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The woman who created the viral “Shitty Media Men” list has come forward, deciding to out herself so nobody else could.
In a first-person essay for New York magazine’s The Cut, writer Moira Donegan identifies herself as the author of the spreadsheet that contained sexual harassment and assault allegations of more than 70 men from outlets that include The New Yorker, New Republic, The New York Times, Harper’s, BuzzFeed and New York magazine.
In “I Started the Media Men List: My Name Is Moira Donegan,” Donegan writes that she was propelled to identify herself before another outlet did that for her. In early December, she received a fact-checking email from Harper’s magazine that essayist Katie Roiphe planned to publish her name in a forthcoming piece about the feminist movement. Shortly after, when it was made public that “a legacy print magazine” planned to name the author, Donegan found herself witnessing fervent Twitter debates about whether or not she should be outed. Once Harper’s was identified, the magazine saw furious online backlash. (Roiphe later told The New York Times she did not plan to name anyone without permission and tweeted about her intentions.)
“The outrage made it seem inevitable that my identity would be exposed even before the Roiphe piece ran,” she says in the essay. “All of this was terrifying. I still don’t know what kind of future awaits me now that I’ve stopped hiding.”
Donegan created the anonymous, crowdsourced spreadsheet in October as an attempt for women, especially those who are new to the industry, to protect themselves and warn each other about serial assaulters in the publishing world.
“The document that I created was meant to be private,” she says. “It was active for only a few hours, during which it spread much further and much faster than I ever anticipated, and in the end, the once-private document was made public — first when its existence was revealed in a BuzzFeed article by Doree Shafrir, then when the document itself was posted on Reddit.”
Acknowledging the swift reaction — including likening its “irresponsible” and anonymous nature to the “Burn Book” from Mean Girls — Donegan also points out that eventually some of the men on the list were investigated and have since either left their jobs or were fired.
“None of this was what I thought was going to happen,” she explains. “In the beginning, I only wanted to create a place for women to share their stories of harassment and assault without being needlessly discredited or judged. The hope was to create an alternate avenue to report this kind of behavior and warn others without fear of retaliation.”
She acknowledges the flaws of the exercise, namely false accusations, and notes the disclaimer up top that read: “This document is only a collection of misconduct allegations and rumors. Take everything with a grain of salt.”
As the spreadsheet was sent around, Donegan says she was taken aback by the content that began to fill in: “Watching the cells populate, it rapidly became clear that many of us had weathered more than we had been willing to admit to one another. … This solidarity was thrilling, but the stories were devastating.”
Once a man had been accused of physical sexual assault by more than one woman, Donegan highlighted his name in red. She took the spreadsheet offline after 12 hours; more than 70 men had been named and 14 had been highlighted in red, noting more than one accusation of sexual assault or rape.
“I had imagined a document that would assemble the collective, unspoken knowledge of sexual misconduct that was shared by the women in my circles,” she writes. “What I got instead was a much broader reckoning with abuses of power that spanned an industry.”
Donegan admits she was naive when she made the spreadsheet, and that its rapidly growing existence scared her. In the following weeks, as a result, she lost friends and her job. “I’ve learned that protecting women is a position that comes with few protections itself,” she says.
But that didn’t stop her from arriving at her conclusion: “The experience of making the spreadsheet has shown me that it is still explosive, radical, and productively dangerous for women to say what we mean. … The women who used the spreadsheet, and who spread it to others, used this power in a special way, and I’m thankful to all of them.”
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