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Following a Twitter campaign inspired by “Spartacus” in which dozens of women, including filmmaker Lexi Alexander, claimed to have created it, writer Moira Donegan has now come forward as the creator of the infamous “S—-y Media Men” spreadsheet.
The anonymously-crowdsourced list detailed accusations of sexually inappropriate behavior by men working primarily in New York City-based media. The private, invitation-only Google spreadsheet was created and quickly deactivated in October, but was publicly revealed a month later through a BuzzFeed article.
The list’s creator remained a secret until this week, when Harper’s Magazine confirmed it intended to publish a story by writer Katie Roiphe that would expose the identity of the author. This sparked a campaign spearheaded by “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” producer Ana Breton to encourage other women to claim authorship of the list, so that the true creator’s identity remained anonymous.
But in an op-ed published on The Cut, Donegan outed herself, and explained why she created the list, and why she decided to come forward now.
The list “collected a range of rumors and allegations of sexual misconduct, much of it violent, by men in magazines and publishing,” Donegan wrote. “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.”
“One long-standing partial remedy that women have developed is the whisper network … Many of these networks have been invaluable in protecting their members,” she continued.
Donegan recounted how, as a recent college graduate in 2013, she was warned by other women about “several of my industry’s most well-known abusers.” These men, she noted, experienced no social consequences for their behavior, while many women felt unsafe coming forward. “The spreadsheet was intended to circumvent all of this. Anonymous, it would protect its users from retaliation: no one could be fired, harassed, or publicly smeared for telling her story when that story was not attached to her name.”
However, S—-y Media Men spread much further and faster than Donegan anticipated, and within “hours” of posting it she took it down. Despite this, the list became public, after which several men named on the list were investigated by their employers and either quit or were fired.
“None of this was what I thought was going to happen. 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. 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 said she lost friendships and even her job for creating the list, and that since it became public she’s lived in fear of being exposed. Donegan says she has no idea what will happen now that she’s come forward, but says she doesn’t regret creating the list. “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,” she wrote.
On Twitter, Donegan summarized the situation: “In October, I made a Google document. My life has been strange and sometimes frightening ever since.”
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