Cyber-bullying a universal problem

Mary Catherine Connors

Katherine Webb-McCarron is The University of Alabama’s own Kate Middleton. She’s beautiful, is a model and has been in the public eye ever since that fateful football game in which an announcer made more than a few comments about her looks. Just like Kate Middleton was born a regular British citizen before crossing over into royalty, Webb-McCarron was an Auburn undergraduate before she became one of our University’s leading ladies. The sudden spin into fame, however, resulted in the usual grief: mockery and bullying.

One week ago, according to her Instagram account, Webb-McCarron posted a photo of herself in a swimsuit, leaving next to nothing to the imagination about her body. The usual hateful comments started with various commenters jabbing, “Anorexic,” “She needs a (cheeseburger),” and “Love you but please gain a little weight.”

Webb-McCarron responded quickly with a screenshot of these comments and posted the photo to her Instagram account with a caption that read, “…And to all the middle aged women who like to leave mean comments on my page about my body, you can gladly skip my page and go somewhere else. I am tall, I eat just fine and also suffer from thyroid problems…”

Not long after, she appeared on Tuesday morning’s “Good Morning America” and spoke about cyberbullying and her sensitivity to criticism about her body. This is a case of skinny-shaming, a colloquial word for bullying a person for being too thin. In our modern culture, comments like “stick thin” and “you need to eat some pizza” are uttered as compliments. However, to people like Webb-McCarron, they are insults and hurt just as much as a straightforward insult would.

In the last decade, the “all bodies are beautiful” movement has gained momentum. It’s a positive campaign that strives to teach all girls that, as long as they are healthy and happy, their bodies are beautiful. And it’s true. But it applies to all bodies, all weights and all sizes. This movement cannot make progress if its own members are turning against each other. There is no clause in this campaign that says, “all bodies are beautiful and real, except those that look like Webb-McCarron’s.”

To show genuine concern for a friend who may look unhealthy is appreciated, but comments like the ones posted on Webb-McCarron’s Instagram aren’t convincing me that this type of sincerity was present. This is a case of cyberbullying, something our technologically savvy generation is regrettably familiar with.

Mary Catherine Connors is a sophomore majoring in economics and mathematics. Her column runs weekly.