There Are New Theories Explaining The ‘Women Supporting Women’ Challenge

Emily Shiffer
Photo credit: Instagram
Photo credit: Instagram

From Women's Health

  • The "Women Supporting Women" challenge has taken over Instagram feeds this week.

  • The challenge initially appeared to be focused on empowering women via a black-and-white portrait.

  • Now, there's debate as to the origins of the challenge and its purpose.

The latest viral social media challenge is the women-empowering movement called the "Women Supporting Women" challenge on Instagram.

If you've seen tons of gorgeous black-and-white portraits taking over your feed, along with the hashtags #challengeaccepted, #womensupportingwomen and #blackandwhitechallenge, you know that this challenge is spreading fast. (It's taken over my entire feed!)

On the surface, the images and trend promotes female empowerment and support. But there's much more to this new challenge than a glam, filtered headshot. So, what is the Women Supporting Women challenge all about, and how do you get involved?

How did the Women Supporting Women challenge start?

There have been multiple theories circulating about the origins of the Women Supporting Women challenge. In fact, the hashtags date back four years, per the NY Times. In 2016, the #challengeaccepted trend popped up with black-and-white images to spread cancer awareness across social media. Other waves also promoted positivity.

There are multiple theories for the current Women Supporting Women challenge.

Some suggest this July 2020 variation of #challengeaccepted got a boost from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's video speaking out against Representative Ted Yoho. “That was the spark that led to the resurgence of the hashtag challenge,” Cristine Abram, a public relations and influencer marketing manager for social media marketing firm Later, told NY Times. “It’s all to do with female empowerment. There was this hashtag that already existed to raise awareness around other large issues. Tapping into that allowed participants to gain traction a lot faster because the algorithm was already familiar with the hashtag.”

The earliest post Instagram found for the current challenge was posted on July 17 by the Brazilian journalist Ana Paula Padrão, according to NY Times reporting.

Influencers (like @alyteich via @beelzeboobz) shed light on another side of the latest wave of the challenge. According to them, the original goal was to spread awareness of the horrific human rights crisis and murders of women in Turkey, where femicide is a longstanding and worsening issue, per NPR.

View this post on Instagram

There has been a lot of pushback on the #challengeaccepted #womensupportingwomen challenge, and I want to help you understand why. I am also creating a new challenge that I hope you’ll take part in. I want to thank @beelzeboobz for offering this slider to repost and help spread awareness to a most important cause and the femicide happening in Turkey. - - I don’t think anyone who partook in the challenge meant any ill-will, and I do think women celebrating both each other and themselves is both beautiful and important. - - However, we did (myself included), take a campaign that was meant to shed light on the horrific human rights crisis and murders of women in Turkey, and turn it into a pop culture campaign starring ourselves (one that garnered over 4 million posts). So I am creating a new challenge called #TheRealChallengeAccepted. I nominate the women below to follow up their own photos with this slider to spread awareness about where and why this campaign was created in the first place. Make sure to tag the creator @beelzeboobz and use the hashtag above. There is more... - - As women supporting women in the US and around the world, we must also not lose sight of the senseless murders of Black and Black Trans women in this country. So along with joining this new challenge, I ask you to take 5 minutes to make some phone calls on behalf of #breonnataylor AND DEMAND HER KILLERS BE ARRESTED! Call 502-735-1784 to get started. - I nominate @hannahbronfman @katiesturino @elainewelteroth @kellyturner_1 @lauren.taus @katiecouric @heidikristoffer @xojsmn @akcollins @chinaealexander. - Let’s use our female power for real action and get this trending! 💪🏻❤️ - #istandwithturkishwomen #femicide #realaction #justice #breonnataylor #justiceforbreonnataylor #femalepower

A post shared by Aly Teich (@alyteich) on Jul 28, 2020 at 11:24am PDT

In Turkey, femicide (killing women because of their gender) often goes unpunished and unreported, so women took to social media to stand in solidarity with those who have lost their lives. The images "show that one day, it could be their picture that is plastered across news outlets with a black and white filter on top."

Additionally, the American University Turkish Cultural Club has shared updates and ways people can help Turkish women. "The gruesome murder of #pınargültekin is spawning a movement against Femicides in Turkey."




The Mor Çatı Women’s Shelter Foundation, which was founded to combat violence against women, is accepting donations to help the cause.

That being said, that message appears to have been lost in at least one of the DMs circulating encouraging women to participate in this social media movement, which read:

“There is a woman empowerment challenge going around on Instagram. I think you are so bad ass and amazing and I was careful to choose who I think will meet the challenge.... but above all I chose women I know who share my values and views of the world. You are one of those women. Post a photo in black and white alone, written “challenge accepted” and mention my name. Identify 50 women to do the same, in private. I chose you because you are beautiful, strong and incredible. Let's ❤️ each other!"

It remains to be seen how the challenge will be interpreted going forward.

How many people have done it?

The hashtags are gaining tons of speed on Instagram, with the #challengeaccepted gaining over 6 million tags on Instagram, #womensupportingwomen garnering close to 6.5 million tags, and #blackandwhitechallenge has just over 1 million uses.

Who is doing it?

Tons of famous ladies have "accepted" the challenge, including:

Jennifer Garner

"Thank you for the ♥️, @rachelzoe @amypurdygurl @jenniferlovehewitt @mollybsims. I’m sending love back to you and heaps to all women looking after their sisters. That’s how it’s done, ladies ♥️♥️♥️. #challengeaccepted #womensupportingwomen," she captioned her post.



Elizabeth Hurley

"It’s the season of silly challenges, but this is a sweet one. Challenge accepted @haseenajethmalani @gazmoudeh @lipstickkelly 🖤 #womenonly," she captioned her post.



Rebel Wilson

"Challenge accepted 🖤🤍 women supporting women 🖤🤍 thank you to all the talented, smart, amazing women that nominated me and here’s to girl power! x 📸 @landoftheamazons," she captioned her post.



Vanessa Williams

"#challengeaccepted," she captioned her post.



Denise Richards

"Thank you my beautiful friend @nataliepsychic #challengeaccepted I am so grateful to be surrounded by incredibly strong, inspiring women. I nominate my older daughters Sami & Lola, a few years away from being adults but our youth follows us & learn from us and I couldn’t be more proud. ❤️#womensupportingwomen," she captioned her post.

Kaley Cuoco

"Challenge Accepted! 💫❤️ thank you to these inspiring badass ladies @suemack8 @tatianahouser @kimshapiramethod @clarissanya and all the other women who nominated me.. women supporting women 💕," she captioned her post.



Natalie Portman

"Challenge accepted @rockyourbest_fit and @mrsmwhitt. So grateful for the inspiration and community of women in my life. #womensupportingwomen," she captioned her post.



Gabrielle Union

"Challenge accepted @vanessabryant @mrsmiawright @candaceparker @iamaprilwatkins @lex_a_s I ♥️ you amazing ladies!!! Lets keep this going and make sure you acknowledge, support and protect the women that need it most. Sending so much 🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤 #WeAllWeGot," she captioned her post.



You Might Also Like




More From