Challenge Accepted. Performative or Useful?

Over the course of the last few days you probably started seeing black and white photos of women you know on social media. If you’re a female, you also probably received an invite (or a few) in your DM’s “challenging” you to post a photo of yourself alone, and send it to women to do the same.

At first glance, it appeared like some sort of modern version of chain mail. However, the women that sent it were humans I love and respect. I didn’t want to simply post it to post. If I learned anything from the black box trend on IG, it’s to do the research first. Like Maya Angelou famously said, “when you know better, do better”. A quick google search brought me conflicting information. On one side, there’s the female empowerment argument, something we all know, that we need more of. According to the US Census Bureau, women currently still only make 81.6 cents to every dollar males do, and that gap is larger for women of color. Then there is the argument of the need to raise awareness of femicide and violence against women. Especially in the wake of the murders of Breonna Taylor and Vanessa Guillen as well as AOC’s fiery speech in congress last week.

Upon deeper research, it’s easy to find this trend actually originated in Brazil by journalist Ana Paula to promote female empowerment. However it gained traction in Turkey after the brutal murder of 27 year old Pinar Gültekin. The purpose of the black and white photos there was to draw attention to femicide, which is a huge problem in Turkey, but also globally. Further back in February Mexican women flooded the internet with pictures of nature and animals to drown out the gruesome pictures of a murdered woman after forensics leaked pictures of her. Highlighting the country’s own dark history of violence against women. That’s just this year…

The point is, femicide is a huge problem worldwide, but sadly not a new one. Neither is our way of trying to bring attention to it via social media. Femicide needs more attention yes, but so does creating solidarity amongst women. We as women can support bringing attention to femicide worldwide and also support each other, period. These are not mutually exclusive. Sadly, there have been many reports of women policing each other online. Not only is this not constructive, but it’s counterproductive. Sorry to break it to anyone, but posting a black and white picture doesn’t directly help women in Turkey, legislation does. However it DOES bring attention to the topic and if you happen to be an influencer, it might have a tangible ripple effect. Given that we are in the midst of a full blown pandemic, activism by social media is better than no activism at all. I hope we all know that by now? Let’s try and extend some love and grace to each other.

I found the purpose to be more about starting discourse on a topic that typically gets swept under the rug. Let me use myself as an example. I received the DM, I did research, I posted, I DM’d a couple others. Do I think I’m changing the world? Probably not. Do I think I passed on something positive, uplifting but also informative? Absolutely. I think the thing that many people are missing, is the way we talk about/treat each other as women will inform how others can speak to and treat us. It all circles back. We need to do better because we need each other. I may not be posting workout selfies or bikini clad travel pics on the regular, but i’ll definitely give any of my fellow ladies a like. Hell yeah, do you girl! I love to see women confidently living their best life, whatever that looks like.

Part of dismantling patriarchal notions of gender is living our dynamic truth and supporting all women wherever and however they choose to show up. Females everywhere need to see themselves reflected in every realm that exists, so that we know we can get there too. We do that by shining a light on each other, not dimming it. So if you received a DM and don’t agree with it, it’s all good. Don’t shit on another female for doing it, (we get enough of that), just keep scrolling.


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