Many people will have seen the story about Charlotte Proudman, the solicitor who received a more than slightly OTT compliment about her LinkedIn picture from Alexander Carter-Silk, a lawyer old enough to be her father. She objected to the sexism, called him out on social media and is now at the centre of a media storm – with people threatening not to instruct her as a solicitor.
This isn’t the place to debate the rights and wrongs of Proudman’s actions, although I’m inclined to agree that Carter-Silk – someone only six years older than I am – took a distinctly creepy tone, no doubt unintentionally. Proudman has ended up at the centre of something of a media storm and has had hate Tweets as well as supportive ones. Leaving aside any personal standpoints on whether he over-egged it, whether he should have said anything about her appearance at all or whether she overreacted, let’s look at it in the abstract.
You receive a response to an attempt to connect on social media. The reply appears a little inappropriate and it’s not the first time. You’re aggrieved. What can you do?
Avoiding the media
Let’s assume that unlike Proudman you do mind being held up as an example in the media, onto which people will project their view without having met you. You do, however, want the issue publicised. Here’s how I’d recommend going about it.
- Engage with the individual and his employer. Maybe even send the exact response Proudman wrote – but keep it private so that it doesn’t blow up in your face. His own employer might wish to take action.
- Tell your own employer what you’re doing and why. If you’re aggrieved and have a half-way reasonable case, they should be supportive.
This should, you’d hope, cool his ardour a little (although since he’s apparently referred to his daughter’s picture as “hot” according to today’s reports, I do wonder).
Engaging the public
After this it’s worth looking at how you can raise the issue. This is where my suggestion would be to take Carter-Silk’s name out of it and publish a blog, a book, a magazine article, anything, just state what happened without pulling what might just be a cack-handed correspondent into it.
Approach the Huffington Post, the Independent, Guardian, Times, whoever. Tell the Everyday Sexism Project. Get a head of steam behind it, help publicise other people’s experiences too, but once it’s de-personalised there’s nowhere for the defensive people to go. I may be unrepresentative but if I see a story about a man who’s done something like this I think he’s an idiot; if I read about the issue without a specific individual attached I’m more inclined to ask myself whether I’m ever guilty of the same thing.
I’d be interested in other people’s views. It could be that my approach would generate less publicity – but it might result in less abuse and career damage for someone who just wanted to talk about work rather than her looks.
You’re unlikely to come across anything as extreme as the vitriol poured onto Charlotte Proudman’s head, but do you need help with media engagements? Drop me a line by clicking here and we’ll talk.