I confess to laughing out loud when I first read the now famous exchange on Linked in between Mr Carter Silk and Ms Proudman. What I found funny was that each seemed to fit so perfectly into comedic stereotypes - Terry Thomas meets Clare in the Community. It was Carry On Linked In.
So I was rather brought up short when reading about Ms Proudman's interview on C4 News in which she talked about previous incidents as a young barrister, including being touched up in a taxi when in pupillage.
The sniggering stopped. Her account reminded me of many other stories I have heard over the years from female barrister colleagues. The Judge with wandering hands at the Chambers Christmas party. The young advocate having her bottom pinched by a barrister whilst addressing the Judge in Court. The pupil being pressed against a wall by the chambers Lothario.
Once at a dinner my wife found herself seated between two very senior lawyers, one of whom had a "reputation". He leaned over to her and said, indicating the other, "Don't worry about him, he's perfectly harmless". Then paused. "But I'm not." Funny perhaps, but creepy particularly given he suffered from wandering hand syndrome. If we just laugh with the letchers, they are more likely to carry on letching.
Some might say that women have to learn to be street smart, to deal with these situations and assert themselves. But that does not give licence to men to behave badly. The problem, I am afraid, has been with us, the men in our profession, not with the women.
I say "has been" not with any sense of complacency but because I genuinely believe that the current generation of barristers behave better. It has adapted to modern manners. Men and women at the bar respect each other as equals. There may be some dinosaurs who still find it difficult to adjust or who simply refuse to change, but most have moved on. Perhaps things are just as bad but I don't hear the stories any longer because I am too old for younger women barristers to confide in me.
So, she may have come across as priggish and she may have used language straight out of a gender studies text book. Perhaps she is even a self-publicist and, yes, his was not the worst offence ever committed. But isn't it time to leave off Ms Proudman?
I understand that the best advice to women who are groped on an the Tube is to take a step back and to call out so that the whole carriage can hear, "Why have you just groped me?" Hasn't Ms Proudman simply called out Mr Carter-Silk, albeit for a lesser offence? Let's be honest, women at the bar over the past decades have had to put up with things they should not have had to tolerate. By and large they have been kind to us men. Let's not give them a hard time when they call us out for bad behaviour.