On Instagram over the last few days, we’ve seen a rush of black and white pictures of women with the accompanying hashtag #challengeaccepted and #womansupportingwoman. The idea of the posts has been to support the ‘sisterhood’, tagging female friends to do the same and encouraging women to support other women. Famous faces like Jennifer Anniston, Reese Witherspoon, Florence Pugh and Eva Longoria to name a few have been among those posting their own black and white pics. However, in all the hashtags and feminist empowerment, the true meaning of the viral campaign has been lost. It was started by Turkish women as a political message and frustration of always seeing black and white photos of Turkish women who have been killed.
Initially, the political message was in response the Turkish Governments decision to withdraw from the Istanbul convention. The Istanbul Convention is a European treaty aimed at protecting women against violence. Recently Poland decided to leave the treaty and politicians in Turkey have been discussing withdrawing as well. This has alarmed women in the country, as there is a real problem with violence against women. The nation has one of the highest rates of femicide, and a deeply embedded culture of so called “honour” killings. 274 women were murdered by the partners of families in 2019 which was the highest in a decade (up 200% from 2013) and it is expected to rise after the lockdown. At least one woman is murdered in Turkey every single day. A mobile application called KADES, developed by the government to make the reporting of domestic violence easier, has recorded over 30,601 incidents in the past two years.
The hashtags that accompanied the initial movement were #kadınaşiddetehayır #istanbulsözleşmesiyaşatır which apparently translate to no violence against women and enforce the Istanbul Treaty / Doctrine. Unfortunately as it went viral, these hashtags were lost, and all that was left was #womensupportingwomen.
Instagram can be a great way to raise awareness to a cause, but not when the true meaning gets lost in people jumping on the bandwagon without taking the time to engage with the real issues. We’re all for women supporting women (shouldn’t that just be a given amongst us ladies by now?) but the only way to truly support this campaign is to raise awareness of these terrible issues, campaign, and donate. Sadly, as the trend grows, the new version takes over the hashtag. That doesn’t mean we should stop the challenge altogether, but if you have already posted, you could edit your post to adjusting your hashtags to reflect the true meaning, or if you are going to post, make sure you point to the issues facing women in Turkey.
“With this challenge we want to show our solidarity with all the Turkish women we have lost due to domestic violence. The Black and white pictures purely shows us that one day, it could be YOUR picture in the newspaper…”