Over 70 names appeared on the Shitty Media Men spreadsheet by the time it was taken offline in October, 2017. Writer Stephen Elliott is not the only one to deny the claims against him (his name appears next to an allegation of rape on the document), but he is the only one to be pursuing legal action against its creator Moira Donegan, and (potentially) the unknown number of women who contributed to the document. Elliott filed his lawsuit this week, almost exactly one year after Donegan created the spreadsheet. He’s seeking $1.5 million in damages.
Elliot’s anger is no surprise to anyone who read his essay in Quillette earlier this year, and while he’s been very … vocal about his feelings before, we wanted to know about the other men, who have been silent until now. How do they feel about the suit? Were they ever tempted to take action against Donegan? What do they think is the right way for a man who believes he’s been falsely accused to clear his name? Most of them, we found, think this suit is a terrible idea. But they’re not exactly surprised that it’s happening, either.
Here, five men who spoke on the condition of anonymity, respond to the lawsuit in their own words.
“I’ve tried to clear my name individually, I would never join a lawsuit.”
If the problem was that his reputation was affected, this is going to make it infinitely worse. And that would be true for me if I were to join him, if I were to make myself part of the public face of this thing. Like, what would I do that for? Money? I’ve tried to clear my name individually, but I would never join a lawsuit. That just wouldn’t help.
It’s like Kavanaugh. Even if you believe he didn’t do it, you know that the way his case was handled will have a chilling effect on all the cases where it did happen. Similarly here, anything that involves shutting women up seems much more harmful than beneficial.
I didn’t do what I’m accused of on the list. But obviously I wronged somebody to the point that they want to mess with my life. To this day I don’t know what that was. I just think, the list is out there. I need to move on. It’s taking one for the team.
“I hate what Elliott’s doing”
I would sometimes do the mental exercise in my head or in conversation: Like, is someone going to sue? And what happens then? But I would always dismiss it and I realize now I was approaching that question with total naïveté: I assumed that some people would ignore their place on the list, pretend it didn’t happen, or just try to put it behind them; that some people would do or were doing the work of recovery and amends; and the real dangerous assholes would just vanish into the hills. But that was fucking dumb. And now I’m obviously not shocked that it comes after the withering reception to his garbage article.
I feel like there’s no way I can talk about this publicly without creating a mess for myself or the people in my life, but this is sadistic, reprehensible, cruel, and I’m sitting here just fucking fuming about it, and I really wish there was something I could do to help Moira. Or at least have a different kind of conversation about this shit. Look: The specific allegations about me on the list aren’t true. But I understand how I ended up on it, and I do have amends to make. But I hate what Elliott’s doing. And the idea that Moira or any of the contributors could be further exposed, or hurt, or damaged, makes me sick. And that’s what drives me nuts about not being able to talk about it publicly: I feel like if we all stay silent, then it’s like he’s speaking for us.
“I’m surprised it took this long”
I assumed somebody on that list would do something. That seemed inevitable. I guess I’m surprised it took this long. I knew some of the guys on the list — some of whom had reason to be, some who didn’t. After I saw the lawsuit, I talked about it with one person. We were like, great. This is in the news again.
Nobody I’ve talked to about it had floated the idea of doing anything. Most people accepted that this is a thing that’s out there and it will be used against us from time to time. I understood why the list was created. Why people felt it was necessary. I don’t know why I’m on there, exactly. But I’m not going to say that I’ve never crossed a line. I’m not going to feel sorry for myself.
Why do I think he’s doing this? Elliott laid out his motivations in the really bad Quillette thing. It sounds like a Men’s Rights lawsuit. I never really read him before, so maybe he was always on the cusp of going over to the MRA crowd. But now he’s really embraced them. I don’t think he has a case. And I don’t think this is a case that should be pressed even if he had one.
“The list just makes me sad.”
A group of people I’ve known online for a long time got wind of the list and were pretty upset, and after I explained to the best of my ability and took my lumps, a couple were furious AT Moira Donegan, and I had to talk them down. It was a good idea (share info to protect people). I don’t see the point of punishing someone for “bad OpSec” or shit that got out of their control.
The suit seems so unlikely to be a winner that the motive seems like it almost HAS to be irrational, like it’s not about clearing his name but about making his name dangerous for others. Even if he were completely exonerated, you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. Social media is already so vindictive and in such bad faith that the charges will live on. So it makes you wonder if the point is to cause Moira pain or to make anyone who contributed to the list afraid.
The list just makes me sad. I think the thing about working with words is that you wind up believing that understanding is within reach if you have a chance to tell your side of the story to the best of your ability, even if it means saying that you’re a big shithead and saying “sorry” a million times.
“The anger is understandable”
I don’t have any feelings of animosity toward Moira, and the entry next to my name is just wrong. I do kind of understand where his feelings are coming from, though. I mean the anger is understandable. If you’ve been accused of rape, you don’t want the world to think you’re accused of rape. But this just isn’t the way I would have gone about this. Legal action always seemed so ridiculous to me because I just wanted it all to go away. Plus, his case just feels so ridiculous. He’s really going to find out who all the women were? Moira is really going to pay him $1.5 million?
This isn’t the way to make amends with anyone right now. He’s making himself the center of the story, just like he did with his big essay. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this year, it’s that no one needs to hear from me on any of this stuff. I can just listen.