Bad Reputation Moira Donegan created the “Shitty Media Men” list to address a moral injustice. Stephen Elliott says he’s suing her for the same reason.
Five years ago, on a Wednesday morning in October, an editor and writer at The New Republic named Moira Donegan sent a handful of women who worked in media a link to a Google spreadsheet titled “Shitty Media Men.” Those women sent it to other women, who sent it to other women. By the end of that night, dozens of users had signed into the document, their anonymous animal avatars crowding the top right corner of the page. They were compiling the names of editors, publishers, and writers who had allegedly harassed or assaulted women. The accusations ranged from “Creepy af in the DM’s” to rape. When the list was taken offline around midnight, more than 70 names had been added. “It was a frenetic moment,” one woman who entered a name told me. A week earlier, the New York Times had published its bombshell investigation into the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, breaking the code of silence that had protected him for decades. A reckoning was at hand, and women who worked on the list felt a sense of hope and vindication. None I spoke with recalled worrying in the heat of the moment that they might one day regret contributing to it. “That first night? It was the most fun thing I’ve ever done in my life,” one woman said.
A note at the top read, “Please never name an accuser, and please never share this document with a man.” The assumption was that women could be trusted. But it was a woman, Doree Shafrir, who broke the story to the public, reporting on it for BuzzFeed in a post that went up soon after midnight. Contributors were furious with her, but they could do nothing to express their anger except block her on Twitter. The list had become an international news story. Some commenters hailed it as an ingenious effort to protect women and as evidence of widespread abuse. Others decried it as irresponsible, malicious, and dangerous.