels of speculation that Turkey could withdraw from the Istanbul Convention that was ratified by Ankara in 2012.
Arab News reports that the deputy chairman of the country’s ruling party has said that signing the convention was “wrong” and suggested withdrawal from it. In protest, several women and women’s rights activists came together in a park in Ankara to show their support for the convention.
“If this convention is taken away from us, all women will be alone. The state will have dismissed the responsibility that falls on them,” said one of the activists.
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The origin of the Black and White photo challenge
Initially, there was a lot of confusion, with some saying that the black and white photo challenge you see on social media under #ChallengeAccepted had its origins in this Turkish protest. Twitter user Imaan Patel from Turkey tweeted an explanation that she urged people to read, especially because while many women abroad were participating in the challenge, they were completely clueless about why the photos had to be black and white and whether their posts were even helping in the first place.
“Turkish people wake up every day to see a black and white photo of a woman who has been murdered on their Instagram feed, on their newspapers, on their TV screens. The black and white photo challenge started as a way for women to raise their voice. To stand in solidarity with the women we have lost. To show that one day, it could be their picture that is plastered across news outlets.”
just thought all of you posting these "black and white" challenges should see how tone deaf they actually are xx pic.twitter.com/WdQzQqMlza
— ايمأن 🇵🇸 (@imaann_patel) July 28, 2020
A New York Times journalist on Twitter spoke to women in Turkey and confirmed that when the movement began, there were hashtags in it that were relevant of the Turkish women’s cause. But once the trend went viral, these hashtags just disappeared.
The Turkish hashtags about domestic violence and femicide were dropped as the challenge went viral. The images were for women to bond “but MORE importantly that we know that we can be the next trending image and hashtag.” – @zeycan_rochelle
— Tariro Mzezewa (@tariro) July 28, 2020
However, another NYT journalist Taylor Lorenz wrote about this challenge and explained that the black and white photos and #womensupportingwomen wasn’t a new phenomenon or specially constructed for the Turkish protests. The photo trend dates back to as early as 2016, when it was used to spread cancer awareness and even positivity amongst women.
The challenge has circulated like chain mail ever since, ebbing and flowing as the "cause" associated with it shifts. It's latest resurgence began a week and a half ago with a post by the Brazilian journalist Ana Paula Padrão https://t.co/MfUVFgJzUD
— Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) July 27, 2020
Seeing people claim the black and white challenge originated w/ Turkish women seeking to raise awareness for femicide after the murder of Pınar Gültekin. This is not accurate. The challenge has been around since 2016 in various forms. That is just one recent manifestation of it
— Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) July 28, 2020
Even in the recent manifestation of the black and white challenge in Turkey, the more noble intent was stripped very quickly and the challenge devolved back to its meaningless roots https://t.co/MfUVFh1bjd
— Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) July 28, 2020
One of the people Lorenz interviewed also suggested that the resurgence in the trend could be due to U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez being called “a f**king bitch” by Florida Rep. Ted Yoho on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, and AOC’s powerful response to the sexist slur.
“This issue is not about one incident. It is cultural. A culture “of accepting a violence and violent language against women, an entire structure of power that supports that.”
Either way, the trend is here. But is it really helping? Umm, yeah nope.
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Here’s why we’re not exactly helping Turkey by saying #ChallengeAccepted
Do you remember the #BlackLivesMatter movement? The hashtag was being initially used by activists to communicate important information about the protests and make their voice heard. However, when brands starting jumping in on the trend, all their noise occupied top space and buried the important, genuine information underneath. The same has been happening with #womensupportingwomen.
According to KQED, the original hashtags that were used by the women in Turkey to start the trend were #kadınaşiddetehayır meaning ‘Say no to violence against women’ and #istanbulsözleşmesiyaşatır meaning “Enforce the Istanbul convention’. However, now all we see is one #womensupportingwomen tag being used as an excuse for women to post beautiful, filtered pictures of themselves, and randomly tag their gal pals, thinking it is just another pandemic challenge created to pass the time.
This influx of irrelevant content has therefore buried the relevant information about the movement in Turkey against withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention.
How can you divert the attention back to the original cause and help the women of Turkey?
What is perhaps the most tone deaf thing about this challenge is that there’s nothing even remotely challenging or empowering in it. The pictures are filtered, there is absolutely no messaging except a standard forward that is being circulated in DMs, which again explains nothing about the cause. How are we empowering each other with just photos?
So you tagged your girls in the picture. Did you promote their work, business or their good qualities in it? Did you at least say something encouraging to them in the caption? Probably not. And that there is where our herd mentality gets us. Every time.
How do we get the attention back to what matters? You know, the cause you support really doesn’t matter as long as you do it properly. Especially when it is armchair activism, which is rarely helpful, and therefore must be given one’s 100% to actually be effective.
Amplify the cause of the Turkish women by using the relevant hashtags. Read up on femicide and spread awareness about what is happening to women in the world and even at home. If you’re giving a shout out to U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ powerful response to a sexist slur, talk about why calling a woman a ‘bitch’ is wrong. Tell it to your guy friends but also to your girls. And if you want to simply empower your girl gang, don’t just leave it at a tag. Talk about what makes them extraordinary, their business acumen, their hard work, or simply how they brighten up everyone’s day with their kindness.
Really get into it, please. We women don’t half-ass, okay?
A PSA for future social media challenges
Social media challenges can be fun and helpful at the same time. Remember the ALS Ice bucket challenge or the Kerala Floods donation challenge? But don’t blindly follow the trend without understanding where it’s coming from and what purpose it is meant to serve. You never know, you might be supporting something that is horribly wrong! Do you research, and educate others about it too.