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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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Childish Gambino Sued for Alleged Copyright Infringement

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  • Florida rapper Kidd Wes filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in New York Thursday against Grammy award-winning artist Childish Gambino.
  • Kidd Wes claims Childish Gambino’s 2018 song “This Is America” plagiarized his 2016 song “Made in America,” arguing that the two songs have “nearly-identical unique rhythmic, lyrical, and thematic compositional and performance content.”
  • Kidd Wes’ lawyers said his client is seeking damages from profits for record sales, endorsements, and other income sources. 

Childish Gambino Faces Lawsuit

Grammy award-winning rapper Childish Gambino, AKA Donald Glover, is being sued for alleged copyright infringement by Florida rapper Kidd Wes.

Kidd Wes, whose real name is Emelike Nwosuocha, claims Glover’s 2018 song “This Is America” plagiarized his song “Made in America,” which came out in 2016.

According to Pitchfork, he filed a lawsuit in a New York federal court on Thursday arguing that “the substantial similarities between both songs include, but are not limited to, nearly-identical unique rhythmic, lyrical, and thematic compositional and performance content contained in the chorus—or ‘hook’—sections that are the centerpieces of both songs.”

Pitchfork reported that defendants in the suit include Glover, the song’s co-writer Young Thug, producer Lüdwig Goransson, Kobalt Music, RCA Records, Sony Music Entertainment, Young Stoner Life Publishing LLC, 300 Entertainment, Atlantic Records, Warner Music Group, Roc Nation, Universal Music Publishing Group, and Warner Chappell Music.

“This Is America” and its accompanying music video were praised for providing stark social commentary on America’s history with racism, inequality, and gun violence. In 2019, it won both Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards, making it the first rap song to take home the prize in either of those top categories. The song has been streamed over 465 million times on Spotify and the music video has been viewed on YouTube over 773 million times.

Lawyers Argue Similarities Are “Beyond Coincidental”

The music video for “Made in America” has just over 415,000 views on YouTube. Nwosuocha has 12,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. While Nwosuocha may have a smaller platform than Glover, his lawyers claim it is no mistake that the two songs sound alike. 

“The similarities between the two pieces of music are beyond coincidental, and amounts to infringement as alleged in the complaint filed by our client, Emelike Nwosuocha, professionally known as Kidd Wes,” attorneys Imran H. Ansari and La’Shawn N. Thomas told Pitchfork. “Mr. Nwosuocha is confident in his claims, and simply seeks the credit and compensation he deserves for the unauthorized use of his music.” 

Nwosuocha is reportedly seeking damages from profit in roughly 43 instances, including record sales, ringtones, endorsements, and record masters.

Glover has not responded publicly to the lawsuit. This is not the first time he has been accused of plagiarism over the song “This Is America.” Previously, he was accused of taking inspiration from New York rapper Jase Harley’s song “American Pharaoh.” At the time, Harley said he did not want to take legal action. Glover’s manager also denied Glover stole from Harley’s work.

See what others are saying: (Pitchfork) (A.V. Club) (The Guardian)

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MrBeast Accused of Creating Toxic Workplace

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  • YouTuber MrBeast, who is known for his massive giveaways, was accused of fostering a toxic workplace in a Tuesday article by The New York Times. 
  • One former employee claimed he quit after a week because MrBeast had unreasonable demands and “nothing ever worked for him.”
  • Another, named Matt Turner, said he was berated almost every day and was often called a “phrase used to insult people with mental disabilities.” 
  • Turner previously posted several videos about his experience working for MrBeast. In one, he praised the YouTuber and thanked him for a fun experience, but in another, he painted a negative and hostile picture of MrBeast.

MrBeast Accused of Creating Toxic Workplace

YouTuber MrBeast was accused of creating a toxic workplace in a Tuesday article from The New York Times. 

Jimmy Donaldson, who goes by MrBeast online, is known for his massive giveaways and “stunt philanthropy” videos. He has gained a substantial following and as The Times, noted, is a huge influence for many young creators. 

However, former employees said that behind the scenes, Donaldson is a very different person. According to The Times, his corporate entities “have been rife with favoritism and bullying.”

Matt Turner, who was an editor for Donaldson between 2018 and 2019, said that he was berated “almost every day” and that Donaldson often called him by a “phrase used to insult people with mental disabilities,” which would leave him in tears. 

According to the report, Donaldson initially largely hired friends to work for him, but as his empire grew, so did his number of staffers. Turner told The Times that while those friends got to be in videos, he struggled to be acknowledged. 

“I was not to be credited for anything I did,” Turner said. “I’d ask for credit, he’d credit someone else.”

Another former staffer, Nate Anderson, said he worked for Donaldson for a week in 2018 before quitting because of what he described as unreasonable demands.

“Nothing ever worked for him,” he told The Times. “He always wanted it a certain way.”

When Anderson uploaded a video describing his experience, he was met with hateful messages and even death threats from Donaldson’s fans. Turner said the same happened to him when he posted videos and wrote about his experience on social media. 

The Times spoke to, 20-year-old Akash Rathod, a fan who found Donaldson’s silence regarding these complaints and the subsequent death threats from his followers troubling. 

“There needs to be more from Mr. Beast on the issues his fans are causing,” Rathod said. “It’s not enough just to make positive videos.”

Donaldson did not give a comment to The Times for their piece. A representative for him declined to talk about the workplace allegations and only acknowledged a part of the piece that briefly mentioned Donaldson’s past use of slurs and offensive jokes.

“When Jimmy was a teenager and was first starting out, he carelessly used, on more than one occasion, a gay slur,” the representative said. 

They added that he now “knows there is no excuse for homophobic rhetoric” and “has grown up and matured into someone that doesn’t speak like that.”

Former Employee’s Previous Remarks

Rogue Rocket reached out to Donaldson for comment. In response, MrBeast sent a clip that Turner previously posted where he discussed his work experience in a much brighter light. In that video, which has since been deleted but exists in reuploads, Turner referred to the gig as a “dream job” and recommended others work for Donaldson. 

“If you have the opportunity to get this job that I had, totally take it,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. It was basically just like a friendship. And going to work was a blast each and every day.” 

Turner then said his decision to part ways from the role was mutual, as the company knew he would not be in the job for the long haul. Turner said he was going to college, wanted to backpack across Asia, and was considering moving to Los Angeles eventually, so they decided to part ways. 

He also claimed that even after he was no longer working there, Donaldson, who had been paying for his rent while he worked for him, continued to pay for him to stay in his apartment and encouraged him to stay as long as he needed. Turner said he even continued to receive paychecks after he left the job for an unspecified period of time. 

“And that is basically funding my trip to backpack across Asia,” he explained. “He’s saying, ‘You don’t have to work for me, but I’ll still pay you. And because of that, I hope that lets you live in L.A., go to college, backpack Asia, whatever you want to do after this, I want to set you up for that.’” 

“If you’re watching this MrBeast, I fucking love you bro,” he continued. 

However, these are not the only remarks Turner has made about his experience working for Donaldson prior to the release of The New York Times report. He previously posted several tweets, which were later taken down, describing a hostile environment where he was “bullied” and “having mental breakdowns day after day.”

He also posted another video, which was deleted but has been partially reuploaded by other channels, where he said that he only posted positive remarks about Donaldson to “clout chase” because he was afraid of what would happen if he spoke ill of the YouTuber. He then painted a much more confrontational picture of Donaldson, telling a story where Donaldson allegedly wiped an entire project and cursed at him after being unhappy with an edit.

Taylor Laurenz, who wrote the article about Donaldson in The New York Times, told Insider that this story is reflective of a larger issue within creator culture. 

“For a large portion of Gen Z that doesn’t want to be creators themselves, working for a creator seems like an absolute dream job,” she said. “But we see time and time again that these creators have basically little to no management experiences and, behind the scenes, can create a really hostile, stressful environment.”

“Working for a 22-year-old YouTube star isn’t going to be the most professional work environment,” she added. “But if you are posturing yourself as a business leader or the next Elon Musk, you should think about the type of work culture you’re creating and what you are rewarding.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Insider) (Dexerto)

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Will Smith To Make Docuseries About Getting Fit After Saying He’s “In The Worst Shape” of His Life

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  • Will Smith announced on Tuesday that he will star in a YouTube Originals series called “Best Shape of My Life,” which will premiere in 2022 and follow the actor on a fitness and weight loss journey.
  • The news comes just a few days after Smith shared that he was in “the worst shape” of his life in an Instagram post that resonated with several people as many across the country struggle with pandemic weight gain.
  • “This is the body that carried me through an entire pandemic and countless days grazing thru the pantry,” Smith wrote in his announcement post on Instagram. “I love this body, but I wanna FEEL better… Hope it works!”

Will Smith to Star in YouTube Originals Docu-series

Just days after sharing that he is in the “worst shape” of his life, actor Will Smith announced on Tuesday that he will be starring in a YouTube Originals series called “Best Shape of My Life.”

His initial Instagram post revealing his weight gain resonated with many who praised him for being honest about his body changing during the pandemic. 

“You’re a real one for this,” YouTuber Casey Neistat wrote. 

“Fucking love it. That’s confidence,” Smith’s Suicide Squad co-star Joel Kinnaman added.

According to the show’s official description, “Best Shape of My Life” will follow “the story of Will Smith, looking up one day to find himself in middle age, rebuilding his body into the best shape of his life and getting his groove back along the way.” In it, he will challenge his physical abilities with the help of pro-athletes, scientists, other experts, and YouTube creators. 

The docuseries will air in six parts in 2022. It marks his second project with YouTube Originals, following his 2018 bungee-jumping stunt that raised money for charity to celebrate his 50th birthday. “Best Shape of My Life” is being produced by Westbrook Media, a company the Fresh Prince star launched with his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

Series Will Address Pandemic Weight Gain

“This is the body that carried me through an entire pandemic and countless days grazing thru the pantry,” Smith wrote on Instagram. “I love this body, but I wanna FEEL better”

“Imma get in the BEST SHAPE OF MY LIFE,” he continued. “Hope it works!”

Pandemic weight gain has been a common issue for people all over the world. According to Healthline, 61% of Americans said they gained weight as the world shuttered because of COVID-19.

See what others are saying: (Huff Post) (Entertainment Weekly) (Billboard)

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