Earlier today, rumors began circulating on Twitter that a well-known magazine is planning to publish an article about the so-called “Shitty Men in Media” list. The list is a Google Doc that was created by anonymous women in media last October, and it provided other women with a space to warn about predatory men in the industry.
Both the list, and knowledge of it, went viral. Many hailed its existence as a way for women to transgress the traditional systems that had failed them and tell their stories of abuse and harassment. Others balked at the potential it had to spread unfounded rumors. Despite the varying opinions, the list became a catalyst for more than a few top-level resignations and firings at leading media companies. Though some version of it remains online, it has not been updated since its initial days.
According to a tweet today, the piece in this magazine planned to “out” the woman who started the list. This sparked a Twitter firestorm, with prominent women in the industry blasting the editorial decision as dangerous and irresponsible.
— roxane gay (@rgay) January 9, 2018
— Marisa Siegel (@marisasaystweet) January 9, 2018
— Rachel King (@rachelking) January 9, 2018
Nicole Cliffe, a writer and cofounder of the now-defunct blog The Toast, tweeted that sources told her the magazine in question was Harper’s. The magazine, Cliffe said, is allegedly planning to publish a new article by controversial writer Katie Roiphe, who in the 1990s wrote about how the problem of date rapes on college campuses was being overblown.
Now numerous writers and editors are trying to stop Harpers from publishing this story. Cliffe has proposed a boycott of sorts, asking writers working with the magazine to yank their posts. She has even offered to pay whatever money they lost. Video game developer Brianna Wu has joined her.
— Brianna Wu (@Spacekatgal) January 9, 2018
According to Cliffe, the harm this article could cause outweighs whatever journalistic value it may have. “I think that you can have a variety of different and valid opinions about the existence of the Shitty Men in Media list,” she writes to me in an email, “but we should all be able to agree that this is a terrible thing to do to a woman who wanted to covertly warn other people about predators.”
Asking writers to rebel is one way to get Harper‘s attention, Cliffe says. “It’s not a venue in which freelancers have a lot of power,” she writes, “and I wanted to take the problem of money off the table for them if they were inclined to pull their work from a publication acting in an outrageous manner.” She tells me that two people have already taken her up on her offer, “and I hope to have more.”
I reached out to Harper’s for comment. A spokesperson wrote to me in an email: “We don’t discuss the content of our pieces until they are published. I can confirm that Katie Roiphe is writing a piece for our March issue, nothing more.”
It’s still unclear exactly what the story is and whether or not Harper’s will respond to the criticism. In the meantime, if you know more, please reach out to me.