Earlier this week, a rumor circulated that Harper’s will soon publish an article revealing of the creator of the “Sh*tty Media Men” list, an anonymous, crowdsourced Google spreadsheet listing men working in media that women should be cautious around. At the top of the spreadsheet was a warning: “This document is only a collection of misconduct allegations and rumors. Take everything with a grain of salt.”
Created last October, the private spreadsheet — taken offline after about 12 hours — nonetheless went unintentionally viral, written about by Buzzfeed and reposted at Reddit and elsewhere. Suddenly, something that was intended to anonymously warn a few colleagues about dangerous coworkers (usually bosses), without involving the police or attracting threats, was drawing attention industry-wide. Doxxing the whistleblower would put her in danger, and people tried to prevent it from happening. The creator of the spreadsheet, however, has decided to out herself before any magazine could profit from her identity against her will.
Moira Donegan writes on The Cut, explaining why she created the list. She cites how the “whisper network” of warnings among women colleagues tends to exclude women of color, while the usual recommendations for dealing with assaults (contacting the police or HR) puts women in the position of being “needlessly discredited or judged” and put in “fear of retaliation.”
When a reporting channel has enforcement power, like an HR department or the police, it also has an obligation to presume innocence. In contrast, the value of the spreadsheet was that it had no enforcement mechanisms: Without legal authority or professional power, it offered an impartial, rather than adversarial, tool to those who used it. It was intended specifically not to inflict consequences, not to be a weapon — and yet, once it became public, many people immediately saw it as exactly that.
Donegan adds, “many of the women who used the spreadsheet are particularly vulnerable: We are young, new to the industry, and not yet influential in our fields. As we have seen time after time, there can be great social and professional consequences for women who come forward. For us, the risks of using any of the established means of reporting were especially high and the chance for justice especially slim.”
Not only is the chance of justice slim, even the chance of males who treat female coworkers horribly facing any social or career consequences seemed, until recently, unlikely:
Last summer, I saw two of the most notorious of these men clutching beers and laughing together at a party for a magazine in Brooklyn. “Doesn’t everyone know about them?” another woman whispered to me. “I can’t believe they’re still invited to these things.” But of course we could believe it. By then, we’d become resigned to the knowledge that men like them were invited everywhere.
Even though Donegan took the list down after about 12 hours, there were already over 70 men on the list, 14 of them named by two or more women who said they’d been assaulted or raped.
Donegan also speaks about the potential dangers of being forced out of anonymity by Harper’s writer Katie Roiphe: “I still don’t know what kind of future awaits me now that I’ve stopped hiding.”
The whole piece is worth a read, and makes one hope for a better, safer future.
(Via The Cut)