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Lawyer Facing Backlash for Calling Out Sexism on LinkedIn

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on September 14, 2015 10:57 AM

They say LinkedIn is like Tinder for job applicants ("swipe right to get in touch with a recruiter!"), but some users seem to take the comparison literally. One U.K. lawyer was recently called out for using LinkedIn to comment on the appearance of a human rights lawyer 30 years his junior.

Of course, the randy married lawyer claimed the message was purely complimentary, which just goes to show that one's man compliment can be another's ceaseless, uninvited focus on appearance over personal and professional accomplishments. Now, the woman who went public with the comment is facing significant professional backlash. Just which side crossed the line?

Can't Wait to Work Together, Beautiful

Charlotte Proudman, a 27 year-old barrister, presumably joined LinkedIn for the same reasons everyone else does -- because it's a necessary part of being a professional with even the most minor web presence. She did not sign up, however, to have her photos leered at or commented on by colleagues. She wasn't happy, then, when she received a message from Alexander Carter-Silk, 57, father of two, and partner at Brown Rudnick.

Carter-Silk wrote (sic throughout):

Charlotte, delighted to connect, I appreciate that this is probably horrendously politically incorrect but that is a stunning picture !!!

You definitely win the prize for the best Linked in picture I have ever seen

Always interest to understand people's skills and how we might work together

Alex

To which Proudman responded:

Alex

I find your message offensive. I am on linked-in for business purposes not to be approached about my physical appearance or to be objectified by sexist men. The eroticization of women's physical appearance or to be objectified by sexist men. The eroticization of women's physical appearance is a way of exercising power over women. It silences women's professional attributes as their physical appearance becomes the subject.

Unacceptable and misogynistic behavior. Think twice before sending another woman (half your age) such a sexist message.

Charlotte

Support and Backlash for Speaking Out

Yet, that wasn't all. Proudman then sent the exchange out over Twitter, generating plenty of controversy about Carter-Silk's supposed misogyny. The incident caused plenty of other women to come forward with hundreds of stories of failed LinkedIn pick ups, showing that Proudman's experience is not out of the ordinary. (A tip for LinkedIn-lovers, "Do you have a boyfriend?" is not a question that should be included in a professional message.)

Of course, not everyone received Proudman's message enthusiastically. Carter-Silk has remained largely silent, having apologized that his words were "misinterpreted." Proudman, however, has been hit with a significant backlash. There are, of course, the tabloid stories about "feminazis" who "can't take a compliment." More significantly, however, are the lawyers who have pledged never to work with Proudman, as Above the Law reports, given her "lack of judgment" and "breach of confidence." For her part, Proudman says she's willing to take heat for speaking out, so long as it helps reduce sexism in the legal field.

Both Proudman and Carter-Silk have reportedly deleted their LinkedIn profiles following the fracas.

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