Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

It Was a Message to Me. I Had a Right to Expose It; Charlotte Proudman's Response to a LinkedIn Message Has Seen Her Labelled a 'Feminazi' and Caused a Twitter Storm. She Tells Susannah Butter about Her Fight against Sexism in the Legal Profession

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

It Was a Message to Me. I Had a Right to Expose It; Charlotte Proudman's Response to a LinkedIn Message Has Seen Her Labelled a 'Feminazi' and Caused a Twitter Storm. She Tells Susannah Butter about Her Fight against Sexism in the Legal Profession

Article excerpt

Byline: Susannah Butter

OF COURSE I am not a manhating feminazi," says Charlotte Proudman, exasperated. "That is an incredibly insulting thing to say and just another mechanism to silence women."

This week the human rights barrister, aged 27, became a feminist figurehead after replying to a message that a partner at another firm sent her on LinkedIn. Alexander Carter-Silk, 57, used the professional network to tell Proudman that her profile picture was "stunning".

Since Monday, when she tweeted a screenshot of his note and her rebuttal, she has been overwhelmed by messages from strangers ranging in tone from support to abuse. "People have asked what I expected having a photograph like that," she says. "I chose it because it was smart and neutral -- and they've said I've ruined my career." But she is glad that she spoke out, saying: "This isn't just about me. It is about sexism in our culture and the need for women to feel confident and call people up on it."

Carter-Silk chose the wrong person to tangle with. If he had met Proudman he would see that she is eloquent and full of constructive plans about how to challenge sexism.

"If he had read my profile he probably wouldn't have approached me," she says. She was called to the bar in 2010, and specialises in violence against women and girls at Michael Mansfield QC's chambers. At the moment she is on sabbatical working on a PhD in Cambridge researching female genital mutilation in the UK.

In her work Proudman has seen that sexism has knock on effects on psychological and physical wellbeing, "particularly when it extends to the workplace and leads to other aspects such as assault, harassment and more serious criminal behaviour". She continues: "There is a continuum between receiving a sexist message on LinkedIn and being discriminated against in the workplace. It has a huge, profound effect on women's career opportunities making them feel uncomfortable working in male dominated places, for example in the law. That is why I try to nip it in the bud before it escalates."

At first, Proudman thought: "Gosh, another sexist message, this isn't Tinder". She's received messages about her appearance on LinkedIn before and says, "Ordinarily I would've deleted it. Then I clicked on his profile and saw that he was a partner in a solicitor's firm. This is somebody with a duty to others; a professional who knows that sex discrimination is not tolerated in the workplace -- for him to then perpetrate that against another legal professional was blatantly unacceptable. I wanted to know how many other women have received sexist messages."

Carter-Silk, who represented Elle Macpherson in the phone-hacking scandal, has apologised for the offence he caused and deleted his LinkedIn account.

'If these people aren't The firm where he works, Brown Rudnick, says: "We are aware of the comments made by a member of the firm on a private social media account. We have apologised for the offence caused and have no further comment to make."

to feel then behaviour " But Proudman wants him "to acknowledge that he has done something wrong" and is pursuing the CEO of his company to that end.

won't change' She acknowledges "the importance of privacy", especially for Carter-Silk's wife and his daughter, who is the same age as Proudman, but adds: "In this case there is a public interest that outweighs privacy. He should have thought about his actions before sending a sexist message to a 27-yearold barrister. It was a message sent to me and I have a right to expose it. If these people aren't made to feel repercussions for actions, which are wrong, then their behaviour won't change and the culture will remain incredibly sexist."

In July a Bar Council report found that sexism is still rampant in the legal profession. One supervisor told a woman she looked "f***able with her hair like that". He also said "put your jacket on, I am only human". …

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