The barrister at the from a solicitor 30 years her senior has said she is facing a professional backlash over her decision to speak out.
, the human rights lawyer Charlotte Proudman said she did not regret her decision to make public a message from Alexander Carter-Silk that commented on her “stunning” photograph, because it had led to an outpouring of similar experiences from other women.
Proudman said she had named Carter-Silk because she believed the public interest in exposing the “eroticisation of women’s physical appearance” by an influential and senior lawyer was greater than his right to privacy.
“If people don’t experience the repercussions for their actions, which are plainly wrong, then their behaviour will not change, and neither will sexist culture,” she wrote. “All too often, women are afraid to speak up about these small but significant comments on their appearance, which happen every single day.”
Proudman said the bar was home to “rampant sexism” and said she was facing “career suicide”, with solicitors informing her they would no longer instruct her.
“I have received messages saying: ‘You have ruined your career. You have bitten the hand that feeds you. There go your instructions from solicitors,’” she told the Daily Mail.
The furore began when Proudman, 27, who is on sabbatical from the chambers of the radical QC Michael Mansfield while she studies for a PhD at Cambridge University, asked to “connect” with Carter-Silk on , a business-oriented social network. In his reply, Carter-Silk said: “I appreciate that this is probably horrendously politically incorrect but that is a stunning picture.”
Carter-Silk, an expert in intellectual property and a partner at the London firm Brown Rudnick, added: “You definitely win the prize for the best LinkedIn picture I have ever seen.”
Proudman, who specialises in violence against women and girls, replied with a terse note saying she was using LinkedIn for business purposes, and not “to be objectified by sexist men”.
“The eroticisation 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,” she replied. Carter-Silk has apologised for any offence the message caused.
Among those who said they would no longer work with Proudman was Frank Sinclair, from the legal aid firm Tuckers and an outspoken Twitter user, who said he was concerned about her revealing private messages from Carter-Silk.
On Thursday, the Daily Mail’s front page carried a column by Sarah Vine condemning Proudman’s approach. “If that is what counts as ‘objectification’ and ‘misogyny’ these days, then the human race is in deep trouble,” she wrote.
“Not only does it beggar belief that Ms Proudman could have inferred any slight from such an innocuous missive, it also makes me fear for the next generation of women.”
She also criticised the “armies of Feminazis” who had supported Proudman. “This alleged act of sexism happened in the ether,” she said. “Even if it had been genuinely fruity, it was definitely harmless.
Proudman said it was “incredibly insulting” to be accused of hating men and said she had tweeted the message she received complementing her “stunning” picture on the professional social network to draw attention to sexism in the workplace.
Proudman said she had encountered professionals “using LinkedIn as if it were Tinder”.
Of the picture in question, Proudman said: “I chose it because it was smart and neutral – and they’ve said I’ve ruined my career.”
In her Independent article, Proudman said she had been pursued by online trolls and called an “aggressive feminist” with a “hideous personality”, her appearance derided as “gross” and her stance nicknamed “Gal-Qaeda” by online commentators.
In a statement provided to the legal news site and messageboard RollOnFriday after Proudman’s tweet went viral, Carter-Silk, a married father-of-two, said: “Most people post pretty unprofessional pictures on LinkedIn; my comment was aimed at the professional quality of the presentation on LinkedIn, which was unfortunately misinterpreted.”
He said he was initially flattered to have received Proudman’s LinkedIn request, and would continue to be “very happy to instruct Proudman on matters which are relevant to her expertise” and has deleted his LinkedIn account.