Charlotte Proudman, a UK-based barrister, who called out a senior UK lawyer against his sexist comments sent to her on LinkedIn, has stirred a new debate on sexism that prevails online.
Last week Charlotte tweeted out the above picture of a private message sent to her by Alexander Carter-Silk, a partner at a legal firm named at Brown Rudnick. She asked, “How many women @LinkedIn are contacted re physical appearance rather than prof skills?”
Check out Charlotte’s tweet below: (App users click here)
In the message, Carter-Silk had said that he was glad to connect with her and added, “I appreciate that this is horrendously political incorrect but that is a stunning picture!!! You definitely win the prize for the best Linked in picture I have ever seen.”
Charlotte then slammed Carter-Silk in a message on LinkedIn saying that she found his comments appreciating her picture offensive and misogynistic, adding that “eroticisation of a woman’s appearance is a way of exercising power over women.”
As Proudman points out LinkedIn is professional social network, so commenting on a person’s picture is entirely unnecessary. Proudman told BBC Live 5 that she chose to speak out because she’s received many such messages “from professionals through linkedIn who seem to treat it like Tinder.”
“I saw that he was a senior legal professional and someone from a very reputable legal firm and I decided I was going to respond to that message,” she added.
But not all the reactions to the Proudman’s viral tweet have been positive and she has faced hate messages, trolling for revealing the LinkedIn message. As this Guardian report points out Franklin Sinclair, a partner at one of the UK’s largest criminal law firms, tweeted out saying that Proudman can now forget about getting cases.
He also tweeted saying, “What an awful thing to do, what kind of world do we live in when a man can’t give a lady a compliment.getalife. Nomorebriefs4u.”
When Proudman challenged him on Twitter saying that Sinclair’s tweet only highlights the kind of sexist problems in the legal profession, given that she was being denied work for exposing sexist comments, Sinclair defended himself. He said that the denial of work was because Proudman revealed a private message. ( App users read the tweets here)
Sinclair also told The Guardian, “She sent it without thinking, I am sure, without even asking advice from her chambers. If a member of my staff had done it, I would be furious about how that reflects on the firm.”
Proudman has however defended her tweet in a piece she wrote for The Independent. She wrote that she is aware of the privacy issue involved but in her opinion, “the public interest of exposing sexism outweighed any right to privacy here.”
She goes on to add, “If people don’t experience the repercussions for their actions, which are plainly wrong, then their behaviour will not change, and neither will sexist culture. All too often, women are afraid to speak up about these small but significant comments on their appearance which happen every single day. In this instance, I was particularly taken back as the message was sent by a senior legal professional.”
In India too, a woman had recently complained about online sexual harassment against an employee of National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). Jagdish Prasad, an assistant general manager of NABARD, had reportedly contacted the woman on LinkedIn enquiring about her experience in the field of rural development and women empowerment.
The message had then veered towards her looks, faith and marital status. The end of the message read, “… You are looking beautiful & gorgeous. Do you like & it is ok , as per your culture , IF , I say you are very sexy & hot also? Are you married or have BF? Have kids? are you follow Islam/Christianity?…,” NABARD had then promised action against the employee.
For women navigating on social media, sexist messages and so-called ‘friendly compliments’ are a regular nuisance. The ‘Others’ Inbox on Facebook for many Indian women, is full of such ‘compliments’ from strange men.
However as Charlotte Proudman’s story shows, sometimes naming and shaming those who leave such comments is a risky move to take, and in her case, it appears to have come at the cost of her career.