The creator of the Media Men List, an anonymous, crowdsourced spreadsheet documenting allegations of sexual misconduct by men in the publishing industry and other media, identified herself as Moira Donegan in a first-person essay for The Cut published Wednesday evening.
Her essay preempted speculation that Katie Roiphe was planning to publish her identity in Harper’s magazine, which was followed by a social media outcry fearing the anonymous creator would be “doxxed” — harassed or otherwise targeted — once her identity was made public.
In her essay, Donegan described the list, which she created in October, as “a first attempt at solving what has seemed like an intractable problem: how women can protect ourselves from sexual harassment and assault,” a digital “whisper network.”
“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.”
In total, the original document was active for just 12 hours, but was later passed hand-to-hand, and its implications have been far-reaching.
The list grew to include more than 70 men in media and included allegations of sexual remarks, unwanted advances, leering, groping, abuse and rape. Donegan included a disclaimer that the spreadsheet contained “allegations and rumors.”
She writes: “This is what shocked me about the spreadsheet: the realization of how badly it was needed, how much more common the experience of sexual harassment or assault is than the opportunity to speak about it.”
When she learned that the list’s existence would be made public via an article by Buzzfeed’s Doree Shafrir, Donegan took the spreadsheet down, although it was later quietly passed around and for a time was posted to Reddit.
Since it was originally shared, and alongside the revelations about Harvey Weinstein and many other stories of sexual harassment and assault in the entertainment industry, a number of men who appeared on the list have been fired or resigned in the wake of investigations into their alleged misconduct, including Lorin Stein from the Paris Review and Hamilton Fish of the New Republic, Newsweek reports.
Donegan was contacted by both Roiphe and a fact-checker at Harper’s regarding Roiphe’s piece. “The next day, a controversy ensued on Twitter after Roiphe’s intention to reveal my identity was made public,” she wrote. (Roiphe has denied this was her intention.)
Dayna Tortorici, the editor of n+1, warned against the dangers of breaching the anonymity of the list’s creator, and Nicole Cliffe, founding editor of now-defunct feminist blog The Toast proposed a boycott, beseeching writers to pull their work from Harper’s magazine, with the offer to compensate their fees.
One publisher, Ecco, hinted that it had pulled advertising from the magazine over the issue.
Roiphe has often written stories that have angered feminists; concerns were raised about her intentions in writing about the list of alleged offenders and possibly naming its source.
In her piece, Donegan writes that she was contacted by Roiphe to discuss the list but declined to talk, and was later contacted by a fact checker for Harper’s who indicated she would be identified in the story.
A former editor at the New Republic, Donegan has written for the New Yorker, the London Review of Books, and Bookforum. She revealed that since creating the Media Men list she lost her job, and that “the fear of being exposed, and of the harassment that will inevitably follow, has dominated my life since.”
“I was naïve because I thought that the document would not be made public, and when it became clear that it would be, I was naïve because I thought that the focus would be on the behavior described in the document, rather than on the document itself.”
Despite the controversy, Donegan wrote that the power of the document’s participants is indisputable.
“Among the most potent of these powers is the knowledge of our own experiences. 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.”