Whisper network

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A whisper network describes a chain of information privately passed between people, typically a list of powerful people in an industry alleged as being sexual harassers or abusers.[1][2][3][4] The information is often shared between women by word of mouth, online in private communities, in forums, via spreadsheets, and sometimes using crowd-sourced documents.[2][5][6] The stated purpose of maintaining these lists is to warn potential victims of "people to avoid" in their industry.[7] Whisper networks also purportedly help victims realize they are not alone so they can find each other and come forward together about a serial abuser. The term "whisper network" was newly popularized during the #MeToo movement[2][8][9] after several private lists were published outside private networks, for example the Shitty Media Men list,[2][10] the California State Capitol list,[11] and the Harvey Weinstein Google doc.[12][13] Karen Kelsky created a less controversial list called "Sexual Harassment In the Academy: A Crowdsourced Survey" which had grown to over 2000 entries by the end of 2017, and includes stories without actually naming the accusing and accused parties.[5] Kelsky said she hoped the list would help demonstrate the scope of sexual misconduct in the academic field,[5][12] and it has resulted in the investigation of twelve men at the University of Michigan.[14]


Publishing whisper networks to the public has been widely criticized for spreading unsubstantiated rumors which can damage reputations,[3][15] though there continues to be debate on the best alternatives to anonymous sharing for women who have been punished or ignored by official channels yet would still like to warn other women.[2][12][13][16] It has been noted that certain vulnerable groups rarely get access to these private lists, for example women who are young and women of color. As a result, these groups rarely receive any protection from whisper networks unless they are published.[7][13][17] The main problem with trying to protect more potential victims by publishing whisper networks is determining the best mechanism to verify allegations.[13][18] Some suggestions have included strengthening unions in vulnerable industries so workers can report directly to the union, maintaining industry hotlines which have the power to trigger third-party investigations, and creating public systems that allow anonymous reporting with the ability to connect victims who report the same perpetrator.[13] Several apps have been developed which offer various ways for women to report sexual misconduct, and some of these apps have the ability to connect victims with each other.[15] Sex workers regularly share “bad date lists” and St. James Infirmary Clinic (which offers health and safety services for sex workers), created a “Bad Date” app that allows sex workers to anonymously log incidents with clients who have threatened, extorted, robbed, or been violent, potentially warning other sex workers in the future.[19]


  1. ^ "Here's Why So Many Women Knew The Rumors About Harvey Weinstein". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  2. ^ a b c d e "What is a whisper network? How women are taking down bad men in the #MeToo age". Newsweek. 2017-11-22. Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  3. ^ a b Creswell, Julie; Hsu, Tiffany (2017-11-04). "Women's Whisper Network Raises Its Voice". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  4. ^ "Women at Yale say they developed a secret way to protect themselves from dangerous men because the school keeps failing them". Business Insider. Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  5. ^ a b c "Like It or Not, Lists of 'Shitty Men' Are Going to Keep Circulating". Fortune. Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  6. ^ Tolentino, Jia (2017-10-14). "The Whisper Network After Harvey Weinstein and "Shitty Media Men"". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  7. ^ a b "The "Shitty Media Men" list, explained". Vox. Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  8. ^ Garber, Megan. "The Harper's Controversy: The Whisper Network Meets the Megaphone". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  9. ^ "What happens when #MeToo comes to Parliament Hill". CBC News. Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  10. ^ "Can women experiencing sexual harassment safely take their whisper networks online?". www.newstatesman.com. Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  11. ^ Chance, Alexei Koseff And Amy (2017-11-28). "'We have rapists in this building': Women say sexual abuse isn't reported at California Capitol". The Sacramento Bee. ISSN 0890-5738. Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  12. ^ a b c Quinlan, Casey (2018-01-13). "The Shitty Media Men list and other ways women can report misconduct". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  13. ^ a b c d e "It's time to weaponize the "whisper network"". Vox. Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  14. ^ "Whisper Network: a dozen University cases logged in sexual misconduct database". The Michigan Daily. Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  15. ^ a b Paul, Kari. "These apps help victims of sexual harassment to file anonymous reports". MarketWatch. Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  16. ^ Chotiner, Isaac. "How Second-Wave Feminism Inexplicably Became a Villain in the #MeToo Debate". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  17. ^ "There is a whisper network in politics. To protect young women, it has to end". Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  18. ^ "How 'whisper networks' help protect women from the Harvey Weinsteins of the world". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2018-01-27.
  19. ^ "'They Don't Want to Include Women Like Me.' Sex Workers Say They're Being Left Out of the #MeToo Movement". Time. Retrieved 2018-03-23.