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Social Media Challenge Sparks Interest In Global Femicide Issues
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PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (WLVT) — The black-and-white photo challenge on social media inadvertently brought awareness to femicide around the world.

According to the New York Times, over three million people have used the hashtag “challenge accepted”—the slogan for the trend—over recent weeks. Despite its popularity, no one has pinpointed where the social media blitz originated from or revealed its purpose.

One of the theories that emerged said the posts were meant to draw attention to femicide, or the killing of a woman or girl, in particular by a man and on account of her gender, in countries like Turkey.

"I think we need to care about femicide because women are dying. We live in a world where women are not safe," said Laura Levitt, who teaches women's studies, among a number of subjects, at Temple University.

Levitt says one result of the social media craze is an American curiosity about global femicide.

"It’s a term that’s just coming into the foray, in the American context. Around the world, in places like Turkey, this term makes it clear that there’s violence, regularly perpetuated, against women," she told PBS39.

According to the World Health Organization, femicide crimes are usually committed by someone the woman knows, like a family member or significant other.

The Guardian reports that nearly 500 women were killed in Turkey last year. That number is expected to double in 2020, due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions and people spending more time at home.

"Often, women are the least safe at home," said Levitt.

The New York Times has reported that femicide rates are highest in countries including El Salvador, Venezuela, Syria and Mexico. In 2019, there were over 1,000 reported incidents of femicide in Mexico.

Levitt, who is also the author of the memoir The Objects that Remain, noted that what’s known as femicide in other countries can be likened to fatal incidents of domestic violence in America.

"It’s really important for us to acknowledge and challenge the kinds of structures that make the killing of one's wife, daughter, sister or niece...normal," she said. "Femicide gives us a term to make clear that this is a structured form of violence that is perpetrated against women. "

As far as social media movements go, Levitt is not convinced that a selfie is enough to effect real change.

"Do you know what it means when you post a black-and-white photo of yourself? In theory, the post could be the beginning of a conversation, but sometimes those conversations get lost," said Levitt.

She says social media users should consider going beyond sites like Instagram if they’re serious about a cause or issue.

"You can Google and learn more about what’s going on in Turkey. You can start your own small group and have a conversation about it. I think there’s lots of ways to have this conversation," she said. "There are so many fantastic groups across the country, grassroots and national groups. Look local. Volunteer. Donate."

How You Can Help:

You can watch the video version of this story during PBS39 News Tonight at 6:30 and 11:00 p.m. on PBS39.