One of the criticisms of the #MeToo movement that’s emerged and reemerged most tenaciously over the past few months is that women are consistently conflating major crimes with minor ones. Violent sexual assault isn’t the same thing as a swat on the behind in a crowded bar. Targeted sexual harassment isn’t the same thing as a clumsy pass after too many vodka sodas have been consumed. But this is a straw man argument—I have yet to find evidence of a single woman claiming that any of these things are equal. Most women do, unremarkably, know the difference between an incident where their personal safety (or their job security) is being threatened and an incident where it isn’t.
Moira Donegan, who wrote a powerful essay this week exposing herself as the creator of the Shitty Media Men list, knew this too. She made efforts to draw distinctions between men whom multiple separate women had accused of rape, and men in the media who were simply, well, shitty. The list itself includes a disclaimer at the top stating that it’s only a collection of misconduct allegations and rumors. “Take everything with a grain of salt,” it advises. “If you see a man you’re friends with, don’t freak out.”
And yet the list does include allegations of simple shittiness rather than just workplace harassment and assault. There’s a reason for that, and that reason is largely why it’s called the Shitty Media Men list and not the Serious Sexual Harassers and Rapists in Media list. Men, this list was not for you. Nor was this list intended for 99 percent of the people who eventually saw it, since it was conceived as a private way of sharing information between acquaintances, not a McCarthyite effort intent on ruining careers. It was a warning, not a witch hunt. It had no purpose beyond better enabling other women to protect themselves from men whom other women had had shitty experiences with, big and small.