The problem with the #DontJudgeChallenge taking over Instagram

The 'challenge' actually promotes body- and face-shaming.


Marisa Kabas


Published Jul 7, 2015   Updated May 28, 2021, 10:08 am CDT

Draw on a unibrow, spatter your face with hand-drawn dots, and you’re ready for the #DontJudgeChallenge.

Videos tagged with the hashtag feature mostly teens fitting the above description and have proliferated on Instagram over the last few days. According to the formula, the subjects are at first covered in makeup meant to make them look grotesque. Halfway through the video, we see them as a much more classically attractive version of themselves, some just as made-up as in the first half.

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The challenge was supposedly started to combat body shaming, based on accompanying hashtags such as #DontJudgeMeChallenge, #DontJudgeMe and #DontJudgeABookByItsCover. However, the premise is clearly flawed. 

The unattractive first version of the subjects insinuates that unibrows and pimples are inherently “ugly.” They’re asking you to not judge them based on their original appearance but then presenting you with a more socially acceptable form of beauty, one that they’d actually like you to judge them on.

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The hashtag has grown so ubiquitous that it’s been combined with other popular social media memes, like Relationship Goals, in which couples do the challenge together.

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And you know you’ve reached peak-meme when there are already parodies being made, like this one

It’s also worth noting that many of the 168,000 entries to the #DontJudgeChallenge on Instagram were made with app, which creates instant music videos. There was speculation that the challenge was somehow being pushed by, but there is no concrete evidence. The company has not replied to our request for comment. 

Physical challenges have flourished on Instagram, like the “collarbone challenge” which dared people to see how many coins they could stay on their frail clavicles, or the “bellybutton challenge,” which encouraged social media users to show how thin they are by wrapping an arm around their own waist and touching their bellybutton from the other side.

While the #DontJudgeChallenge isn’t telling people who to be thin, it is indirectly telling them how to be beautiful.

Photo via @Maayheom/Instagram

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*First Published: Jul 7, 2015, 6:18 pm CDT