As it happens from time to time, a social media challenge has taken over the Internet by storm. And this time, women can participate in it, exclusively. Women have been uploading black and white pictures of themselves with #ChallengeAccepted, and tagging other women on their friend lists to do the same. Millions of women are taking part, not to mention, even celebrities. But what exactly is this challenge all about?

There is seemingly nothing in these pictures that looks like it could qualify as a “challenge,” which has left many people, especially men who have not been taken in the loop this time, scratching their heads as to what this new trend means. Well, these monochrome pictures are actually meant to signify a lot and the two-worded hashtag speaks a million words.

Also Read: Dressing Up Young Girls As Married Women For #SareeTwitter Is NOT Cool

What Does The Black And White Challenge Mean?

Challenge Accepted is a new movement aimed at women empowerment, underscoring the need for women to lift other women up. Posting a black and white photo of yourself from the archives marks you as a member of the global sisterhood that knows the significance of making women independent and supportive towards each other. This new challenge is another effort, among the hundred others that we women take to make our voices heard every day, towards making us proud of our identity as women.

The viral trend combats beliefs that often hold women back – from being told to “not be yourselves” to being told to “shut up and go to the kitchen.” Too bad. The only place we’re going is into our photo galleries to bring out black and white pictures that make us feel confident, beautiful, completely ourselves, and post them.

Also Read: SheThePeople’s Girl Talk is Bringing the Indian Sisterhood Closer Together

How Did This Trend Begin?

As reported by The New York Times, over three million photos under the Challenge Accepted hashtag have been posted, not counting the ones that have been posted without it. In India, notable personalities like Anaita Shroff Adajania, Sonam Kapoor, Dia Mirza, Taapsee Pannu, Janhvi Kapoor also took part.

Women are posting their black and white pictures with a spin of their own. Kusha Kapila posted close-up images of her acne, writing about dealing with PCOD and self-esteem issues, encouraging women to “go easy on yourself.”

According to PR social media manager Cristine Abram, the incident of US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez being called a “bitch” by a male politician “was the spark that led to the resurgence of the hashtag challenge… It’s all to do with female empowerment. There was this hashtag that already existed to raise awareness around other large issues.” This may well be the case since the earliest black and white post on Challenge Accepted can be tracked back to a Brazilian journalist, Ana Paula Padrão, from a week and a half ago.

“The trend is still picking up with usage of the hashtag on Instagram doubling in the last day alone,” an Instagram spokeswoman told NYT. “Based on the posts, we’re seeing that most of the participants are posting with notes relating to strength and support for their communities.”

Further west, from Hollywood, participants in the challenge include Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Garner, Khloe Kardashian, Eva Longoria, and others.

“However, another narrative has emerged, which claims that the movement stems from Turkey where femicide is on the rise. Pinar Gultekin, a 27-year old woman from Turkey was recently murdered by her ex-boyfriend, as per a viral post on Instagram. Gender-based violence is common in Turkey, and the government there is apparently masking all of it. Provisions in the Istanbul Convention, which aim at protecting women from violence, are also reported to be on the verge of abolishment.”

Let Women Take Part In This Challenge, What’s Your Problem?

Expectedly, as it happens every time a new challenge or trend emerges, netizens who don’t take part are quick to criticise those who do. With this new challenge, people are annoyed to see black and white photos of women on their social media feeds, for no apparent rhyme or reason. Strong critics of the challenge even include women, are deeming it redundant to the cause of women empowerment. A woman on Twitter wrote, “I’m sorry but how is posting a black and white photo of yourself a feminist challenge” while another wrote, “Women on Instagram started posting their most flattering selfies in black and white and calling it an “empowerment challenge” and I threw my phone into the sea.”

Also Read: Unmasking the toxic patriarchy behind rape threats

Some things need to be discussed. Firstly, women face incessant sexual harassment and bullying in the social media space. By posting pictures of themselves that hints at any sort of “empowerment” is a way of reclaiming the online space that is overrun with dick pics and rape threats. This is why all these challenges, especially those for women, are important – the homegrown variations of it range from #SareeTwitter to #JhumkaTwitter.

Secondly, judging women for their mode of dissent against patriarchal dominance is entirely counterproductive to feminism. So what if a woman posts a selfie to earn validation on the internet? So what if she feels confident when comments underneath her photo praise how wonderful she looks? Don’t we all post things on the internet – statuses, one-liners, jokes – to receive validation from strangers? The online culture has become such that people have to turn to the internet to feel good about themselves, however meaningless that entire activity may be. What option does everyone have but to take part in it?

Everyone does weird stuff to uplift themselves, and especially now when quarantine routines are becoming monotonous, almost suffocating. People are dealing with the pandemic in their own ways – some by posting black and white selfies, and some by staying clear of them. The challenge does not make anyone more or less of a feminist. But if it is making women feel like queens, if just for a moment, the least everyone else can do is just let them be.

Views expressed are the author’s own. 

Get the best of SheThePeople delivered to your inbox - subscribe to Our Power Breakfast Newsletter. Follow us on Twitter , Instagram , Facebook and on YouTube, and stay in the know of women who are standing up, speaking out, and leading change.