Stop putting Caroline Ellison’s appearance on trial

What is the goal of all of this online cruelty — if you’re going to do the crime, at least be hot so that we can objectify you before you do the time?


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Caroline Ellison has pleaded guilty to securities fraud, wire fraud, commodities fraud and money laundering.

But Caroline Ellison is being judged twice. 

The justice system has every right to throw the book at her for her crimes. The internet does not have any right to throw the book at her for her appearance.

At this point in the trial, searching on X (formerly known as Twitter) for information shows you only horrible jokes objectifying Ellison’s appearance. Unposed photos of her in motion are enlarged to ostensibly point out her perceived flaws, snapped by the hordes of paparazzi that swarm before and after court. 

Teardowns of Ellison include the fact that she had sex with Bankman-Fried, the idea that he did not want to go public with his relationship with her, the notion that she was unqualified to be CEO compared to everyone else who had executive roles. Things that have nothing to do with her crimes.

The cyberbullying of Ellison seems universal. But what is the goal of all of this online cruelty — if you’re going to do the crime, at least be hot so that we can objectify you before you do the time?

Ellison is one of several government witnesses testifying under a cooperation agreement in the ongoing criminal trial of Sam Bankman-Fried. In the first two weeks of testimony, the court has already heard from former FTX developer Adam Yadidia and FTX co-founder Gary Wang. And while Yadidia has an immunity agreement, Wang has pleaded guilty to almost as many conspiracy counts as Ellison. 

Jokes about Yadidia and Wang’s appearance online? Non-existent. 

In contrast, the rampant online discourse over Ellison’s appearance harkens back to the early 2000s tabloid days when photo close-ups of a popstar’s legs could be front page news. “J-Lo’s got cellulite: Exclusive” was a real headline.

Since then, the internet has made it easier to say even more horrible things about people. The issue with everyone else’s issue over Ellison’s appearance has nothing to do with cancel culture or being woke. It’s bullying, plain and simple.

And with Ellison in particular, it’s mostly men who feel comfortable hiding behind cartoon profile pictures, weaponizing their anonymity to troll someone vulnerable and in the public eye. At this point, it’s a nice “surprise” to see a tweet from a man about the trial that doesn’t mention her looks in a negative way.

Bullying in any form is destructive, but when it’s layered with gendered expectations and biases, the harm runs even deeper. 

Ellison’s actions in the court of law should be under scrutiny, not her appearance in the court of public opinion. 

It’s disturbing to see society’s real indictment is based not on her deeds, but on her perceived conformance to today’s beauty standards.

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