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Performative activism at its finest

Challenge Accepted is a campaign that originated on Instagram, and claims to be about 'women supporting women'.

Kourtney Kardashian shared a picture of herself

''women supporting women #challengeaccepted''.

Over the past several days, our Instagram feeds have been bombarded with black and white pictures of women who want to support other women. These pictures are taken from flattering angles and are aesthetically pleasing. They are accompanied by congenial captions about supporting women. But do we really know why this campaign came into existence? What were the actions that led to this challenge? Is posting a B&W picture of yourself really a challenge, and is it enough to support women? Can this challenge, so to say, be accompanied by some real efforts to actually support women?

The premise of the challenge is to promote women empowerment, followed by nominating a bunch of friends to do the same. Back in 2016, black and white photos with the hashtag #ChallengeAccepted were meant to spread a message of 'cancer awareness', after which the same hashtag has been used to spread positivity. There are various reasons why this campaign resurfaced. Many believe that it was started by a Brazilian journalist, Ana Paula Padrão. Others believe that it was used by Turkish women, who started posting black and white pictures of themselves to show their support for one another against rising femicide in their country. The rest believe that a video of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaking out against Representative Ted Yoho’s sexist remarks against her on the floor of Congress last week, led to a spike in social media posts about feminism and women empowerment.

It has been about two weeks since the hashtag resurfaced, but not everyone knows why it began in the first place. The problem is not the challenge itself, but the fact that in posting these pictures, the message that it intends on raising awareness about gets lost in translation. It then simply becomes about posting aesthetic pictures of oneself and jumping on to the bandwagon, without acknowledging the actual problem that led to the emergence of the campaign in the first place.

Celebrities from all over the world were quick to join the bandwagon. From Hollywood stars like Jennifer Aniston, Olivia Wilde and Jennifer Garner to Bollywood bigwigs like Kareena Kapoor Khan, Katrina Kaif and Dia Mirza - all of them have posted B&W pictures of themselves. While they mean well, it isn’t really enough, is it? Posting an aesthetically pleasing picture of oneself is one of the least challenging things one can do. Sure, those posting their photographs do support women, but it’s difficult to understand how that would show support to others. Perhaps, even posting pictures of inspirational women could help further the cause. Uploading one's photo is not the real concern. The problem lies in the fact that those joining this chain believe that they have made their stand. The reality is, they have done nothing to try and accomplish the ultimate goal - women supporting women. Instead of putting up one's own photo, women could post photos of articles, products or books written by women.

The power of social media is undeniably enormous. However, more often than not, many campaigns lose their meaning because not everyone understands what it really is about. For instance the #blackouttuesday black squares, which were in solidarity with the BLM movement and Black people's voices, asked very little from those who shared it. Similarly, the black and white selfie challenge allowed people to take a stand without really giving any inputs of their own. In social issues like these, advocacy is of utmost priority. Social media platforms can cause a greater impact if they are used to create awareness without making it purely about vanity, which it does become eventually. It becomes a form of performative activism even though there is no need for it, and that is the problem. We end up, for the lack of better term, pretending to care about a cause we know nothing about. Instead of educating ourselves, we simply post the picture and get a few extra likes, but we don’t even end up talking about the goal that is meant to be accomplished by the campaign. Hence, be it an anti-femicide campaign or simply women empowerment, awareness is key. Uploading a picture of yourself to show support is unfortunately, not enough. More can be done and more should be done!

Therefore, let's start another challenge. Let’s post pictures of businesses started by women, books and articles written by women and anything else we can find to support women. Let this be a challenge that we accept as a community to empower women!


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