Sometime around the revelation of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, a bunch of us in the online journalism and writing world heard word of a list. Called the ‘Shitty Media Men’ list, it was a rather haphazard spreadsheet where users could anonymously leave notes of people in the industry they’d encountered who had harassed, abused or treated them badly. The list was hard to come by, unless you knew someone willing to share, and the message was clear: If nobody else will look out for us, we will protect our own. At the top of the list was a disclaimer that these names obviously couldn’t be verified. It was an imperfect tool, but an important one. For many of us, all we have had for a long time was the ability to warn other women of the things we’d experienced. When the authorities or our bosses or the public wouldn’t listen, perhaps our contemporaries would.
The list was quickly deleted after some truly shitty people got their hands on it, but also after places like Buzzfeed tried to make an example of it. Our attempts to keep ourselves safe were turned into shameful acts where our security was put second to the imagined concerns of alleged harassers and abusers. It was all but inevitable, sadly. Yesterday, journalists Dayna Tortorici of n+1 and Nicole Cliffe, formerly of The Toast, started tweeting that they had heard news of a major publication planning to publish a piece that outed the woman who started the list. Suffice to say, this was a bad idea.
Soon, word began to spread that the publication was Harpers and the writer penning the piece was Katie Roiphe, a centrist feminist best known for arguing that many instances of campus rape were just regretful women wanting to push the blame around. The writer who famously claimed, ‘If a woman’s ‘judgment is impaired’ and she has sex, it isn’t always the man’s fault; it isn’t necessarily always rape’, was now apparently set to out a woman for wanting to keep others safe.
It’s come to my attention that a legacy print magazine is planning to publish a piece “outing” the woman who started the Shitty Media Men list. All I can say is: don’t. The risk of doxxing is high. It’s not the right thing to do.— Dayna Tortorici (@dtortorici) January 9, 2018
There are few writers I’d trust less with a piece like this than Roiphe, a woman who made her career out of throwing other women under the bus and claiming it makes her a better feminist than everyone else. Pitching her for a piece on this topic doesn’t suggest Harpers want am empathetic understanding of why a list was created so much as they want a screed on social media outrage and those darn moralists who think all men are scum. They know this, and they know any justifiable anger coming from people like us, people who actually saw and needed the list, can be dismissed as them standing up to censorship.
Cliffe decided to try another tactic in protest to Harpers, and offered to pay cash to any writer who wished to yank their piece from the magazine in opposition to Roiphe. She then helped to hook up the people who took her up on the offer with new publications. Essentially, she’s already the best literary agent of 2018.
If you have a piece in the hopper over at @Harpers, ask your editor if the Roiphe piece is happening. If it is, I will pay you cash for what you’d lose by yanking it. My email is nicole dot cliffe at gmail.— Nicole Cliffe (@Nicole_Cliffe) January 9, 2018
If Harper’s DOES kill it, you can keep the cash and run it or not, whatever you would like. My goal is still that Harper’s will change their mind, and I DO think that could still happen: they are losing ad buyers too.— Nicole Cliffe (@Nicole_Cliffe) January 9, 2018
Do we really have to remind everyone that putting someone at risk of harassment, doxxing and death threats is a bad idea? Did we all miss GamerGate? Are we all still harbouring the delusion that what happens on the internet stays there? And why should one woman who just wanted to create an admittedly imperfect resource for those who need it be subjected to more scrutiny than, you know, the men on the list?!
Here’s what I think will happen: I agree with Nicole Cliffe that Harpers will run the piece, but it will be greatly truncated and not name names. They’ll claim that was what was always going to run, and that they don’t crumble to censorship pleas. Roiphe will add a paragraph about screeching Twitter moralists, then she’ll run to the Federalist or American Conservative and write 3000 words on how #TimesUp is damaging ‘real feminism’. Somewhere, Camille Paglia will convulse with troll joy. If it stops a woman from being put at risk, I’ll take it.