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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Opinion

The latest social media challenge is promoting lazy activism


Juana Garcia/The Cougar

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

Over the past few weeks Instagram has been flooded with black and white photographs of women captioned “#ChallengeAccepted” or “#WomenSupportingWomen” with the goal of spreading female empowerment and overall positivity.

However, social media “challenges” can often create a false sense of activism and eventually diminish the efforts of a cause. 

While this particular “challenge” or social media trend is not intrinsically bad, after all it is intended to spread positivity, it is insufficient to just post a pretty picture and call it a day.

If this trend is really interested in empowering women or creating real change, it should challenge its participants to take real action. 

There has been a lot of confusion about the origin stories of the “#ChallengeAccepted” trend, but it was recently clarified that it originated from a Brazilian journalist who wanted to spread positivity and female empowerment through social media. 

Later, this “challenge” of posting a black and white photo was called vain and unproductive by many feminists because it didn’t really call for any action other than posting a photograph of yourself.

Eventually Turkish activists, who are trying to call attention to the increasing number of femicides in their country, started to use this trend as a form of protest.

Turkish activists stated that the “challenge” was designed to raise awareness by filling timelines with black and white photos of beautiful women, as it is common for pictures of victims of femicide to be posted in the same way.

The meaning of this trend was modified to make people aware of the fact that the women they follow on social media could be one of the many victims of these killings. 

Other people believed that the recent sexist remarks against U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez by U.S. Representative Ted Yoho’s could have also contributed to the resurgence and popularity of this female empowerment challenge. 

The confusion behind the origin and the purpose of the trend is due to the fact that this “challenge” does not ask to take any real action or a particular stance on a topic. 

This vague, and somewhat lazy, call for action gives people a false sense of activism, which in turn makes them believe they have done their part in fighting an evil. 

The same sort of lazy activism occurred on June 2. “#BlackoutTuesday became a trending hashtag as people posted black squares as a sign of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. 

The goal of the black square was intended to amplify Black voices and disrupt the feed of many people.

While this small act did have an impact on shaking the norm, it also negatively affected the BLM movement as many people used their hashtag for their black square post and unintentionally clogged the communication lines between protest organizers and participants. 

The danger with these trendy activism posts is that they slowly begin to lose their meaning because people hop on the bandwagon without knowing the purpose behind it. 

There is nothing wrong with posting a black and white picture of yourself, or a black square or in participating in social media “challenges,” but if they are done in the name of activism, you have to make sure the post is not where it ends. You have to do more. 

If you want to advocate for female empowerment make sure you are doing more than just posting a selfie with a filter.

Gina Medina is a journalism senior who can be reached at [email protected]

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