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#ChallengeAccepted Trend Faces Criticisms for Alleged False Activism

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  • 5.5 million people, including many A-list celebrities, have participated in the #ChallengeAccepted trend, where women post black and white photos of themselves to promote female empowerment.
  • However, the trend has been heavily criticized by people like The New York Times writer Taylor Lorenz and actress Emmy Rossum who both said it actually doesn’t do anything to actively help women.
  • Others have claimed the trend has lost focus and meaning, thinking it originated in Turkey, where people are sharing black and white photos of women to raise awareness for high rates of violence against women in the country. 
  • Instagram has stated that the trend in the U.S. is not tied to the trend in Turkey, but many are now using the hashtag to call attention to it and to encourage their followers to support the Istanbul Convention, which is meant to protect victims of domestic violence. 

#ChallengeAccepted Goes Viral

As black and white photos of women flood Instagram feeds for the #ChallengeAccepted trend, the campaign has become a contentious subject. What started as a simple photo challenge is now under fire for not actually empowering women as it claims to do. Many are also concerned that these glamour shots are clogging up space where information about important subjects like femicide in Turkey could be shared. 

Olivia Munn, Kristen Bell, Reese Witherspoon, Florence Pugh, Jennifer Lopez, and Kerry Washington are among the over 5.5 million people who have shared black and white photos of themselves using the hashtag #ChallengeAccepted. In addition to these photos, those who partake also often share messages about female empowerment and the importance of women supporting other women. 

But the trend’s purposes and murky roots have led many to criticize the movement, and it’s unclear if any one moment served as a specific catalyst for the trend. Many now claim that it was inspired by black and white photos being shared in Turkey to raise awareness for the high rates of violence against women in the country. This has led to a lot of frustration and outrage because most of the big name celebrities sharing these photos do not mention this aspect at all, leaving their posts to just a flattering photo and brief caption.

Though, in all likelihood, this trend probably has nothing to do with what is happening in Turkey. Instagram told The New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz that the resurgence of this challenge in the United States is actually unrelated to the trend in Turkey. Versions of this trend in the U.S. have actually existed since 2016. It has been used to spread awareness for serious diseases like cancer, as well as just to share general positivity online. 

Criticism of the Online Challenge

Lorenz further discussed #ChallengeAccepted on TMZ Live, where she criticized the campaign for masquerading as a form of female empowerment while doing nothing to actually empower women. 

“Just posting, you know, ‘I’m posting this beautiful photo of myself to support other women,’ that doesn’t actually do anything to, you know, move women forward or actually advocate [for] women,” she said. “It’s not highlighting impressive women, it’s not helping your company hire more women, so it’s ultimately pretty meaningless.” 

Lorenz was far from the only critic of the trend. Actress Emmy Rossum asked her Twitter followers: “How is it empowering to other women to post a selfie?”

Though, Lorenz did think that in some cases, #ChallengeAccepted has been used for good. Stars like Rashida Jones used it to call for justice for Breonna Taylor. Also, because many are under the impression that women in Turkey are the root of the trend, many more have been using it to spread awareness about that. 

Violence Against Women in Turkey

Various infographics have been created and shared on Instagram to educate users on the platform about femicide in Turkey. Some have been liked tens, if not hundreds of thousands of times. People all over are sharing these graphics to their Instagram stories so their followers can read up on the topic.

Violence against women in Turkey has been an issue for a long time, but it is facing renewed attention because a 27-year-old woman was recently murdered by her ex-boyfriend. This has prompted protests and calls for action when it comes to the common threats women face in the country. 

According to The Guardian, 42% of Turkish women between the ages of 15-60 have suffered some form of physical or sexual violence by their husbands or partners. In 2019 alone, 474 women were murdered, mainly by partners or relatives, which was the highest rate in a decade. This number has been increasing every year for the past ten years. It is expected to climb even higher this year because of coronavirus lockdowns leading to increases in domestic violence. 

Those using the challenge to discuss Turkey on Instagram are also pointing to efforts to protect the Istanbul Convention, which is a Council of Europe treaty designed to protect victims of domestic violence and other forms of violence against women. While Turkey was among the first countries to sign it, the convention is facing a new wave of threats against it. 

Legislation that provides basic human rights for women in Turkey is in jeopardy under the country’s conservative leadership. According to The Guardian, lobbyists are working to change the Istanbul Convention, leaving its future in question. 

Celebrities Refocus #ChallengeAccepted

With all this information going around, some celebrities have opted to refocus their role in this online challenge. Actress Florence Pugh, who shared a goofy black and white selfie, discussed the Istanbul Convention in her caption. She encouraged others to do the same. 

“Women are being subjected to violence and this convention is to end forgiveness for the attacker/murderers,” the “Little Women” star wrote. “With that in mind, adjust your hashtags if you didn’t already do so.”

Pugh is also sharing information about violence against women in Turkey on her Instagram stories. Likewise, Academy Award-winning actress Natalie Portman is also sharing articles about femicide in hers, while singer Demi Lovato is raising awareness on her page, as well. 

With celebrities changing the angles of their involvement in this, what initially appeared to be a surface-level girl power challenge has now started to highlight an international issue that many may have previously been unaware of. While its initial direct ties to the #ChallengeAccepted campaign have been disproven by Instagram, this issue has become a driving force behind the trend’s spread. 

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (The Cut) (Elle)

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Netflix To Invest $100 Million in Diversity Initiative

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  • Netflix will invest $100 million into a creative equity fund over the next five years in an effort to boost diversity both in front of and behind the camera. 
  • This comes after the streaming service released a report on diversity in its original programming, which found that the company made strides for women and Black characters on screen but lacked in other areas.
  • For both film and television, Latino characters only made between 1.7% and 5% of lead roles and main cast members, despite being 12% of the U.S. population.
  • The report also found that just 2% of speaking roles in film and 3.3% of speaking roles in series were for LGBTQ characters.

Netflix Invests in Diversity

Netflix announced plans on Friday to invest $100 million into a creative equity fund over the next five years in an effort to boost diversity in all areas of production.

Ted Sarandos, the co-CEO of Netflix, wrote in a blog post explaining that this fund will invest in company programs aimed at identifying, training, and providing job opportunities for-up-and coming talent in the industry. It will invest in numerous organizations with “a strong track record of setting underrepresented communities up for success in the TV and film industries.

This comes as the streaming giant just released a massive report on its own diversity, done by Dr. Stacy Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. The study analyzed 180 scripted series and 126 films Netflix released in 2018 and 2019 to find where the studio has succeeded and where it needs to break ground. 

Dr. Smith said a report of this nature is both unique and historic. 

“At the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, we’re not aware of any other company taking a leadership role and making their findings as transparent and rolling out those results to all the communities,” she claimed in a video explaining the results of her research. 

“Given the size and scope of Netflix content, particularly as it relates to its entertainment industry peers, the results show one thing very clear — Netflix is committed to inclusion across its content portfolio,” she continued. 

Findings of the Report

Among the more positive findings, the report said that Netflix programs reflect gender equality when it comes to main roles, with 48% of films and 54% of shows having women leads or co-leads. It also found that 19% of lead roles went to male and female characters with unrepresented backgrounds, which is more than the industry at large did in the top grossing films of 2018 and 2019.  

When it comes to behind-the-camera film roles for women, Netflix is also outpacing the progress the industry is making overall. The company hired women to direct 23% of its movies, compared to just 7.6% of women who directed the top grossing films of 2018 and 2019. Netflix also employed female writers and producers at a significantly higher rate. 

The report found that the more women were working behind the camera, the more women wound up in front of it as well. 

“Inclusion happens when women are given the keys to the kingdom,” Dr. Smith said in a video explaining the results of her research. 

Still, there were many strides Netflix has yet to make when it comes to representation. While it did hire women of color to direct its films at three times the rate the industry in general did, they still only totaled just over 6% of directors for the studio. When it came to women of color directing television, Netflix fell behind industry-wide statistics. 

The report found that 15% of leads and co-leads were Black characters and almost 20% of main casts were Black, which is on par for the U.S. population. However, when it comes to other underrepresented groups, the studio lacked. 

For both film and television, Latino characters only made up between 1.7% and 5% of leads or main cast members, despite being 12% of the U.S. population. Additionally, the report noted that when it came to series, just 3% of creators and producers and 2% of writers and directors were Latino. For film, the studio employed just one Latino writer and director and only five producers. 

LGBTQ characters and characters with disabilities were likewise underrepresented. Just 2% of speaking roles for film and 3.3% of speaking roles for TV went to characters that identified as LGBTQ. 

Less than 2% of speaking film characters and 2.4% of speaking television characters had disabilities, compared to 27% of the American population identifying as having some sort of disability. 

What Netflix Will Do Next

Netflix plans to take this data and build upon its findings. 

“Great stories can truly come from anywhere, be created by anyone, whatever their background, and be loved everywhere,” Sarandos wrote. “And by better understanding how we are doing, we hope to stimulate change not just at Netflix but across our industry more broadly.”

During a virtual symposium, leaders at Netflix discussed the research and why it is important to the industry and the company. 

“Part of young boys and girls seeing themselves, seeing who they are in those roles and making sure that we don’t have ‘Black Panther’ once a decade, that we have films where young people of color, young women can see themselves as heroes in active roles,” Netflix’s Vice President of Global film, Scott Stuber said. 

He added that the new Netflix film “Jingle Jangle” starring Kegan Michael Key and Forest Whitaker was just one recent example of diversity on screen making a difference. 

“The outpouring from the Black community, having a holiday film that represented them and their families, was an incredible thing for our filmmaker and for our company. And I think we have to continue to think in those terms.”

Sarandos says Netflix is committed to its work with Dr. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. The two will work together to release a report every two years between now and 2026. 

See what others are saying: (Variety) (Deadline) (New York Times)

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Lady Gaga’s Dog Walker Shot, Singer’s 2 French Bulldogs Stolen

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  • Lady Gaga’s dog walker, 30-year-old Ryan Fischer, was shot Wednesday night by thieves in Los Angeles who stole two of the singer’s French Bulldogs.
  • Fischer was transported to the hospital in unknown condition, though he appeared responsive when talking to authorities at the scene. 
  • Gaga is reportedly offering a $500,000 reward for the safe return of her pets. 
  • Authorities said it wasn’t yet clear if the suspect knew the dogs belonged to Gaga, noting that French Bulldogs are often targeted because they’re expensive and in high demand.

Dog Walker Shot in Armed Robbery

Lady Gaga’s dog walker was shot and robbed of the singer’s two French bulldogs in Los Angeles Wednesday night, according to TMZ.

The incident happened at around 9:40 p.m. and the suspects remain at large. The victim, 30-year-old Ryan Fischer was transported to the hospital in unknown condition, though he appeared responsive when talking to authorities at the scene.

Aerial footage from ABC7 shows Fischer lying on the sidewalk as responders rushed to help him, cradling Gaga’s third dog who managed to run away from the attackers.

Tabloids initially reported that Fischer was shot in the chest four times and was recovering well, but authorities have not explicitly confirmed many details about his condition at this point.

TMZ then released a graphic surveillance video Thursday of the entire ordeal. The footage shows Fischer being grabbed by the robbers, who appear to shoot him once before driving off in a white car with two of the three dogs he was walking.

In the video, Fischer can be heard desperately calling out for help, saying he was shot in the chest.

Suspects At Large, Motives Unknown

Authorities said it wasn’t yet clear if the suspect knew the dogs belonged to Gaga, noting that French Bulldogs are often targeted because they’re expensive and in high demand.

According to TMZ, Gaga, who is currently in Rome shooting a new movie, is “extremely upset.” Several outlets claim she is offering a $500,000 reward for the safe return of her pets “no questions” asked.

An email address has also been created for anyone who may have information about the case: KojiandGustav@gmail.com.

See what others are saying: (PEOPLE) (TMZ) (ABC7)

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U.K. Health Official Pushes Back Against Gwyneth Paltrow’s COVID-19 Recovery Advice

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  • Professor Stephen Powis, a senior official from the U.K.’s National Health Service, is warning people against following recommendations that actress and Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow shared for dealing with long-term COVID-19 cases.
  • Among other things, Paltrow said she is doing “intuitive fasting,” eating several sugar-free products, and taking Goop vitamins and “super powders” to regain the energy she lost after suffering from the coronavirus.
  • While Powis said he wishes her well in her recovery, he added, “some of the solutions she’s recommending are really not the solutions we’d recommend in the NHS.”
  • “We need to take long Covid seriously and apply serious science,” he continued. “All influencers who use social media have a duty of responsibility and a duty of care around that.”

Paltrow Gives Long-Term COVID Suggestions

A top health official in the United Kingdom is urging people against the recommendations that actress Gwyneth Paltrow shared for dealing with long-haul effects of COVID-19. 

Paltrow, who is the founder of the wellness blog Goop, wrote in a recent post that she caught COVID-19 early on and it left her with long-term brain fog and fatigue.

She also said she had high levels of inflammation in her body, so she consulted Dr. Will Cole, a “functional medicine practitioner” who is not a medical doctor, rather a “doctor of natural medicine,” to find a solution. She began his “intuitive fasting” protocol, which is a keto and plant-based, but “flexible,” diet that requires her to fast every day until 11:00 am. 

Paltrow recommended several foods and other products that fit in with this lifestyle, including sugar-free kimchi, sugar-free kombucha, and frequent use of coconut aminos. She also said she has been doing an infrared sauna and drinking sugar-free, alcohol-free and calorie-free cocktails called Seedlip. (She added that she prefers to drink those out of a $112 old fashioned glass, which is currently sold out on Goop’s website.)

Paltrow, of course, also touted some of Goop’s own vitamin products. She said that the Madame Ovary supplement and G.Tox Detoxifying Superpowder, in particular, are “critical for me right now.”

She added in her post that she has more energy as a result. “Everything I’m doing feels good, like a gift to my body,” she wrote.

NHS Leader Urges Caution

However, Professor Stephen Powis, a senior National Health Service official, is not so sold on her regimen. 

“In the last few days I see Gwyneth Paltrow is unfortunately suffering from the effects of Covid. We wish her well, but some of the solutions she’s recommending are really not the solutions we’d recommend in the NHS,” he said, according to a BBC News report. 

“We need to take long Covid seriously and apply serious science,” he continued. “All influencers who use social media have a duty of responsibility and a duty of care around that.”

When it comes to what people with long-term COVID-19 symptoms should be doing, many health officials have recommended going to post-COVID clinics. Research on long-term coronavirus cases is still ongoing and trips to these clinics can aid that research and hopefully provide patients with some answers. 

This is far from the first time Paltrow, who has recommended vaginal jade eggs and sells expensive vitamin supplements, has come under fire for her medical advice. It is also not the first time her remarks regarding the coronavirus pandemic have faced backlash. 

In a recent interview with The New York Times, she seemingly suggested that mask-wearing became a trend after she wore one in February, long before they became mandated in the U.S.

“This is a familiar pattern in my life,” she told the outlet. “I do something early, everyone is like, ‘What is she doing? She’s insane.’ And then it’s adopted by the culture.”

See what others are saying: (BBC News) (The Guardian) (The Hill)

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