As with so many other trends, it seems to have taken off when celebrities got involved, posting shots of themselves and offering a paean to friendship or sisterhood or the ephemeral power of women, then tagging other friends — also famous — to take the torch. Vanessa Bryant seems to have been a super spreader: Her account is private, but Cindy Crawford, Kerry Washington, Jennifer Lopez and Khloe Kardashian all wrote that she challenge-tagged them.
They did not fail to rise to the occasion.
“Challenge accepted ladies! Women supporting women! So many women to tag and thank!” Eva Longoria posted.
Cindy Crawford chimed in with this explanation: “Love this simple way to lift each other up. #challengeaccepted”
The trend shows no signs of stopping.
In the past week, 7 million #ChallengeAccepted posts have appeared on the social media platform, Instagram spokesperson Blake Schenerlein said. Instagram says the first post they can trace comes from Brazil — a post from journalist Ana Paula Padrão. Others say it stems from efforts in Turkey to raise awareness around femicide.
Critics quickly derided the initiative as performative.
Technology analyst and diversity strategist Shireen Mitchell dismissed the campaign, likening it to window dressing for inclusivity.
“The campaign has no action — just pictures that could easily hide skin color to make us seem equal in space as women,” Mitchell said.
In fact, the campaign itself has become a distraction from more pressing issues that are affecting women at a critical time, advocates say.
“The whole thing seems to be not exactly what we should be focusing on,” Marianne Cooper, a senior research scholar at Stanford University’s VMware Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab said. “It’s not that I think it’s a terrible thing. It just seems like both the hashtag activism and then the strong reaction to the campaign, maybe we should just turn that energy toward thinking about millions of women who are unemployed right now.”
Cooper suggests women help other women by educating themselves about the economic devastation of the pandemic and its disproportionate effects on women, especially women of color.
She pointed out that women are not only facing the constant threat of the disease and death by making up the majority of essential workers in the United States, but also face food insecurity, unemployment and looming widespread evictions.
“The unemployment situation for Americans is really dire, and it’s higher for women than for men,” Cooper said, noting that 41 percent of mothers are the sole or primary breadwinners for their families.
“The first step is to really understand what’s happening and keeping our eye on that. Then, second, thinking about the policy responses that are going to be sufficient to address that kind of economic catastrophe. Then the third thing is, we’ve got a pretty big election coming up in November and making sure you’re registered to vote and everyone you know is registered to vote — and that people vote,” Cooper said.
Others are thinking along similar lines, co-opting the hashtag to encourage action.
Journalist and former Teen Vogue editor in chief Elaine Welteroth posted on Tuesday using the hashtag du jour, but instead of a black-and-white photo of herself, she uploaded one of Breonna Taylor, the emergency room technician who was fatally shot by police in her Louisville home on March 13. No arrests have been made.
Chef and “Taste the Nation” host Padma Lakshmi also took the opportunity to call for the arrest of the officers involved in Taylor’s death.
“From black squares to black-and-white selfies, sometimes well-intentioned social media efforts don’t quite get it right,” therapist Sandi Curtis said.
“Rather than devolving into arguments about who’s the real feminist and what’s the power of selfies, let’s put the focus back where it belongs — not on women’s images, but on women’s voices,” says Curtis, who suggests using the hashtag to bring awareness to survivors of abuse. “Here’s the real challenge: Amplify the voices of other women who are empowering women and working to end violence against all women.”