Call #ChallengeAccepted Vain or Naive, But It Served Its Purpose

Call it what you may – vain, narcissistic or even self-indulgent – but you can’t disregard the trend’s contribution.

Updated31 Jul 2020, 10:46 AM IST
Women
5 min read

As a trend or an idea passes through the vortex of social media, it often finds itself diluted and misrepresented. The same unfortunate fate awaited the #ChallengeAccepted trend, which was started by the women of Turkey to spread awareness and stand in solidarity with the victims of femicide in the country.

However, coincidentally, an identical trend was kickstarted by US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez after she was subjected to a sexist slur by a male colleague in her stirring speech on the House floor last week. The #WomenSupportingWomen trend started as a result of a spike in social media posts about feminism and women empowerment.

Since then, the two challenges have been used as synonyms, and here is where all the trouble began.

Both the movements were mistaken for one another and were immediately met with harsh criticism.

From comparing the challenge to the video of certain celebrities singing ‘Imagine’ in the midst of a pandemic, to deeming the posts insignificant and suggesting that either women should post pictures of other women they admire or post about books, articles, products and charities that benefit women.

Although these points could be seen as relevant in the case of #WomenSupportingWomen, they stand null and void when it comes to the movement which originated in Turkey.

You see, the #ChallengeAccepted trend has a much deeper meaning which is getting sidetracked in this storm of celebrity selfies. This trend is supposed to go beyond simply promoting self-love and instead, highlight the inadequacies of the measures ensuring women’s safety implemented by our governments and the social institutions of our countries, point out the alarming lack of security and legislative protection for women and emphasise the idea that women everywhere, irrespective of their age, background and economic status, can fall victim to heinous acts of sexual violence or harassment.

Campaign Built to Strongly Resonate With People

With 42 percent of Turkish women aged between 15 and 60 admitting to having suffered physical or sexual violence by their husbands or partners and the deaths of 474 women in 2019, at the hands of their partners and relatives, Turkey is grappling with a case of rising femicide.

A widely circulated message by a Turkish Twitter user named @imaann_patel read:

Call #ChallengeAccepted Vain or Naive, But It Served Its Purpose
(Illustration by Arnica Kala/TheQuint)

Hence, the idea behind this challenge is not to indulge in an act of vanity but to trigger a response from everyone who sees your picture with the same black-and-white filter which was used on Pinar Gültekin’s picture or on the pictures of the 27 victims of sexual violence in Turkey, this year alone.

Call #ChallengeAccepted Vain or Naive, But It Served Its Purpose
(Illustration by Arnica Kala/TheQuint)
Instead of scrolling past these photos and dismissing them as a narcissistic attempt at pseudo-activism, we should take a moment to reflect on how we would feel if we were to be directly impacted by what’s happening in Turkey.

The way I see it, this campaign was designed in such a way that it would strongly resonate with people, as seeing these photos in the appropriate context is undoubtedly more hard-hitting than book recommendations.

Western Influence Helped the Cause

However, this impactful movement lost its prominence as it started spreading around the world. Women were being openly shamed for being unaware of the purpose of the challenge and were even accused of not contributing to these ‘real issues’ in any significant way, hence setting women back.

Turkish hashtags were Americanised, prying away the essence of this movement. But even though the Western influence proved to be detrimental to the campaign in some ways, in the long run, it may have accidentally helped the cause.

As people saw renowned celebrities posting black-and-white pictures of themselves, herd mentality kicked in. And soon enough, women around the world, without even knowing the purpose behind it, joined in on the trend, making it go viral.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that a majority of people who participated in this challenge were oblivious to the crisis in Turkey.

And one would think that diving headfirst into an Instagram trend such as this one, somewhat tiptoes along the lines of performative activism. But in the grand scheme of things, this ignorance proved to be quite beneficial for the movement for it didn’t take long for people to become highly inquisitive about finding out the meaning of this obscure trend.

And when they were finally informed about the movement in Turkey, they listened with their undivided attention, all out of sheer curiosity.

Pressing Issues Do Fail to Receive the Attention They Deserve

This year has brought so many crucial social, political and environmental issues to light. Where on one hand, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen trended for a few days, until the conversation swiftly fizzled out, on the other, we haven’t even begun scratching the surface of the ongoing genocide in China.

Similarly, many important causes fail to receive the attention that they deserve. In an atmosphere riddled with information, it is difficult to ensure that pressing issues such as the raging femicide in Turkey would be heard.

Thus, I believe that the ambiguity surrounding the #ChallengeAccepted trend was used skillfully to garner more attention.

Call it what you may; vain, narcissistic or even self-indulgent, but you can’t disregard the major contribution of this challenge in creating awareness about this grave issue.

A Step in the Right Direction

As conservatives rally for ‘traditional family values’ over the safety of women in their country and with former prime minister Binali Yıldırım instructing his supporters to verbally harass women wearing shorts as opposed to physically attacking them in public, it is clear to see how deeply entrenched patriarchal values are in our society.

In solidarity with the 2,996 women who had been killed in gender-based violence in Turkey since 2010 and the countless more victims of sexual violence and assault, the women of Turkey have taken to the streets, demanding effective implementation of the Istanbul Convention (which promotes gender equality and aims to end violence against women and domestic abuse).

Needless to say, the fight for equality is a long and tedious one, and the #ChallengeAccepted trend may not have put an end to the femicide in Turkey, but it did spark an informative conversation in countries across the globe, who are all facing the same crisis in various degrees. It may not have put an end to violence against women, but it is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

(Ashana Mathur is a second-year Economics major from Ashoka University. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

Published: 31 Jul 2020, 10:06 AM IST
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