• Lauren Rousseau

What's Up With The Black & White Challenge?

Turns out, it might not just be about Turkey.

(Top row: @jlo, @demilovato; Bottom row: @khloekardashian, @bellathorne / Instagram )

In the crevice between amateur fruit drawings and the Black square lays the newest challenge on Instagram: the black and white challenge. 


The premise is as vague as it sounds: women tag each other in black and white selfies, usually in flattering angles and complementary lighting, with the caption #womensupportingwomen. 


Sounds pretty feminist, right? But, that’s pretty much all the information shared about the challenge when nominated.




The challenge has been posted on Instagram over six million times as of Friday afternoon and has included celebrities from Khloe Kardashian to Demi Lovato to Kerry Washington. And no one really details anything else about the challenge other than the premise of women supporting women.


Many have called into question what the point of the challenge really is. Obviously, we love women supporting women. But do we truly need a social media trend to remind ourselves of that? Shouldn't that be a year-round premise to follow.


And even it is a cute reminder, does it really accomplish anything? The simplicity of the hashtag #womensupportingwomen feels about as effortless and ingenuine as the black square trend. When it comes from your friend Karen who constantly talks about women behind their backs, all it feels like is an excuse to post a hot pic. Just like so many things on social media nowadays, it can feel performative — especially when there's not a definite issue attached to it.


Where is the post coming from anyway? 


A vial post has circulated claiming that the challenge’s origins is to raise awareness on mass femicides in Turkey. Many of the murdered victims have their black and white pictures displayed on TV news and newspapers, hence the black and white filters of the challenge. 


According to the viral post, "The black and white photo challenge started as a way for women to raise their voice. To stand in solidarity with the women we have lost. To show that one day, it could be their picture that is plastered across news outlets with a black and white filter on top."




But, turns out this isn't even necessarily true. 


According to New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz, black and white photo challenges have been trending sporatically since for a while. In 2016, black and white photos with the hashtag #challengeaccepted was used to promote cancer awareness.


According to New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz, black and white photo challenges have been trending sporadically for a while. In 2016, black and white photos with the hashtag list Ana Paula Padrão on July 17.


Some have theorized that the spike in this challenge stems from Florida congressman Ted Yoho calling AOC a bitch. (Ugh, why does it always have to be a Florida man.) AOC's eloquent clapback at the congressman — calling him out on his sexism and reminding him that "bitches get stuff done" — reminded women how important it is to stand up for one another.


This doesn't mean we should ignore the significance of the challenge for the Turkish community, but it does explain some of the confusion on what the challenge is truly about.


Does this give you permission to critisize women who do post the black and white challenge?


Since more people have been spreading awareness on the challenge's roots with the Turkish femicide, some women who posted the black and white challenge unaware of its roots with the Turkish femicide have been feeling a bit defensive.



But even though the premise of the challenge was blurred, supporting women was always a central premise of the challenge at the end of the day. Instead of adding more hate to the conversation, take a moment and let the person know what it really means.


Educate them about what’s going on in Turkey. Forward them the petition to free women imprisoned in Turkey. Maybe even take it a step further and ... let them know you support them.


Calling someone out because they’re not as “woke” as you are doesn’t do anything and doesn’t exactly encourage anyone to learn. All it does it make them feel defensive.



At the end of the day, women shouldn’t need a challenge to voice their support from one another. It should be consistent and intersectional. (If you’re not fighting for LGBTQ+ women, women with disabilities and female POC, you’re not a feminist).





Lauren Rousseau is the Online Editor at Rowdy Magazine. She loves watching drug-store versions of The Bachelor and baking cookies at innapropriate hours. You can find her on Instagram at @laurenxrousseau and email her pitches at laurenrousseau58@gmail.com