The woman who created a spreadsheet where women could anonymously share stories of sexual harassers or abuse they had encountered in the media industry has revealed herself as Moira Donegan.
In a first-person article published in The Cut on Wednesday night, Donegan, a young journalist who has written for numerous publications such as The New Yorker, wrote that she started the "Shitty Media Men" list as a "first attempt at solving what has seemed like an intractable problem: how women can protect ourselves from sexual harassment and assault."
The spreadsheet listed men by name and accused them of everything from unwanted flirting to rape and violence, and quickly went viral, with cells populating at breakneck speed in a matter of hours. It went from private to public after BuzzFeed wrote about its existence on Oct. 12. The online community forum Reddit then published the document itself.
The list drew both praise and criticism. Some excoriated it as irresponsible, catty and malicious, a way of outing the accused without giving them a chance to respond to the allegations against them. Others praised it, particularly because some of the men on the list eventually were found to have engaged in sexual misconduct and were removed from their jobs.
Donegan wrote that the document was intended to be private and said it "spread much further and much faster than I ever anticipated."
"I was naive because I did not understand the forces that would make the document go viral ... I was naive because I thought that the focus would be on the behavior described in the document, rather than on the document itself," she wrote.
She said she decided to come forward as speculation grew over who created it and she was approached by a writer for Harper's magazine.
"The fear of being exposed, and of the harassment that will inevitably follow, has dominated my life since. I’ve learned that protecting women is a position that comes with few protections itself," Donegan wrote. "This escalated when I learned Katie Roiphe would be publishing my name in a forthcoming piece in Harper’s magazine."
According to Donegan, Roiphe, a feminist essayist, emailed her in December asking if Donegan wanted to comment for a story Roiphe was working on about the "feminist moment."
While Roiphe didn't say she knew Donegan had created the spreadsheet, Donegan said she later received an email from a fact checker for Harper's claiming that Roiphe had identified her as the woman "widely believed to be one of the creators" of the list, and asking how she responded.
In recent days, as rumors spread on Twitter that Roiphe intended to reveal Donegan's identity, many women expressed outrage. One, director Lexi Alexander, was credited by several media outlets with being the creator of the list after tweeting that she had authored it.
Alexander later said she and others were using a "Spartacus" tactic of identifying themselves to protect the real creator. The tweets have since been deleted.
Giulia Melucci, Harper's vice president of public relations, told NBC News that Harper's never intended to publish Donegan's name.
"The piece is not even about her. It's not the essence of the piece. But it's just become this hysteria on Twitter, where everyone has decided that they know what this piece is about," Melucci said. "What happens in fact-checking is a lot of things are checked that are not going to end up in the final piece."
And Roiphe, the essayist, told NBC News via email: "I understand why people are confused about my intentions. Moira Donegan refused to speak to me so I involved a fact checker in the reporting process. It seemed to me, for various reasons, that Moira might want to claim responsibility for the list, and I was testing that premise."
She added: "To keep perspective: the list itself is a very small part of long piece that has not yet closed."
Harper's still plans on running the essay, Melucci said, which is being tweaked to include the latest developments.
But, Melucci reiterated: "The story is not about Moira Donegan."