Why Women Are Posting Black-and-White Photographs of Themselves for #ChallengeAccepted

Depending on the type of people you follow on Instagram, a deluge of black-and-white selfies has probably flooded your feed in recent days. The culprit is a new Instagram challenge that’s all about “women supporting women,” conveniently dubbed #ChallengeAccepted.

For the women involved, the idea is to post a color-free photo of yourself, and then tag other women who you want to uplift to do the same. The hashtag currently has around 4.5 million posts on the platform, with celebrities including Jennifer Lopez, Gabrielle Union, Jennifer Aniston, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Eva Longoria propelling the challenge into the latest social media fad with their own languid selfies.

Though the origin of this particular trend is not quite known, some have speculated that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s recent speech in the House of Representatives—in which she lambasted fellow Representative Ted Yoho of Florida for calling her a “fucking bitch” on the steps of the U.S. Capitol—may have in part inspired the feel-good feminist pursuit.

Cristine Abram, a public relations and influencer marketing manager for Later, a social media marketing firm, told writer Taylor Lorenz for the The New York Times, “That 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. Tapping into that allowed participants to gain traction a lot faster because the algorithm was already familiar with the hashtag.”

Still, some are criticizing the challenge’s seemingly toothless approach to feminism. Ali Segel, cohost of the podcast Web Crawlers, wrote on Twitter, “I challenge everyone who has posted a black and white photo to post a screenshot of the organization or charity they’ve donated to that actually supports women. Thanks!” She later added, “Im just saying… as women…could we possibly…equate empowerment….and solidarity…with more….than a selfie…..that is all.”

Alana Levinson, deputy editor of MEL Magazine, tweeted a screenshot of Ivanka Trump’s #ChallengeAccepted Instagram post, showing the limits of vague grandstanding and social media crusades.

Whether or not #ChallengeAccepted detracts from the larger picture or if it’s simply an excuse to post a cute selfie (and who doesn’t love that?), celebrities are gonna do what celebrities are gonna do. Aniston, perhaps, worded it best in her caption: “Truth be told, I don’t really understand this #challengeaccepted thing…but who doesn’t love good reason to support women! Soooo…. challenge accepted!”

Below, a roundup of celeb ladies who have participated.

Gabrielle Union

Kerry Washington

Reese Witherspoon

Jennifer Lopez

Tracee Ellis Ross

Eva Longoria

Jennifer Garner

Ayesha Curry

Jennifer Aniston

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