Throughout the news today, it’s been difficult to not stumble across an article about Charlotte Proudman – a lawyer who has publicly named and shamed a LinkedIn member who sent her a message that she deemed inappropriate on that platform. Here’s just one of the articles for those who haven’t seen it yet.
Now, I’ve never received a message like this myself on LinkedIn. Given that she mentions that she has received a number of messages along the same line though, I can see how it would be wearing thin to the point of her choosing to do what she has done – which is take it public. This has resulted in people telling her to not use a profile picture. Or to change it. The picture itself reveals no body parts, and is professionally done. I feel this misses the point. Her looks should be having no bearing here – this is happening on LinkedIn, for goodness sake! What’s she supposed to do here, leave a message at the top of her profile saying ‘Please do not comment on my looks’? She shouldn’t need to! That strikes me as similar to messages I’ve seen on dating profiles – ‘Please send no naked pictures or requests for one night stands’. From my own forays into the online dating world, I can say two things – first, it doesn’t work. You still get silly requests. Second, it also results in abusive messages pointing out you’re not good enough for a one night stand anyway.
You really cannot win. Not even on LinkedIn, it seems.
Personally, I would have just ignored a message like the one Charlotte Proudman received, out of fear for the kind of backlash she is currently getting over this. It’s like she says – ‘My voice hasn’t been heard – instead, what has become the content of the messaging is again my body.’ Just reading some of the comments on these news sites proves her point. She’s getting a lot of comments along the lines of ‘Perhaps she would be happier to be called an ugly cow.’ and ‘I’m sure she chose the picture that made her look the most attractive….attention seeking or what ????’.
So, as for the offending comment that started all this. Here’s a very small excerpt of it:
‘I appreciate that this is probably horrendously politically incorrect but that is a stunning picture !!!’
A compliment? Yes. However, a compliment sent on what is billed as a professional connections website. Which does make the above, however well intentioned by the sender, inappropriate, especially given the context of being a new connection. In addition – the man who sent this compliment even acknowledged, right in this quote, that he knew he probably shouldn’t be sending it.
All sorts of mud can be slung over this whole thing, rightly or wrongly. I’m not going to join in on that. What I do have to say on this whole sorry thing is as follows:
Keep your messages to the appropriate platform. Like Charlotte Proudman says, LinkedIn is not a dating site.
If you feel the need to preface a message to someone you don’t know with any variation of ‘I appreciate that this is probably horrendously politically incorrect but…’, you’d be better off not sending it.
As much as I’m all for not taking offence for the sake of it, just watching the backlash leaves my sympathies firmly with Charlotte Proudman on this. Was she supposed to be honoured by a compliment on her personal appearance, from someone she doesn’t know, on a professional connections website, without getting irritated that her professional skills are being overlooked? If nothing else, this news item is shining a light on what is still an ugly truth, it seems, across various apparently modern, westernised and *cultured* work industries. Which seems to be that you’re only worth as much as your looks if you dare to attempt to present yourself professionally. Or not.
As for the man who sent Charlotte Proudman this message – at his age, and working in the industry he does, he should know by now how easy it is for words to be misconstrued in written form.