Back in October, a mysterious crowdsourced Google spreadsheet was created to warn women in media about men in the field who were allegedly guilty of some type of sexual misconduct. The project, known as “Shitty Media Men,” soon went public and gained attention as women in media added the names of more men, as well as their company affiliations, the alleged instances of misconduct, and other relevant notes.
“This document is only a collection of misconduct allegations and rumors,” a disclaimer on the spreadsheet said. “Take everything with a grain of salt. If you see a man you’re friends with, don’t freak out.”
By its second day, the Shitty Media Men had nearly seventy men listed on it. Its number of viewers was also in the double digits.
Shitty Media Men soon became private, but responses were anything but. There was an abundance of think pieces that criticized the project, saying that its anonymity made it difficult to confirm which allegations were true and that by accusing these men in public, they were depriving them of due process.
Media coverage of the spreadsheet eventually died down, but it has since reappeared in the mainstream because its creator has finally stepped forward.
Donegan, who has written for publications such as n+1, Bookforum, and the New Republic, finally revealed herself after it was rumored that Harper’s Magazine writer Katie Roiphe was going to write a piece identifying her as the creator of Shitty Media Men. There had also been several other women who had taken to Twitter to falsely identify themselves as the mastermind behind the project.
“The anonymous, crowdsourced document was a first attempt at solving what has seemed like an intractable problem: how women can protect ourselves from sexual harassment and assault,” Donegan wrote. “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.”
Donegan also addressed the criticisms that the project had received.
“A slew of think pieces ensued, with commentators alternately condemning the document as reckless, malicious, or puritanically anti-sex,” she wrote. “Still other people just saw it as catty and mean, something like the ‘Burn Book’ from Mean Girls.”
“None of this was what I thought was going to happen,” Donegan continued. “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.”
Despite the backlash Donegan and the Shitty Media Men spreadsheet have received, the creator is still thinking about what the next step could be in helping women gain the power and confidence they need to work toward justice.
“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,” Donegan wrote. “But this doesn’t mean that I’ve lowered my hopes. 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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