Woman are more than sexuality

A recent court case reminds us of the need to stop accusing women of “sleeping their way to the top.”

Alia Jeraj

In case you missed it between all the various primaries, caucuses and debates, a jury just awarded Hulk Hogan $115 million in a lawsuit regarding a sex tape published by Gawker. Florida law allows juries to submit written questions for witnesses, which judges can dismiss if they’re irrelevant.
 
 
This case’s jury and judge decided it was relevant and important to know whether witness Emma Carmichael, current editor-in-chief of Jezebel and former managing editor of Gawker, had ever slept with her former bosses. 
 
 
Carmichael replied, “No.” 
 
 
It’s important to note that the jury asked none of the male witnesses any similar questions about their sex lives. As a result, the implications of this question are distressing. Carmichael is not the first powerful woman whom people have accused, directly or indirectly, of “sleeping her way to the top.” 
 
 
That the jurors posed this question to Carmichael and not to any of her male counterparts — and that the judge allowed this to happen — demonstrates the ongoing rampancy of ideologies which consider women to be incapable of gaining power without using sexual appeal. 
 
 
These ideas and assumptions ignore the accomplishments of women like Carmichael. Not only do these accusations hurt the women they address, they also send the painful message to all girls and women that society believes them incapable of achieving their goals except through their sexuality. 
 
 
We must learn to see women and their accomplishments as more than products of their sexuality. 
 
Alia Jeraj welcomes comments at [email protected].