Challenge Accepted, sort of.

Hello, it’s been awhile. A lot has happened.

The world is upside down. For so many reasons, connecting to one another seems impossible. We’re at odds, always on the prowl or boiling over with defensiveness. I have truly never felt more afraid and more obligated to speak out – struggling with what I know is right, how speaking out will be received and how I – one tiny, little woman – can make any real change.

The internet can be scary, social media can be unforgiving and I haven’t been inspired much recently to write anything. My voice seems small, shaky and flawed during a time when what we really need is strong, intelligent individuals to guide us to some common ground. Still, we are constantly looking for ways to reach out to one another, sometimes in misguided albeit well-intentioned ways.

If you’ve been scrolling through Instagram anytime in the last few days, you’ve probably seen them. Women you know, love, admire or even idolize, posting a black and white photo with the hashtag #challengeaccepted. I received a message from one of my closest friends nominating me to participate in the latest social media hashtag band wagon, but struggled with how to respond – not to her specifically, but to the movement as a whole.

I have recently been misguided in my attempts to do something, particularly regarding the Black Lives Matter movement. I posted thoughts, reshared other posts and blindly followed the #blackouttuesday movement, before I backed up and started asking myself who was really benefiting from it all. I am painfully aware of the ease of posting to feel involved, to say something. However well-intentioned I felt in my actions, I removed the things I previously posted and decided in the future, I would scrutinize what I involved myself in on social media.

This new Challenge Accepted moment on Instagram has left me with questions, mainly, why? As a woman I feel slightly more justified in my thoughts on this topic, and a teeny, tiny bit more confident in my urge to reflect on it. I am honored to have received the message from my best friend, who I respect and admire. I am also in love with the message behind this movement. The concept of women supporting other women is beautiful, and something that we should all aspire to daily.

However, I am unsure how posting a black and white photo of myself supports the women around me. And what do I do after I post it? Ask other women to post the same thing? And then what? After the photo has been chosen, the hashtag has been included and the post has been sent into the Insta-verse, the intention seems vague and the follow-up action even more vague.

Hashtags aren’t a movement. While they can raise awareness for a movement, they are too often a passive form of participation, without ever actually calling us to action. Could we instead post photos of other women? Highlight stories of success or sacrifice, and shed some light on the organizations helping women?

Let me be clear, I am in no way typing from some moral high ground where my laptop and I have placed ourselves on a pedestal. I am always struggling with the “right” way to say or do things and questioning my actions. I have no intention of (and absolutely no business) shaming any person who has participated in the #challengeaccepted movement.

In a world where women are taught to see each other as competitors first and companions second, it’s easy to latch onto anything disguised as unification.

On the surface, it’s beautiful. Looking just a little closer though, #challengeaccepted needs more. We as women, need more. I sincerely hope behind every black and white photo I have seen and liked over the last 24 hours, is a woman who is doing the work daily to support other women. Not just women in their life, but all the women in the world who are also just trying to navigate through their insecurities and expectations to find their place.

From a place of genuine humility, I will not be posting a black and white photo of myself on my Instagram. However, I still find myself wanting to participate in some small way in this amazing idea that women can come together and support each other and create real change in how we view each other and how the world views us. What I would like to do in this moment, is shed a light on some of the women in my life who have supported me, who I look up to, and who I would not have survived without.

I don’t claim to have all the answers or know any more than the next person. However if the challenge is to respect other women, to lift them up, to encourage them, to find space for us all – then that’s a challenge I can accept.

Elizabeth, thank you for being my home 3,000 miles away from where I’m from.
Angie, thank you for believing in and supporting my craziest dreams.
Aunt Brenda, thank you for marching to the beat of your own drum, you truly are one of a kind.
Karinna, thank you for being the strongest PERSON I know.
Diva, thank you for giving me my first real home.
Jacquie, thank you for inspiring me to be kinder and gentler.
Hilarie, thank you for being my biggest cheerleader.
Kristy and Jennifer, thank you for quite literally changing my future.
Tati, thank you for dropping everything, no questions asked, and traveling the world with me.
Melody, thank you for sharing your family with me.
Noemi, thank you for your silliness and your realness.
Candace, thank you for reminding me that we aren’t meant to repeat the mistakes of our parents.

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