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Death of pink-haired woman underlines threat from cyberbullying

By Yao Yuxin | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-02-21 16:18


The recent death of a 24-year-old Chinese woman who had been bullied online because she dyed her hair pink has triggered a hot discussion. That people are discriminated against for their appearance and behavior in this day and age highlights the importance of promoting a tolerant society where everyone can feel safe and accepted for who they are.

Zheng Linghua, a graduate student, became the target of cyberbullying last July after she posted, on social media platforms such as Douyin, Weibo and Xiaohongshu, photographs and videos of her proudly showing her graduate admission letter to her grandfather on his hospital bed. The cyberbullies went after her for her hair, which she had dyed pink.

Reports say some people likened her to a "nightclub girl," while others linked her pink hair to prostitution. Some even suggested a romantic relationship between her and her grandfather.

Because of the bullying, Zheng suffered from depression. She had sleeping and eating disorders and was even hospitalized once.

Women have long been forced to conform to societal norms about beauty and behavior, this is nothing new. Women who don't conform to these norms are often subject to discrimination and harassment, both online and offline.

People have the right to express themselves — including through their appearance and behavior — freely. Discrimination and violence against individuals who do not conform to traditional societal norms is unacceptable.

The issue of cyberbullying is particularly concerning as it is becoming more prevalent in an increasingly digital world. This type of harassment can have devastating consequences, triggering severe emotional distress, anxiety, and depression. It is imperative that we take steps to prevent and address cyberbullying.

To promote a more tolerant and respectful society, education is crucial. We need to educate people to respect and appreciate individuality and value diversity. We need to encourage people to be open-minded and accepting of others, even if they do not share the same beliefs.

It is also important to strengthen laws and regulations to prevent discrimination and cyberbullying. Online platforms must also take on more responsibility to regulate and monitor the content on their sites to prevent cyberbullying and the spread of harmful misinformation.

In an increasingly connected world, it is more important than ever to respect individuality and to promote a culture of tolerance and respect. We cannot allow discrimination and harassment to go unchecked, whether it happens online or in the physical world.

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