Sexism is not the fault of career women who complain about it

Right-wing writers blame and defame a female barrister - proving her point


‘Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman’ – so sang the bard of Tennesee, though as she must have known at the time, this rather understates matters.

Working in more or less any profession, a person can turn to a female colleague (assuming they have any) and hear tales of regular harassment and abuse, up to and including threats of physical violence, from perfect strangers, simply for their being a woman.

The internet has amplified this problem, empowering every keyboard misogynist to say what they would be too gutless to say in person.

One such victim is Charlotte Proudman, a brilliant human rights barrister studying at Cambridge who I’m proud to count as a friend.

Sick of yet another message from a man she did not know, this time a creepy remark about her picture on networking website LinkedIn, from a male lawyer twice her age, she told him where to get off and shared the exchange on Twitter.

As she wrote: ‘How many women @LinkedIn are contacted re physical appearance rather than prof skills?’ The lawyer in question, legal partner Alexander Carter-Silk, issued an apology, claiming incredibly that all he meant was she had a very ‘professional’ photograph. (Nice try, Alex.)

After the story was picked up by the newspapers, our favourite right-wing columnists saw a case of political correctness gone mad (hasn’t PC gone mad enough to be sectioned by now?) and pounced.

In a full-page column previewed on the front of the Daily MailSarah Vine basically says women being reduced to their looks is no problem, accusing Charlotte of seeking publicity as a ‘short-cut’ to furthering her career. This defamation is compounded when Vine writes:

“Isn’t she supposed to be some hot-shot human rights lawyer? Well, go and defend some real victims of inequality, dear, instead of bleating about some slightly off-colour message.”

If Vine had done her own job, even a cursory look at LinkedIn would detail Charlotte’s work defending vulnerable women, campaigning against FGM and forced marriage, and taking on pro bono work in the Middle East, Pakistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In other words, it’s not either/or. She would just like to be able to work without being harassed by creepy men.

For this she is denounced as a careerist minx, uploading an ‘enticing’ photo then abusing a clumsy admirer for personal gain, on the front page of a national newspaper. How disgraceful.

Vine’s chosen term for women supporting Charlotte online, ‘Feminazis’ – a charming invention of right-wing US radio thug Rush Limbaugh – brings us on nicely to Limbaugh clone Rod Liddle in the Sun. 

As if seeking to prove her point, Liddle not only says it’s fine to comment on a woman’s looks, but goes on to exercise the right himself, by insulting Charlotte’s appearance. He adds:

“If you don’t want people to comment, you silly mare, then don’t put your picture up.”

No doubt Liddle thinks he’s being clever by writing a piece that dismisses sexism while expressing it, but as usual, he just looks a fool.

Odious as these columns are, they do an inadvertent service to the cause they attack, by proving exactly why Charlotte’s actions were necessary.

They show how many would still rather train their guns on the victims of sexism rather than the perpetrators: His career shouldn’t suffer, hers should.

The implication is that men are entitled to practice sexism, but women should refrain from complaining (or fighting back) – that is, if they know what’s good for them.

In other words, it’s her fault for being a woman in the first place.

The Mail’s news coverage, published next to Vine’s piece, leads with the Twitter jerks who say this episode might damage Charlotte’s career. In reality, any law firm worth working for would be lucky to have her.   

The take away question from all this ought to be not, ‘Who would want to hire a feminist?’ but rather: ‘Who would want to work for a sexist?’

Until that’s the case, the struggle for equal human rights will be disfigured, and our newspapers’ reflection of the world will remain the same ugly picture.

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

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85 Responses to “Sexism is not the fault of career women who complain about it”

  1. GhostofJimMorisson

    As with racism, the term misogyny has all but lost its meaning and potency. Misogyny is the hatred and distrust of woman. Misogyny is not allowing woman to drive. Misogyny is stoning woman to death for adultery. Misogyny is when a woman’s testimony is worth only half that of man’s. Misogyny is forcing woman to cover their faces on fear of a beating. Carter-Silk’s comments may have been inappropriate and a little creepy, but they were NOT misogynistic.Miss Proudman has done the worthy cause of feminism a disservice with her hysterical and spiteful reaction.

  2. 178rod

    This is priceless!
    The author is a Narcissist thinking he is right and other media Narcissists are wrong.
    All over a spat that was posted on the world’s N01 Narcissist hang out site, started by a self confessed feminist.

    get a grip Adam and report some actual news please

  3. abigsmurf

    There is such a thing as a proportional response. His comments, whilst misjudged, were very tame, commenting on the professionally produced picture rather than specifically her looks.

    Her response to something said private conversation, a hate filled rant that she spread far and wide with the intention of public shaming him was completely unprofessional and the wrong reaction.

    Just because you feel been wronged, that doesn’t give you an unlimited licence to do anything you want to seek retribution. She massively over-reacted and actively tried to ruin someone’s life over what was at best a faux pas.

  4. evanprice

    Clearly clever and able people make silly decisions presumably on the spur of the moment.

    His message was arguably inappropriate and it may have deserved a complaint, but not the response that followed.

    There is clearly a problem with inappropriate discrimination, but it is never going to be dealt with by the sort of response undertaken by her. It may even be that her response deserves complaint too …

    How very sad …

  5. Jona

    This is just tragic. An article written by a woman about another woman’s professionalised whining?

    “Silly mare” is insulting someone’s appearance? Good grief, go outside once in a while.

    Also using “right-wing” as an insult? Classic!

  6. Chilbaldi

    It’s a ridiculous overreaction by Proudman to what was at worst a clumsy attempt to seduce her.

    There was no sexism present.

    Proudman added the man on LinkedIn. He then messaged her. Then without warning she escalated this to Twitter, without even thinking to conceal his identity.

    Now, Proudman has the temerity to say she is being pursued by the internet mob, when in fact it is her who set the internet mob on the man.

    She is setting out to build a media profile, and the man is seen as a necessary casualty to throw under the bus.

    I find it all rather unedifying and think she’ll look back on this and regret it.

  7. madcaphal

    How does the saying go? The comments section of any article about feminism justifies feminism. It ain’t wrong.

  8. rotekz

    She responded to a private and rather tame compliment by publicly shaming the poor guy. Not only that but she went after his job by contacting his employers.

    She is a misandrist and scheming attention seeker. A radical feminist who will happily throw innocent men under the bus to garner attention and help push their twisted man-hating agenda.

    Praise be that it has back-fired. We cannot go on allowing people like this to create a society where men are too afraid to complement women.

  9. 3aple

    Ms Proudman must be very busy. Mr Carter-Silk’s response to her is dated 9th July, yet Ms. Proudman didn’t send her rebuke until 7th September.


  10. Mick

    Yeah. And read this again:

    “Working in more or less any profession, a person can turn to a female colleague (assuming they have any) and hear tales of regular harassment and abuse, up to and including threats of physical violence, from perfect strangers, simply for their being a woman.”

    He’s talking like women are all living in Ravensbruck or something. You’d think we had laws in place! Maybe lovely little Jeremy can make some with his powerful brain.

    No wonder people living outside the bubble consider PC people obnoxious, disproportionately vengeful, tyrannical and petty. It’s how their side had the Communist World!

  11. James Riddick

    As a regular reader of the site, I was saddened to read this article.

    I’m afraid I know Charlotte and I think it is fair to say she is a troubled person. For example, she once wrote a letter to her own Grandmother the nastiest, most vicious letter designed to cause as much hurt as possible just before her Grandmother passed away.

    In the letter she told her Grandmother how much of a failure she was in her life, and how that Charlotte was the only member of her family who was successful. Whatever the rights and wrongs of a situation, imagine how spiteful and selfish you would have to be to write such a letter to an elderly lady.

    I just hope that Charlotte gets the help she needs and that the reputational damage to her accuser isn’t permanent.

  12. Tom Saunders

    Mr Barnett this is very well written but your bias is palpable. I think if your judgement were less clouded by your friendship with this lady then you would realise that she was given a compliment and reacted in a pathetic way. Whilst her mistake ought not to define her career, she is clearly in the wrong here and I can see why one might hesitate to employ someone who has shown such poor judgement. In law, integrity and respect are everything. You may argue that the man’s comments were disrespectful but any offence was clearly accidental. The same cannot be said for her vindictiveness in trying to shame the poor man. She has done herself a major disservice, there can be no doubt.

  13. PaulMN

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Ms. Proudman is the type of woman who wears a T-shirt with some clever saying on the front, then complains that men are “staring at her breasts” when they try to read the words on her T-shirt.

  14. stephen james

    Actually, it’s bullshit.

  15. Jon Jones.

    Interesting how Proudman thinks it’s OK to leave comments on photographs of men on Facebook (and I quote) “hot stuff” and “Oooo la la” Nothing but a Hypocrite.

  16. Eoireitum

    As an observation, Linked in is full of both men and women who have made very specific decisions about their photos – ranging from the ‘just amateur looking enough’ to the ‘Ashley Madison’ – or the ‘professional headshot’ to the ‘£100 haircut’ as well as the ‘apprentice look’. I find pseudo male model pouts as hilarious as the photo-shopped glamour puss looking to take 5 years off their real age and hide that double chin.
    It’s consequently a minefield…
    Vanity, oh vanity.
    I’d want her to represent me based on the haircut alone. Sharp. Bit scary. In a good way though. I’d make dozens of assumptions based on that alone…

  17. Rick

    Its been reported that she wrote ‘Hot stuff! ‘oooo lalala!’…”’, under an image of a long-haired male friend on an internet site !!!

  18. CGR

    She needs to change her name to Proudperson

  19. davejon

    This is an unfortunate outcome of the desire to promote young girls and women at the expense of men and boys, beyond their natural capabilities and their instincts. Because evolution endowed women with the unique ability to reproduce successive generations of our species it also made them ill equipped to enter the male dominated and competitive aspects of life – their emotions get in the way. At the same time, men are programmed to appreciate women’s beauty as seen by their youth and inferred fertility. It’s a fact of life and the sooner we wake up to it, organise society along the natural patriarchal lines, (as in previous generations) the sooner happiness and societal stability will be restored. This woman is a victim of feminism – how ironic her name is Proudman!.

  20. Adam

    Adam Barnett, what a misjudged article. A compliment on a photo sent over the internet is sexist? How do you justify such a claim? I would steer very clear of this lady based on this event. This is not what bona fide feminists require to promote their cause. It is very sad.

  21. 3aple

    But I was under the impression that Ms. Proudman had changed her name from Bailye to Proudman to honour her grandmother of that name.

    Perhaps its her other grandmother.

  22. 3aple

    She’s already changed it once, from Bailye.

  23. James Riddick

    Charlotte’s letter was indeed sent to her grandmother on her Bailye side I believe.

  24. Joe Public

    Woe betide any male colleague who holds open a door for her, allows her through a door first, or, gives up his seat for her.

  25. Lizzie Cornish

    Narcissistic Personality Disorder has similar traits to this…..wanting attention, dealing out the most hurtful of words, etc. It is a terrible disorder, tragic for all concerned, those who have it and those who become deeply affected by it. The narcissist has NO empathy for anyone but themselves.

  26. Lizzie Cornish

    To ‘seduce’ her? No. His words were totally innocuous and she contacted him, I believe. I agree with the rest of what you say though. And her ageist comment was absolutely foul too, as was her response to him. Still, it’s got her loads of publicity…and The Sistas are, yet again, all over Twitter, twittering on about their hatred of vile, nasty, sexist men. It just saddens me to see a man digging his own grave, as the man who wrote this appears to be doing, for now, NO MAN is safe in the UK due to the actions of vile feminists.

  27. Lizzie Cornish

    Any links to this, Jon?

  28. Lizzie Cornish

    Memo to Charlotte: When trying your best to ‘out’ a man for sexism
    (where there was none) always remember to DELETE **YOUR** DEEPLY sexist
    comments from Facebook, on men’s photos, whom you describe as ‘hot


  29. SuffolkBoy

    NPD and BPD bizarrely often overlap in behavioural traits. One common factor is the ability of the sufferer to cast themselves as the victim of other’s malfeasance and to be very effective at getting onlookers to share that opinion. A distinguishing feature is that the NPD usually appears to courageously fight the (imagined) sleight, whereas the BPD usually cracks up into a mush and may become suicidal. There is frequently a long-standing family dispute associated with the behaviour.

  30. SuffolkBoy

    Well, her own timeline has disappeared and so she is now a clean slate except for the comments under the men’s photos. Unfortunately, the internet never forgets, even if FB does! I hope she is noting all this down for her psychology thesis.

  31. 3aple

    Thank you for that interesting clarification.

  32. 3aple

    “…or, gives up his seat for her.”

    particularly any seat she gets on any board.

  33. Eoireitum

    Oh dear….but are we remotely surprised?

  34. Chilbaldi

    I have seen a marriage breakdown in my family where the wife was a BPD sufferer, so I’m aware of the symptoms and how they manifest. It’s more common than you think.

  35. Eoireitum

    Come on! I’m as unreconstructed as the next Middle Aged quasi-liberal who supports the sistas (I have a daughter and just “got it” one day) but this cod-psychology is beyond the pale/pail ..
    I accept that we can be overtaken by urges (we are all guilty) – but we also have the knowledge and obligation to modify the biological heritage and influence you claim. Applies as much to a bunny-boiling biological-clock female as to a fumbling, emotionally stunted and obsessive male stalker.
    We should at the same time enjoy the discovery, the pleasure, the danger, the maturation and even the loss of sexual frisson – and negotiating our way through this admitted minefield is one of the great human experiences!
    The genie’s out of the bag, women are in the workplace and, if you hadn’t noticed, are pretty effective there too.
    Ok – there is a strain of crazy misandry on the university campus – but it’s fringe – and we all know that.
    The more I read about her the more I think her issues maybe more straightforward than misplaced feminism.

  36. Caute

    I’m extremely left wing and I think she’s done herself and women a great disservice. She calls herself a human rights lawyer and then whinges at a compliment – Jesus – if being called stunning is misogynistic, she hasn’t got a clue. She makes all women out to be feeble – clearly she is not as intelligent as she makes out. A All I see is a careerist self-publicist who things she has rights and liberties against everyone else.

  37. Lawrence Perry

    Bully for the boys – keep it up Charlotte the chap behaved like a prat and the fightback by other law firms not to instruct you is just as callous.

    Alls this rhetoric below is gross – so get over it guys, if I wanted to hire a barrister I would certainly take Charlotte if I was a woman, wouldn’t you?

  38. Ser Davos

    She is not a victim. Look at her comments on mens facebook profiles. What a hypocrite. And no I wouldn’t want her to represent me.

  39. vics_toew

    she is a bit long in the tooth for my tastes.

  40. damon

    There is a lot of ageism in this story. How many times will they keep mentioning the man was twice her age? What’s that got to do with anything.
    A lot of people are laughing at her and it serves her right.
    She spoke on the Vanessa Feltz radio programme yesterday and sounded very annoying.
    Loads of women callers to the show disagreed with her too.
    The ”everyday sexism” campaign is the problem here imo?
    How are people even meant to date and find partners when even smiling at a woman can be seen as sexual harassment?

  41. Jonathan David Farley

    Actually, this story suggests they are not very effective, if a senior person in the field (presumably someone who was effective) can get derailed by one comment to a junior person. Feminists say that women can perform the same as men, but a man would not have responded the way this woman did.

  42. Jonathan David Farley

    Masculinity is under attack. Statements criticizing same-sex dalliances would not be allowed; but it is perfectly acceptable to say that it is immoral or even gross for an older man to be in a relationship with a younger woman.

  43. Jonathan David Farley

    So, Barnett, why did she put her picture up?

  44. SuffolkBoy

    My grandmother used to describe BPD behaviour as “wedding cake addiction”. It is frequently misdiagnosed as “just” post-natal depression, “attention-seeking” or even PTSD if the GP doesn’t know the reality. A mis-diagnosis leads to all sorts of complications like projection, counter-projection, therapist collusion, false memory and false allegations of abuse.

  45. Oliver Westmoreland

    This Charlotte Proudman is, it seems from emerging evidence, a nasty and hypocritical person. It was noteworthy that when criticised Carter-Silk for sexist comments she herself referred in a discriminatory and unacceptable way about him being twice her age. One standard for him, another for her. But supposing she had a client who she thought had made an unacceptable sexist comment? Would she blast it all over the internet, as she did with Carter-Silk? I don’t this sort of person is a credit to the legal profession.

  46. davejon

    I do not think “…a strain of crazy misandry on the university campus” is but a fringe, but instead is a serious symptom of decadence and folly, as is the increasing number of women in the work force. Women are totally unsuitable for running anything which requires logic and unemotional, objective reasoning (look at their ready resort to tears and their “monthly reports”). Then there’s the loss of their proper job – keeping home for hubby and ensuring his dinner is on the table when he comes home. On a similar basis, the “coming out” of homosexuals and the vigorous recruitment of otherwise normal heterosexuals into their ranks, plus the mass influx of millions of unassimilable Third World immigrants into our once racially homogeneous society are ruinous. Human nature is very powerful – as Horace wrote “You can drive Nature out with a pitchfork but she will always come back”. The more I see of the deterioration of our current social conditions the more I’m starting to believe in the conspiracy theories.

  47. Eoireitum

    If you are in the UK I suggest you watch the balanced and revelatory programme – the Ascent of Woman BBC4.
    I concur on the matter of ‘nature’ (its ‘thrust’ at least) but believe our humanity requires that we ascend to a better place (I’m a believer that we are risen apes rather than fallen angels).
    But I can’t accept what you say about women’s place. You speak like an Athenian! (Of antiquity) – which is to say, holding that reason is ‘make’. Palpably that’s not true.
    I’d like my meal on the table, my wife to ‘submit’ (a little anyway) – and realise that the very desire for those things is reason enough to fight the impulse.
    I think you jest with me sir….

  48. Eoireitum

    A sense of perspective is indeed needed! And she’s been hoisted by her own petard thankfully – by definition a man wouldn’t have responded like her and the whole thing exposes her hypocrisy and his naivety. I think he’s more sinned against than sinning…but as a final comment, God forbid the workplace is just about productivity! I spend too much time there!

  49. Eoireitum

    …and though I might agree with you re influxes (it’s psychologically proven – even if an unfortunate by-product of our ancestry) your comment re homosexuality is bogus.

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