Social media’s turned black and white for the past few days as women from all over the world, celebrity or not, have started posting photos of themselves with the caption “Challenge accepted”. While multiple articles on the so-called Black and White Challenge held the movement as a way for women to empower their fellow females, this reason only scratches the surface of the real origins behind the black and white photos.
Having seen the challenge blow up and devolve into a mere viral trend, various Turkish nationals have spoken up about its real, deep-seated meaning. Behavioural scientist, and anti-racism Educator Dr. Pragya Agarwal recently explained the challenge on an Instagram post. She writes “ It is a very serious gesture of defiance in support of the Turkish Women.”
In case you didn’t know, Turkey has one of the highest femicide rates in the world. In just 2019 alone an estimated 474 women were murdered in Turkey, and most of them happened at the hands of their relatives or partners. What’s more, these men often get away with their crimes after they’re given a light sentence by the country’s justice system.
With this in mind, Turkish women finally said enough is enough after the brutal murder of Pinar Gultekin a few weeks ago. The 27-year-old was reportedly strangled to death by her ex-boyfriend Cemal Metin Avci, after she refused to reconcile with him. He then kept her burned body in an oil drum before pouring concrete mix on the top to avoid being convinted. Cemal was only caught thanks to a CCTV footage of him together with Pinar in a shopping center. He’s since been arrested on charges of “murder with monstrous feeling and torture”.
In defiance of this senseless act, Turkish women started posting photos of themselves with a black-and-white filter. The colorless movement was chosen “as a response to them being frustrated over always seeing black and white photos of women who have been killed,” explains New York Times journalist Tariro Mzezewa in a tweet after speaking to several women in Turkey.
The posts were also accompanied by the hashtags #istanbulsozlesmesiyasatir, #kadinasiddetehayir, which roughly translate to “say no to violence against women,” and “enforce the Istanbul convention.” Unfortunately, after the protest photos turned into a global challenge, the hashtags were quickly dropped, only fueling the frustration of Turkish women in their plight for justice.
“This is a show of solidarity to say that we stand together, we are unafraid, we are fed up of the lack of accountability for the perpetrators,” Dr. Agarwal continues in her post. “This was started by Turkish women to say that they are appalled by the Turkish govt decision to withdraw from the Istanbul convention much like Poland…This is not just performative, this is hopefully not just tokenistic, this is for PINAR GULTEKIN. Say her name!!”
As stated by Dr. Agarwal in her IG caption, the Istanbul Convention is a human rights treaty that’s made up of “a comprehensive legal framework and approach to combat violence against women.” Though Turkey signed the convention back in 2012, its politicians have recently been discussing on whether to withdraw their signature or not. Should they opt to do so, the decision would serve as another blow against the safety of Turkish women.
“If this convention is taken away from us, all women will be alone,” Cansu Ertas, a member of the Ankara Women’s Platform stated in an interview during a protest gathering just a few days ago. “The state will have dismissed the responsibility that falls on them [to protect woman],” she added.
Knowing all of this, their battle continues whether the “trend” goes on or eventually dies down. That said, what we can do to help is to adjust the hashtags on our already published black-and-white photos, and to educate ourselves more on the issue at hand.
[Updated: July 30, 2020, 6:42pm]
New York Times writer Taylor Lorenz clarified that the Black and White Challenge did not solely gets its roots from Turkey. Instead, the Turkish women's movement is simply another iteration of the challenge which reaches back to 2016. She writes "This is not the first time Instagram users have leveraged black-and-white selfies in support of a vague cause. Back in 2016, black-and-white photos with the hashtag #ChallengeAccepted were meant to spread a message of 'cancer awareness.' Over the years the photo trend has also been used to 'spread positivity.'"