From across the pond comes the saga of humorless human rights lawyer Charlotte Proudman and another lawyer, Alexander Carter-Silk, who , alas, is not exactly silky smooth in his dealings with other human beings, most especially female human rights barristers.
Here is what happened: Ms. Proudman, 27, asked to "connect" with Mr. Not Silky Smooth, 57, on the website Linkedin, and he responded boorishly:
The married father-of-two responded that he was delighted to connect, adding “I appreciate this is probably horrendously politically incorrect but that is a stunning picture!!!”
Mr. Carter-Silk would soon find out the "horrendously politically incorrect" was horrendously understated.
I can appreciate that a professional woman would not welcome such a comment, and it was indeed not correct. So of course Ms. Proudman didn't reply at all or–alternate scenario–sent a sharply-worded rebuke and broke off communication with the immature lawyer. And that was that.
Well, no. This is the age not just of taking offense but punishing those who offend us with wildly disproportionate retaliations.
Proudman did send Carter-Silk a response, but sharply-worded is a horrendous understatement for her e-rebuke. Then Carter-Silk apologized and then Ms. Proudman circulated the exchange on social media.
Neither Proudman nor Carter-Silk ended up better off–it was discovered that this was not his first crass comment on a woman's picture. Even creepier, Carter-Silk's other comment involved a picture of his very own daughter:
“Whilst I would not wish to encourage lascivious comments about my daughter,” he wrote, “yeee gods she is hot!!”
And the humorless Proudman garnered all sorts of negative comments on social media that made "stunning picture" look pretty harmless by comparison.
Daily Telegraph columnist Judith Woods gets it about right:
I maintain that a crisp dismissal from Proudman in the first instance would have sufficed, not least because it would have saved her from being labelled an hysterical hatchet-faced “feminazi”, and from being contacted by strangers saying that she would now find it hard to get legal work, with a hashtag “#nomorebriefs4u”. . . .
For a nation that prides itself on our sense of humour, it’s in pretty short supply in this scenario, which is a real shame.
Proudman says she is exasperated by the number of men who hit on her via LinkedIn, which begs the question: couldn’t she have a stock response prepared?
How about: “Yes it is horrendously politically incorrect, but as you are a laughable old booby and I wish to network ruthlessly, I shall make allowances and we’ll speak no more about it.” Sorted.
Or, I’d be happy to rent her my picture for a sizeable fee. I’m lucky if three people – two of them, unaccountably from the Indian software development industry – look at my profile in a month, and none of them ever plights their troth.
Failing that, prickly Proudman could change her own picture to a silhouette, or bail from Linked In… or just be drily amused and shrug it off.
She’s obviously clever, but she could do with lightening up a bit. In the real world, a little humour, like a little perspective, goes a long way. Even for a hot-shot barrister.
By the way, Ms. Proudman's picture looks stunningly like Martha Costello, QC, on the Brit TV lawyer series, "Silk."
Hope my fellow Charlotte doesn't take offense with that comment and hound me on social media!