A LinkedIn message is no place to compliment a woman's appearance, says a female lawyer from Britain after a male lawyer said the picture on her profile was "stunning."
Charlotte Proudman, a barrister and PhD candidate at Cambridge University, says Alexander Carter-Silk, who's with Brown Rudnick LLP, sent her an "offensive" and "sexist" message through the website of the social networking company for work professionals.
"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," reads part of his message. Proudman tweeted the message along with her response.
Proudman said to Carter-Silk that she found his message offensive because she uses LinkedIn for business networking, and "not to be approached about my physical appearance or to be objectified by sexist men."
She called his behaviour "unacceptable and misogynistic."
"Think twice before sending another woman (half your age) such a sexist message," she wrote.
After Proudman shared her experience, other women said they had received similar messages on LinkedIn and other social networks.
@CRProudman I've had the same thing on LinkedIn from a renowned barrister, even had 3 messages in the same day from him about my picture! 😐— @roseameliax
Laura Bentley, a freelance fashion designer, tweeted a message she received with a LinkedIn invitation. The unidentified person requested a connection in case they may be able to help each other out professionally one day.
"Of course, if that's not a good enough reason I do think you're absolutely gorgeous too!" he wrote.
Lyndsey Duff tweeted a photo of a message she had received from someone who worked in a line about how beautiful she looked in her profile picture.
Rebecca New shared a message from Seth Ayitey in which he admired her beauty and said he wanted to bring her closer to his heart.
A man named Ben messaged Lucy Clarke saying that "of course" he would accept an "invitation from a stunning girl."
Michelle Connolly said a health-care professional sent her a message about he'd "been looking for a great lady for marriage [and] raising family." He also wondered if she was "still unattached and single."
Jay Virdee said she had just received a LinkedIn message from a widower who said her profile "fascinated" him.
"I find you very attractive, I still confess that your smile is really inviting," he wrote before asking what her martial status is.
Marion shared a message she once received from a man named George, who said she looked "fabulous."
Marion reprimanded him, saying LinkedIn is not a dating site and that his message made her uncomfortable.
What was worse than his original message, she said, is that he was offended by her reply.
"Oh dear. Such unprecedented acidity in the face of being paid a compliment..." he wrote. "I see this is not a profitable source of exploration."
(LinkedIn's customer service Twitter account was directing complainants to its recognizing and reporting scams page where users can contact the social network if they've received scam messages, including dating and romance scams.)
Despite many examples of similar behaviour that made other women uncomfortable, some disagreed with Proudman's strong response to what they deemed a compliment.
@CRProudman So, if a man compliments you on a photo, he's a misogynist? Give me strength! When is this WAR upon men going to stop?— @LizzieCornish
Some took issue with Proudman calling the behaviour part of "a hidden form of social violence."
@CRProudman Violence is being kicked, scratched, bitten, punched or spat at. Compliments aren't that.— @jfb_smoggy
The criticism was echoed by The Daily Mail, which ran a headline calling Proudman "a glam lawyer" and part of "the Feminazis who hate men who praise their looks."
Proudman responded in a piece for The Independent that defended her decision to publish Carter-Silk's message and her response despite some of the ensuing negativity.
"... Solicitors have already informed me that they will no longer instruct me in legal cases," she wrote, offering an example of some real-life consequences of her speaking out.
But, it didn't seem like Proudman regretted her choice.
"I am prepared to accept the misogynistic backlash that inevitably accompanies taking a stand in the hope that it empowers at least one other woman to feel she doesn't need to sit back and accept sexist 'banter,'" she wrote.
"At the end of the day, this may be just a drop in the ocean — but we can't challenge an entire system of sexism without taking issue with its constituent parts."
Full text of Proudman, Carter-Silk messages
Carter-Silk to Proudman:
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 understant people's skills and how we might work together
Proudman to Carter-Silk:
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 eroticisation of women's physical apperance is a way of exercising power over women. It silences women's professional attributes as their physical appearance becomes the subject.
Unacceptable and misogynistic behaviour. Think twice before sending another woman (half your age) such a sexist message).