Over the last week, more reports about Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual assault, harassment and coercion have dominated headlines in the news and conversations on Twitter. One of those conversations happened to revolve around the Buzzfeed article “What To Do With ‘Shitty Media Men’?” which discussed an anonymous Google spreadsheet being shared that named men working in the media who had reportedly acted inappropriately towards women. The allegations – which a disclaimer on the document noted were unsubstantiated and based on primarily on gossip and hearsay – ranged from “weird lunch dates” to “flirting” to sexual assault and physical violence.
Needless to say, this rocketed around the Internet and media sites in record time as dozens upon dozens of people checked out the list – some out of curiosity, some to see if people who harassed them were listed and some to search for their own names.
While the accuracy – and the ethics – of such a list were and are debated, the document is functionally not that different from the whisper networks that exist across communities from tech to comics to game development to the media. Because the powers that be in these industries tend to look the other way or downplay the severity of the actions of creeps and predators, women share names amongst themselves: who’s safe, who’s ok unless they’ve been drinking, who they should never be alone in a room with.
Men, on the other hand, had a different reaction. Many men worried about “witch hunts”. Others posited a world where men might get hit with lawsuits for winking. From commenting on the unfairness of anonymous accusations without the ability to defend themselves to just being afraid of ending up on the list through innocent mistakes, many men seemed to take issue with the existence of the list itself. And, well…
The issue isn’t about people misunderstanding innocent flirtations or good guys getting caught up by oversensitive women. It’s about a culture of predation and harassment that’s endemic in multiple industries. However, there are lots of men – good, well-intentioned men – who are worried about tripping over the line. And there are others who worry that they themselves may end up on a similar list or having their name bandied about simply because they’re shy or awkward.
And so for them, I want to talk about what it means to not be The Creep at work, at the conference or in class.