Friday, September 25, 2015

Pssst . . We can still see your real names!

Charlotte Proudman, a barrister in human rights law and feminist legal activist (Pittman, 2015), is facing backlash over her public shaming of a man who complimented her looks in response to a connection request on LinkedIn.  She posted screen shots of his compliments on her looks to Twitter and invited public comment.  This brought to mind a post I wrote on September 19, 2014, Pssst . . . We can see your real names on LinkedIn comments! regarding some of the unprofessional and shocking comments posted by professionals on LinkedIn articles.  LinkedIn is not anonymous and everything we comment, write, message, or post is attached to our name.

Personally, I would not have reacted as she reacted. At the very least, I would have redacted his personal information from the screen shots of his message.  But that doesn't mean she is wrong. She was very brave and willing to accept the consequences of her actions. My post, while not as brave, hopefully helps further the discussion.

What happened with Miss Proudman has nothing to do with women being unable or unwilling to accept a compliment on their physical appearance. This is about the forum and the venue for such compliments. LinkedIn is not is a dating site. Dating sites allow women and men to be anonymous until they choose to share personal information with potential suitors. LinkedIn is a professional networking site where you post your real name, your real work history, and your real contact information for professional contacts to either contact you regarding work opportunities, professional events, and to learn about what people in your chosen field are doing or working on.

Many responses to Miss Proudman's public shaming of her admirer can be boiled down to this: "what he said wasn't that bad." Some people expected his message to be worse or more sexual or more inappropriate.  The problem with his singular message is that it is a drop in the bucket in the things women deal with online and in day-to-day life.   Speaking from my experience, it can feel uncomfortable and even alarming fielding messages regarding your attractiveness, smile, eyes, or marital status on this site. Since 2006, I've received similar and "worse" messages from men. It has never felt flattering or welcome. Luckily, the messages were sent by individuals I could remove, ignore, and who lived far away from me.

However, blocking and removing connections doesn't help anyone.

Miss Proudman chose to call him out . . . and thus this conversation can be had. If that is the value of what she did, I think it's worth it.

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