The lawyer who published a “sexist” LinkedIn response from from a fellow barrister is an outspoken feminist who has complained about the “ritual humiliation” of male-dominated workplaces.
Charlotte Proudman, 27, who has been building up her media profile for the past three years by writing for the Guardian, the Independent and several magazines, as well as being a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, believes men make workplaces a “repugnant world”.
Her public profile is larger than ever after she shamed Alexander Carter-Silk on Twitter for complimenting her on her “stunning picture” when she invited him to connect to her on LinkedIn, the professional networking site.
She has been accused of cooking up the row as a publicity stunt, but insisted yesterday that “if people don’t experience the repercussions for their actions, which are plainly wrong, then their behaviour will never change, and neither will sexist culture”.
One former colleague of 57-year-old Mr Carter-Silk said: “He is not a sexist pig. He just doesn’t have a filter on his mouth.”
That appeared to be borne out by a comment Mr Carter-Silk made on his own daughter’s Facebook page next to a picture of her working out in a gym. He wrote: “Whilst I should not encourage lascivious comments about my daughter…Yeee gods she is hot!!”
Ellie Carter-Silk, a personal trainer, is the same age as Miss Proudman.
Miss Proudman, whose great-grandmother was a Suffragette, said Mr Carter-Silk, a partner at the law firm Brown Rudnick had “objectified” her, describing his message as “unacceptable and misogynistic”.
Her response has divided the legal community, with some accusing her of over-reacting and others praising her for “calling out” the married father-of-two.
Miss Proudman has written at least 35 articles in the past three years for national and online publications. She is also a member of the Fabian Society, the left-wing think-tank dedicated to advancing socialism.
Earlier this year she used the left-wing website Left Foot Forward to explain that she was a campaigner for feminism, not equality, because: “Men live and work in a brutal society, which is maintained through stratified social order based on ritual humiliation, gentleman’s clubs, fights, rites of passage, sexism, and banter.
“When women enter the male realm whether law, politics, or a construction site, they find themselves in a repugnant world in which their only means of survival is by undergoing a fundamental transformation leaving them with little opportunity to make any change.”
If men and women were truly equal, she said, “men’s genitals would be sliced up” in the same way that some women are subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM).
She added: “Equality is harmful to women and most men, as they are required to replicate behaviours that are degrading and dehumanising.”
Yesterday Franklin Sinclair, a senior partner at the law firm Tuckers, said he would not be instructing Miss Proudman in the future because she should never have published the identity of Mr Carter-Silk.
He said: “What an awful thing to do, what kind of world do we live in when a man can’t give a lady a compliment.”
She responded by saying that she “wouldn’t want to receive briefs from sexist solicitors” and accused Mr Sinclair of trying to “exert power over a woman lawyer by refusing to brief her for exposing sexism”, though she admitted she was concerned she may be blacklisted by some firms.
Miss Proudman, who is studying at Cambridge for a doctorate in Law and Sociology, specialising in legal methods of combating FGM, is an associate tenant at the chambers of the criminal defence barrister Michael Mansfield QC.
Yesterday she added a note to her LinkedIn profile saying: “I am on linked-in for business purposes not to be approached about my physical appearance.”
She also embarked on a round of media interviews and wrote an article for the Independent defending her actions, saying she had been the subject of a “catalogue” of inappropriate messages on LinkedIn asking her for dates, and said she had decided to name Mr Carter-Silk because: “The public interest of exposing sexism outweighed any right to privacy.”
Mr Carter-Silk, whose firm has apologised for the offence caused, declined to comment further.