LinkedIn sexism debate: Charlotte Proudman has made it harder for others to speak up and be heard

Charlotte Proudman One of the hot topics on Twitter this week was the case of Charlotte Proudman, who publicly shamed a partner at law firm Brown Rudnick for calling her LinkedIn profile picture 'stunning'. 

Charlotte took to social media to share the message she'd received from Alexander Carter-Silk and her response, in which she stated she was not on the networking platform 'to be objectified by sexist men.'

While there's no doubting that Carter-Silk's message was poorly thought through, the tone and content wasn't unpleasant and referenced the fact he wanted to understand Charlotte's skills and how they might work together.

It's hard to know what was in Carter-Silk's mind when he penned his unfortunate note, but it's unlikely he was expecting the aggression in Charlotte's reply.

Shaming someone is not the answer

By turning this into a public issue via social media, Proudman did everyone a disservice.

Every day people compliment each other on their appearances and achievements. Sometimes there is hidden agenda, most of the time there's not.

In this situation, many would have just taken the compliment and moved on, especially as there was nothing sinister in the text. Some people would have enjoyed the attention. Others would have just turned the focus straight back to business, asserting themselves that way.

But by pushing the exchange into the public eye, Charlotte shamed a barrister and missed an opportunity to potentially achieve behavioural change on a one-to-one level. She also behaved in an unprofessional manner by not dealing with it privately and escalating what was in essence a fairly harmless exchange.

By complaining loudly about something trivial, Charlotte made it even harder for those experiencing something serious to speak up and actually be heard.

Every day sexism happens and it needs to stop

I've had my own experiences of every day sexism, from  inappropriate out of hours messaging right through to gropes of the bum and it's deeply unpleasant.

However there are ways and means of dealing with it and turning immediately to a public forum is not the solution. Those likening what has happened here to rape culture take it way too far and it's not helpful to the wider sexism and gender debate.

The fact that the majority of people seem to agree Alexander's message was a cack-handed, badly judged but harmless compliment says a lot.

Think about it this way. If Charlotte had gently and privately outlined her discomfort with his message and signposted Alexander to the #HeforShe campaign, she might have made him think twice about the discrimination faced by women and girls every day, which would have been a start.

She might have also avoided a lot of reputation damage for all the people and organisations concerned.