(Courtesy photo by Azuree Wiitala)
Today in What Not to Do 101: Entrepreneur and brand strategist Melissa Alam — the brain behind FearlessCon, creative agency ALAM Digital and many other projects in Philly’s startup space — got a sexist message in her LinkedIn DMs this week.
A woman, who Alam didn’t name, said she was interested in Alam’s upcoming “Marketing Yourself as a Freelancer” webinar, but told her she was “struck, however,” by her LinkedIn photo.
“Is that the most professional shot you have?” the woman wrote. “I’m curious about what you’re communicating in business. Thanks.”
With probably more self-control and poise than this reporter could muster, Alam sent the woman a response explaining that as a person who creates brands for a living, her photo was chosen with “complete intention.” She then shared the exchange on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Comments started pouring in.
Like many Twitter replies pointed out, this woman really had 1.) The Nerve™ and 2.) The Audacity™.
I didn't know we were slut-shaming on LinkedIn in 2021. This is from a prominent non-profit leader in the Philadelphia community and my response.
P.S. my avatar was the photo in question in case you were wondering… pic.twitter.com/U5AxFTJ8SH
— Melissa Alam (@RingTheAlam) February 24, 2021
“I am not interested in appeasing what is currently the status quo in the start-up, tech and business world,” Alam wrote.
Instead of noting that she was the only young woman of color on the panel or a minority business owner, this woman chose to single out and question her headshot, she said.
“I would like to invite you to reflect on your comment and how it stems from toxic masculinity, white supremacy and feminism, female-gendered racism, slut-shaming and an attempt to white wash my personality and style,” Alam wrote.
After sharing her experience online, Alam told Technical.ly that she felt she did the right thing. Her goal was to show others how to clap back or respond in these moments of misogyny in an educational way.
“I’m not hurt or really affected by the comment itself, but it’s really the audacity, entitlement and microaggression from this random white woman that so many people of color have to deal with on a daily basis,” she wrote to us. “I have a platform and this woman picked the wrong person to attempt to slut-shame.”
Alam shared that the woman wrote back to her Thursday morning apologizing for her comment and thanking Alam for her response.
The entrepreneur is currently living in Chicago, and working with her Philly-based clients remotely during the pandemic. But she said the woman who made the comment is a “prominent figure in Philly and this is exactly why there needs to be so many leadership changes” (something we’ve heard before).
“If I was applying for funding and she happened to be on the board or committee deciding that, would she say no because of my photo vs my actual work?” Alam wrote. “The majority of my time in Philly was spent seeing older white men and women making big decisions for communities of color and their biases are finally coming out. I’m over it and I want to see change.”
As if we are all meant to look one way and not celebrate who we are as a person. (Fashion is included in what you bring to the table. And that photo is a representation of who you are.) Also there’s nothing but beauty in that photo and its a lovely one at that.
— Megan (@onelastsunrise) February 25, 2021
Women tearing other women down. Gross to see. I’m sorry you got this message, it would have really upset me. Your response is exceptional and your picture IS professional. Well done, I certainly would not have handled this as well as you! Xxx
— J A Shenton (@TheSirensSin1) February 25, 2021
This kind of rhetoric is absolutely exhausting. @RingTheAlam you're better than me – I would have aired out her name for proper reckoning. How long do women of color need to endure this kind of toxicity? & how long are we expected to protect and anonymize those terrorizing us? https://t.co/ZfT434MZon
— T A Z (@techwithtaz) February 24, 2021
Coming soon: Meet Cavalry, an app for accountability during police encounters
Meet Alexandra Hunt, the clinical data manager running against Dwight Evans for PA-03 in 2022
After Atlanta violence, Asian American entrepreneurs call for ‘solidarity in movements’
What the pandemic can teach us about narrowing the gender gap in tech
Sign-up for daily news updates from Technical.ly Philadelphia