It’s been promoted as a display of female empowerment and criticised as a hollow exercise that does nothing to support women.
#ChallengeAccepted has seen more than four million women, including Khloe Kardashian and Ivanka Trump, post black-and-white glamour shots on social media, ostensibly as a way to show love and support for other women.
Here’s how it works: A woman who has been nominated posts a black-and-white pic of herself, then nominates women in her life to do the same.
Exactly how this began is unclear.
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#ChallengeAccepted 🥰 Thank you to all the amazing women for your beautiful messages & nominating me for this challenge. I love you all! I love when women come together to support each other. My dream is that every woman feels loved, feels safe, feel happy, free and supported in their dreams. One woman can make a difference but together we can rock the World! 🙌❤️#WomenSupportingWomen #WomenEmpowerment
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Some report that a Brazilian journalist began the trend more than a week ago, while others say it began in Turkey.
There, women have been posting black-and-white photos of themselves to show solidarity with the female victims of domestic violence shown on the news.
Last year, almost 500 women were murdered in the country, mostly by their partners and relatives.
The original Turkish hashtags referencing this were dropped as the photo-sharing challenge spread to other countries.
Two months ago, the #BlackoutTuesday movement turned Instagram dark as millions of people posted black squares, either to show solidarity with Black Lives Matters protesters or with black musicians and artists.
The avalanche of black tiles posted under #BlackLivesMatter unintentionally silenced and disrupted street protesters, who were using the hashtag to communicate and share photos and video of police using excessive force.
Some also criticised the act of posting a tile as being hollow: A way for brands to look like they were taking a stand while actually saying nothing.
The original, motivating purpose may have been lost in the rush to participate.
It’s a similar story with #ChallengeAccepted, said Jolynna Sinanan, a researcher in digital media and ethnography at University of Sydney.
“In this way – and perhaps only in this way – it’s very similar to #BlackoutTuesday,” she said.
“It’s taken on a life of its own and lost control a bit.”
The hashtag echoes Australian comedian Celeste Barber’s parodies of celebrity culture posted under #celestechallengeaccepted.
But the #challengeaccepted photos themselves are not ironic or mocking. They’re hot black-and-white selfies, often of actual celebrities. It’s hard to find anything subversive in them.
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“The way it taps into different visual vernaculars is very confusing as an activist message,” Dr Sinanan said.
“We have black-and-white images of women murdered in Turkey alongside Khloe Kardashian and Ivanka Trump.
“The juxtaposition of these two things is very confusing.”
‘Hashtags on their own are rarely sufficient’
An example of a successful campaign run purely online is 2016’s Ice Bucket Challenge, where more than two million people posted videos of themselves being drenched with freezing water to raise awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and encourage donations to research. It raised $US220 million.
Organisers were able to convert the fickle attention of online users into donations, action and long-term results, said Jess McLean, a senior lecturer on feminism in digital spaces at Macquarie University.
“What’s important is having something more than a spectacular image as part of a campaign,” she said.
“Hashtags on their own are rarely sufficient to generate change.”
The purpose of #ChallengeAccepted was too vague for the trend to be called a campaign, she said.
That said, it could morph into something more substantive.
“That’s one thing about digital action – it’s unpredictable,” she said.
In Australia, the gender equality group Destroy the Joint emerged from a hashtag moment – Alan Jones’s 2012 attack on prime minister Julia Gillard.
The broadcaster had claimed that women were “destroying the joint”.
Destroy the Joint remains and each year tallies the death of Australian women due to male violence.
Dr Sarah Casey, vice-president of the Australian Women’s and Gender Studies Association, said the campaign has “stood the test of time”.
Posting hot selfies may be seen as hollow, she said, but #ChallengeAccepted could introduce some women to other forms of activism.
“Is it as political as other hashtag movements? No, it’s palatable,” she said.
“If there are no offline actions and it’s all about ‘performing empowerment’, that’s OK, but I would urge people to support causes and remind people to follow online selfie poses with offline action to support women in need.”