There exists an unspoken, unsaid pact between women, for stepping up for each other. Women listen, hand out a sanitary pad, give you advice on a toxic relationship, and step up to you in public situations and pretend to know you, when you're being harassed by men.
The unspoken, whisper-network like women solidarity network has existed for a long, long time. The purpose remains the same: Women supporting women.
Recently, this movement in times of pandemic has gone digital, and as a show of solidarity for other women, a new Instagram challenge has started.
If you've happened to scroll down your Instagram feed in the last few days, you'll know exactly what it is. You must have come across black-and-white pictures of women, posting selfies or photos with their faces, with the hashtag, #ChallengeAccepted.
A quick click, and scroll through the hashtag will make it clear that this isn't just a small group activity by your personal female friends, but has a much larger narrative.
The hashtag has seen people from famous celebrities, your immediate friends, and a much larger network participate in it.
The caption to these filtered photos are minimal. They're usually thanking someone for nominating you to the challenge, a line or two about the initiative, of women supporting women, and followed by the hashtag: #ChallengeAccepted.
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Challenge Accepted. Strong women uplift each other ❤️ @anaitashroffadajania @sophiechoudry @roo_cha @ruchinarain @benafd @maliniagarwal @nikitasanyal @malzkhan @nimratofficial @farahkhanali @deepshikhadeshmukh @thebignightdxb @tarasharmasaluja @maliniagarwal @nikigangwani @rudranic ❤️ #WomenSupportingWomen #WomenInspiringWomen 📸 by @avigowariker
The challenge, which is now circulating like chain mail, does not have any defined origin. Participants nominate at least one other woman (and often several) to post her own black-and-white portrait.
The movement may have been heightened by the recent vile comments of an American politician against US Congress representative, Alexandria Occasio Cortez, where he called her "a f**king bitch."
But while the challenge on Instagram is new, the network is a very-much real, very strong entity offline. Women in patriarchal societies have always been pitted against each other to make them feel as if every other women was in a competition against them. It takes years of unlearning this toxic practice to see and recognize women as other, actual individual beings instead of someone you're constantly trying to one-up.
Then women build strong networks, or stepping up for other women, of calling out sexism when it happens to someone else, but most importantly for establishing a safe space, with other women. The network tells you, "I'm here for you." And sometimes, that's all women have ever really needed: the support of other women.