Don’t get me wrong – I very much appreciate the women in my life, I support Black Lives Matter, and photos are one of the main reasons I’m on social media. But the challenges are getting old. Just the word “challenge” is so overused it’s unbelievable.
In 2014 I wrote about the brilliance of the ice bucket challenge: https://lauralieff.com/the-brilliance-of-the-ice-bucket-challenge/. Because 2014 seems like a million years ago, I’ll refresh your memory like I had to refresh my own. The ice bucket challenge featured videos of people dumping buckets of ice water on their heads to raise money for ALS. The campaign was innovative because the videos were incredibly funny and, by August (when I wrote about the ice bucket fun), it had raised $4 million. The whole thing worked because everyone was willing to brave freezing water for a good cause and each video was hysterical and unique.
You know what’s not innovative? Black and white glamour shots to show women supporting women. That probably sounds cruel so let me explain. First of all, I love black and white photography – I always have – but these photos, while beautiful, are monotonous and have redundant captions: “Thank you for nominating (another overused word) me.” “I love the women in my life.” And the most annoying phrase, “challenge accepted.” There is a serious lack of thoughtfulness and creativity which leads to the overall message being lost. In a recent New York Times article, Brooke Hammerling, founder of the New New Thing, which is a communications advisory for CEOs, founders, and executive leadership teams, provides an excellent quote:
“I just don’t know what it stands for. Virtually everyone in my life has done the challenge, a lot of my friends and a lot of people I love. I’m 100 percent for women supporting women and I’m grateful to the women who nominated me, but I don’t understand how a black-and-white vanity selfie does that. If we could do portraits of the women who inspired us, that would be a little bit more in line with what this is trying to accomplish.”
Yes!!! All the things I was thinking. These photos don’t really stand for anything and it’s frustrating because the message is extremely positive. Speaking of positive, the one redeeming aspect of this campaign is that posting this type of photo (hopefully) makes the person doing so feel good about themselves. If that’s the case than great – self-worth is an excellent mission.
That being said, putting more thought into the message is really what gets people’s attention (see ice bucket challenge). I get that Covid is really hard, and people are looking to shift their focus elsewhere, but we can do better than this #ChallengeAccepted nonsense. At least the #BetweenArtandQuarantine challenge, which showed people replicating famous works of art in clever ways, demonstrated some creativity and insight! In fact, several of the photos actually made me laugh out loud. For example, the one of Francesco De Grazia recreating Caravaggio’s “Boy With a Basket of Fruit” and replacing the fruit with toilet paper. So good!
Since posting this article earlier this morning, three friends have sent me the same link that explains the origin of the challenge which is very serious and very important. According to the recent Harper’s Bazaar article, posting black and white photos started as a way to bring awareness to the murders of Turkish women. It was meant to be a way for women to stand in solidarity with those who unjustly lost their lives. The fact that all the social media posts I have seen mention nothing about these murders shows that the message got lost. And that’s a shame.
So let’s come up with a better way to show support for women. Maybe sharing photos of our friends, sisters, mothers, cousins, daughters, wives, etc. doing something cool and different. For example: Here is a photo of my mom at the radio station. #musicmom Here is one of my best friend with the rad MTV cake she created. #foodiefriend Here is a photo of my cousin looking stunning on her wedding day. #beautifulbride
Jena Skinner says
Agreed. I was hoping to see women with messy hair working hard, or being real. Women at the workplace, or saving lives. Even looking super nerdy, caught off guard. Pics showing that beautiful vulnerability (unless taking a “glamour shot” does that and you can tell)… To me, that’s strength and it should be celebrated.
Thanks for reading and for the positive feedback! I would love it if women began posting the types of photos you mentioned.
Ann lieff says
Like this. Thanks for highlighting me.
Thanks for reading! You were the first person on my list to highlight.
This misguided “challenge” is ignorance at it’s best – a serious and tragic message muted and appropriated by social media. I’ve seen some posts who recognize its origins, which is great, but the majority have absolutely no idea about this black and white bandwagon.
Agreed – thanks for letting me know about the Harpers Bazaar article!