If you were in any doubt that we live in mean-spirited and vengeful times, then Complimentgate should put you straight. Complimentgate is the name I'm giving to the naming and shaming of a solicitor who had the temerity to say something nice about a woman's looks. For doing this, for paying someone a compliment, he has now become an object of Twitter-ridicule, fodder for the insatiable global outrage industry, which rails not only against people who are abusive online but also against people who are nice. No one is safe from their virtual slings and arrows.
The man in question is Alexander Carter-Silk. Via LinkedIn, he sent what the press is bizarrely referring to as a 'controversial message' to one Charlotte Proudman, a barrister. His crime was to describe Ms Proudman's profile pic as 'stunning', which was a bit too generous in my view - her fringe needs work and her pout is too severe. Ms Proudman, describing herself as a 'fearless feminist', informed Mr Carter-Silk that his message was 'offensive and misogynistic' and then splashed his wicked words on Twitter. Before long the Twitterati, sniffing an opportunity for outrage, were churning out 140 characters of fury about what a twisted, disgusting world we live in, whereby a man thinks he can say something nice about a woman and get away with it.
— Charlotte Proudman (@CRProudman) September 7, 2015
The 21st century's knee-jerk finger-wagging (mixed metaphor, I know) is always depressing, even when aimed at people who are purposefully unpleasant. But here, a bloke has been slammed and shamed for being friendly. To describe his compliment as 'misogyny' confirms that the word has been utterly drained of meaning by the new tweeting-and-bleating feminist set. Misogyny is a deep hatred of women; saying something nice to a woman is the opposite of that. What must the veiled, subjugated women of genuinely patriarchal societies in the East and South think when they see a free, well-connected woman in the West scream 'misogyny!' over a compliment? They must feel pretty lonely, knowing they're unlikely ever to win solidarity from such sorry, self-obsessed excuses for feminists.
Complimentgate exposes how anti-social this young century is. Incredibly, people think they have the right to glide through life without ever hearing a sore word about their belief system, or being chatted up, or being confronted by offensive adverts, or being complimented. Even worse, they think they can correct the language of older generations in particular, who, horror of horrors, still refer to young women as 'doll' (and to young men as 'son') and who are known to utter such foul terms as 'darling', 'sweetheart' and 'love'. As Ms Proudman said, schoolmarm-style, to Carter-Silk: 'Think twice before sending another woman - half your age - such a sexist message.' If he's a misogynist, then surely she's an ageist? There's something borderline Maoist in the fury of agitated youngish people against the words and habits of older folk.
From those 'slut-walkers' who called for the criminalisation of wolf-whistling to the campaigners who demand the destruction of billboard ads that feature skinny women, many now arrogantly believe they can go about their daily lives without ever being offended, or simply engaged with. But you can't. No man, or woman, is an island. And thank God for that. That is what makes life great: we encounter all kinds of people, saying all sorts of stuff, some nice, some dumb. Far better to have the occasional rough encounter - or receive an unexpected compliment! - than to live in the emotional deadzone and tyranny of social paralysis that the PC seem keen to cultivate.