Woman says cleavage photo on LinkedIn sparked inappropriate comments

Woman who posted a LinkedIn photo showing ‘a little bit of cleavage’ as an experiment says she faced ‘sleazy comments’ and 150 connection requests from men – and calls on site to do more to protect women

  • Maddy Alexander-Grout, from Southampton, runs a parenting advice app  
  • The 38-year-old decided to post a photo of herself wearing a low-cut top on LinkedIn as an ‘experiment’ to see what kind of reaction she would get
  • She was dismayed to find she received follow requests from by dozens of men on the online careers site, with unsolicited comments including ‘massive t***’ 

A businesswoman has revealed how men targeted her LinkedIn profile after she posted a photo wearing a low-cut top. 

Maddy Alexander-Grout, from Southampton, runs a parenting advice app, decided to post the photo as an ‘experiment’ to see how users on the professional platform would react – and says she was inundated with connection requests – and several sleazy comments.  

She said she devised the pre-meditated ‘test’ to prove that women are sexualised even in a professional capacity, where it is ‘even more inappropriate’.

The image that the businesswoman posted on LinkedIn as an ‘experiment’ to see what kind of response she would get…she says she should ‘feel safe’ on the career networking platform

Maddy Alexander-Grout, from Southampton, runs a parenting advice app; after posting a photo on LinkedIn of herself wearing a low-cut top, she says she was shocked by some of the responses she got

The post, which celebrated positive reviews of Alexander-Grout’s parenting advice app and discussed her plans to go out, saw the businesswoman’s followers rocket by more than 150 in just 24 hours.

She says she was shocked to find out that some men even paid to message her to make sleazy comments about her breasts or to express unprofessional interest in her as a result of her appearance in the photo.

LinkedIn says sending inappropriate messages ‘are unacceptable in any context and are a violation’ of their policies and confirmed they were taking ‘a closer look’ at her situation as it was ‘her right to feel safe’ on the platform.

Maddy, from Shirley, Southampton, said: ‘I’ve never had an unsolicited message before and I kind of wanted one just to see if it would work.

‘There were loads of men saying “Hi, I really want to connect”, “Hi lovely”, “Hi babe”, things like that.

‘The worst one was “massive t***” – I was like, that’s really gross. I didn’t reply to any of them, I just blocked them all.

‘Some people were sending InMails to me so they’ve obviously paid for that [because we’re not connected], which is ridiculous.

The original full post that sparked the inappropriate comments from men on LinkedIn

‘It’s supposed to be a professional platform so they’re completely inappropriate – they’d be inappropriate on any platform but on LinkedIn where you’re there to do business it’s worse.

‘The thing is it’s not even that much, it’s a tiny bit of cleavage, it’s not like I’ve got full on nipple tassels on.

‘The fact that I’m posting about a parenting app makes it even more inappropriate as well.’

The post with the photo of Maddy has now had more than 150 likes and 100 comments, and she says there have been a whopping 13,000 views.

In this time, her following has jumped by more than 150 people, to almost 13,500, which she says is the biggest increase she’s ever had in such a short space of time – just days following the post.

Besides increased engagement on her profile, the businesswoman says the ‘experiment’ also had the desired effect of showing that sexualisation happens to most women, as she stepped out of her usual ‘mum look’ to prove her point.

Maddy, who runs parenting advice app named Parenthood, said: ‘I’ve literally never done anything like this before, it’s really out of character for me. I never post anything that’s not me in a mum bun, doing mum bun stuff.

‘I never wear make-up so it’s weird for me to even post a picture of me wearing makeup let alone with a bit of boob out to be honest.

‘I’m not somebody who, in a general situation, that somebody would scroll through my feed and think ‘she’s really hot, I’m going to send her a message’, which is kind of why I did what I did – to prove a point that it happens to all women.

‘I want people to be messaging me and reading my posts because they appreciate what I do as a business woman, not because I got my boobs out.’

After ‘proving her point’, Maddy made another post revealing her ‘experiment’ and its outcome, which she says received a similarly respectable 10,000 views and more than 100 comments.

Disappointed female commenters highlighted how ‘common’ the issue is whilst some men also commented in support of Maddy’s message about how inappropriate the messages were.

Heather Howe said: ‘Sorry to hear you had to put up with this. It’s not OK and it’s so disappointing that it’s become so common.’

Meanwhile others questioned the ‘experiment’, saying that Maddy’s post itself was ‘inappropriate’ and the fact that she intentionally elicited the response undermines her point.

Jan G. said: ‘You proved a very valid point: when you post inappropriate posts you get inappropriate responses…’

Owen Gibson said: ‘Umm what did you think was going to happen??’

To which Maddy responded: ‘It’s a**hole comments like this that make this post exactly correct!

‘I posted a picture on purpose […] to prove the point! I knew exactly what would happen!’

The businesswoman is now calling on online platforms, LinkedIn in particular as a professional space, to put systems in place to prevent inappropriate sexualisation and harassment.

Alexander-Grout admits the photo was a pre-meditated ‘test’ to prove that women are sexualised even in a professional capacity – LinkedIn told her ‘We are so sorry you experienced this on our platform’

Maddy said: ‘It’s massively common, it happens all the time. It’s horrible, anybody being sexualised like that.

‘There should be triggers in inbox messages where if somebody tries to message you something inappropriate it won’t send.

‘It has to stop. LinkedIn doesn’t really do anything about it – this is the first time it’s ever happened to me but I know I’m not the first person it’s happened to.

‘I think when someone is reported they should be blocked and removed from the platform.

‘I don’t want to be afraid of posting something good and looking nice if it’s going to get me unwanted attention.’

A spokesperson for LinkedIn said: ‘As a professional network, our members rightly expect their experience on LinkedIn to be professional in nature.

‘Harassment, unwanted romantic advances, or inappropriate messages are unacceptable in any context and are a violation of the LinkedIn Professional Community Policies.

‘We work hard to ensure our members feel safe on our platform. It is your right, and it’s our job to keep you safe.’

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