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“Challenge accepted,” they wrote — female Instagram users across the United States, flooding the photo-sharing app with black-and-white images. Together they formed a grid of millions of magazine-style captures of celebrities, spur-of-the-moment selfies and filtered snaps from weddings or other special occasions. The official goal: a show of support for other women.

An accompanying hashtag, #womensupportingwomen, often was the only sign of the campaign’s intent, along with friends’ Instagram handles to encourage participation. And some users quickly began to wonder: What’s the point?

To some observers of social media activism, #challengeaccepted represents a clear example of “slacktivism” — campaigns based on social platforms that require little effort of participants. There’s no donation requested, no volunteer shift required, just a few minutes to post a message or image that people are unlikely to fight over.

They say photo-driven campaigns can become a powerful push for social change. But they feel this latest effort so far lacks a concrete goal.

“Successful selfie protests made what’s invisible visible,” said Mona Kasra, an assistant professor of digital media design at the University of Virginia. “They are effective when they shift public perception, when they create a counterculture, when they resist, when they claim a place online.”

By Thursday, July 30, more than 6 million Instagram posts had used the #challengeaccepted hashtag. Others just included the phrase “challenge accepted” in their post, making it difficult to count total participation.

Some participants praised the posts as a straightforward way for women to support one another — one that comes days after U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s passionate speech on the House floor calling out sexist culture.

Tara Abrahams joined the millions of women posting under the hashtag after a friend invited her to share. She chose a shot of herself smiling, her dark hair streaming across the square frame. Before posting it, the philanthropic adviser from New York added a caption encouraging people to check their voter registration status and make a plan to vote in November.

“I just kept smiling because I saw these very inspiring women flood my feed,” said Abrahams, who also chairs a nonprofit focused on girls’ access to education in 11 other countries. “I know that there are real women doing the real work. Instagram can be where the activism begins, but it’s not where it ends.”

Some researchers are encouraged by the debate. They consider it a sign that many Americans’ expectations for social media communication have been honed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and large demonstrations demanding change in U.S. policing following the deaths of George Floyd and other Black Americans.

Questions about this latest photo challenge also mirror reaction to the #blackoutTuesday push in early June, stemming from an effort within the music industry to halt normal operations for a day.

Then, public attention focused on social media, where users posted all-black images on their Facebook or Instagram accounts as a show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Some posters backtracked after activists criticized the action, saying it was drowning out existing material already posted by Black users.

The conversation about #challengeaccepted is further complicated by questions about its origin. Some social media users have tied it to ongoing work to raise awareness of women killed by their male partners in Turkey. But that link is difficult to trace definitively.

An Instagram spokesman said posts in Turkey about violence against women date to the start of July, while the black-and-white aesthetic and accompanying #womensupportingwomen hashtag that flooded the photo-sharing app last week first showed up in mid-July among users in Brazil before spreading to the United States.

Stephanie Vie, an associate dean at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, said tracking the origins and changes in social media campaigns across countries and cultures is a constant struggle for researchers who study memes and other digital communication.

Rather than “slacktivism,” Vie prefers the umbrella term “digital activism” — because, she says, shows of support on social media can indeed be meaningful.

“Would I like #challengeaccepted to have more of an activist bent? Absolutely,” Vie said. “Do I want to say people are doing it completely wrong and they shouldn’t bother posting? No, because you have to start somewhere.”

Activists who work on women’s rights internationally say they are encouraged by any effort to spotlight the cause. But they suggested this latest push would have more impact if participants went beyond a photo posting — perhaps by encouraging support for an organization working on women’s rights.

“It’s powerful, but it’s also helpful to see an action piece, like what am I fighting for?” said Rosalyn Park, director of the Women’s Human Rights Program. “I would love to see people leverage that trending power and that momentum to really go one step further.”

Yet simply talking about the way digital movements work — or don’t work — can be a useful pursuit.

The existence of any meaningful debate about a meme campaign focused on women is encouraging, says Katherine DeLuca, an assistant professor of English and communication at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Participants likely have good intentions, she says, but it’s healthy to consider what else they can do to support a broader goal.

“People having the time to think critically about what they’re circulating in online spaces is a great place for us to be, especially going into an election season,” DeLuca said.

After Abrahams made her initial post, she took things a step further the next day by posting a second image: a black-and-white drawing of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman fatally shot by police in March during a drug investigation. Abrahams included a link to a petition demanding charges against officers involved.

The warrant to search Taylor’s home was in connection with a suspect who did not live there and no drugs were found, making her death a regular focus of protesters in the U.S. this year. And with that #challengeaccepted follow-up, Abrahams tried to connect something widespread and unspecific to something that, for her, was focused and essential.

“It’s OK to hold space for joy and for fun and for supporting one another,” Abrahams said. “It’s OK to have all of those things as long as there’s real work.”

The Associated Press


“Reto aceptado” escriben en sus cuentas de Instagram y publican imágenes en blanco y negro. Suman millones de fotos de celebridades, selfies sobre un momento determinado de sus vidas e imágenes de bodas y otras ocasiones especiales. La idea es expresar apoyo a otras mujeres.

Las fotos van acompañadas por el hashtag #womensupportingwomen (#mujeresapoyanamujeres), que es a menudo el único indicio del objetivo de la campaña. Algunos usuarios se preguntan: ¿Qué sentido tiene todo esto?

Para algunos observadores del activismo en las redes sociales, “reto aceptado” es un claro ejemplo de una campaña en las plataformas sociales que requiere poco compromiso de los participantes. No se piden donaciones ni voluntariados, sólo unos pocos minutos para publicar un mensaje o una imagen que generará escasas polémicas.

Hay quienes dicen que las campañas a base de fotos pueden llegar a tener un fuerte impacto. Pero que esta última iniciativa no tiene un objetivo claro.

“Las protestas a base de selfies que funcionan hacen visible lo que es invisible”, expresó Mona Kasra, profesora adjunta de diseño en medios digitales en la Universidad de Virginia. “Son efectivas cuando cambian la impresión del público respecto a algo, cuando generan una contracultura, cuando resisten, cuando se ganan un espacio en las redes”.

Hasta el jueves, 30 de julio, más de 6 millones de posts en Instagram habían usado el hashtag #challengeaccepted. También hay usuarios que emplean la frase “reto aceptado” en sus comentarios, no como hashtag, lo que hace que resulte difícil calcular la cantidad total de participantes en la campaña.

Algunos elogian los posts diciendo que son una forma directa en que las mujeres se pueden apoyar entre sí, días después del emotivo discurso de la representante Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez denunciando una cultura sexista.

Tara Abrahams, asesora de causas filantrópicas de Nueva York, se unió a la campaña luego de recibir una convocatoria de una amiga. Eligió una foto suya en la que aparece sonriendo, con su cabello oscuro. Antes de publicarla exhortó a la gente a asegurarse de que está inscrita para votar en las elecciones presidenciales de noviembre.

“Sonrío porque vi a todas estas mujeres ejemplares”, dijo Abrahams, quien preside una organización sin fines de lucro que procura el acceso a la educación de las mujeres en 11 países. “Sé que son mujeres reales que hacen un trabajo real. Instagram puede ser el sitio donde comienza tu activismo, pero no donde termina”.

Algunos investigadores alientan el debate. Lo ven como una evolución de las campañas que siguieron a las muertes de George Floyd y de otros afroamericanos en Estados Unidos.

Los cuestionamientos a esta última campaña a base de fotos se parece a los que hubo con motivo del #blackoutTuesday de principios de junio, que buscaba que los trabajadores de la industria disquera suspendiesen sus operaciones por un día.

Acto seguido la atención se enfocó en las redes sociales, donde la gente empezó a publicar imágenes negras en sus cuentas de Facebook e Instagram para mostrar su apoyo al movimiento Black Lives Matter. Varios activistas criticaron la iniciativa diciendo que opacaba material ya colocado en las redes por usuarios de raza negra.

El debate en torno a “reto aceptado” se complica por discrepancias en torno al origen de la campaña. Algunos usuarios de las redes la asocian con otra ya en marcha que busca concientizar a la gente acerca del abuso que los hombres hacen de sus parejas en Turquía. Sin embargo, cuesta encontrar una vinculación entre ambas.

Stephanie Vie, decana adjunta de la Universidad de Hawái con sede en Mānoa, no le ve ninguna connotación negativa a lo que describe como “activismo digital” porque dice que las muestras de apoyo en las redes sociales pueden ser importantes.

“¿Me gustaría que ‘reto aceptado’ fuese un poco más militante? Claro que sí”, dijo Vie. “¿Voy a decir que la gente está haciendo todo mal y no debería molestarse con esas publicaciones? No, porque hay que empezar por algún lado”.

El solo hecho de que se esté hablando de si las campañas digitales a favor de las mujeres funcionan o no es alentador, según Katherine DeLuca, profesora adjunta de inglés y comunicaciones en la Universidad de Masachusetts Darmouth. Indicó que las participantes en la campaña seguramente tienen las mejores intenciones, pero que sería bueno que se preguntasen qué más pueden hacer para lograr el objetivo.

“El que la gente tenga tiempo para analizar críticamente lo que publican en los espacios online es muy bueno, sobre todo con miras a las elecciones”, dijo DeLuca.

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