Then, this week, writers and editors on Twitter advised that Harper's magazine was planning to reveal her identity in an upcoming article.
In her piece for "The Cut", Donegan writes that she initially created the spreadsheet as "a first attempt at solving what has seemed like an intractable problem: how women can protect ourselves from sexual harassment and assault".
Several women have stepped forward to take credit for a document that seeks to expose predatory men in the media.
So just who is Moira Donegan? As the stories accumulated and it became clear that many, many more women were using the document than I had ever imagined, I realised that I had created something that had grown rapidly beyond my control.
But Donegan does not regret creating it. She is listed on the site of the New Republic as a former assistant editor of the magazine. Before that, she was an associate editor for the literary magazine n+1. "As Jenna Wortham pointed out in The New York Times Magazine, they are also prone to exclude women of color". "She may be, as she implies, the rare grad student who has actually read Clarissa, but when it comes to rape and harassment she has not done her homework". "It was intended specifically not to inflict consequences, not to be a weapon - and yet, once it became public, many people immediately saw it as exactly that".
The existence of the list launched a wide-ranging conversation about the ways women protect themselves, and their colleagues, from men who have a history of aggressive or inappropriate behavior. But, as Donegan reminds us in her piece, the "Shitty Media Men" list, as a document, describes some harrowing behavior: Multiple instances of rape, physical abuse, stalking and aggressive workplace harassment. "The women who used the spreadsheet, and who spread it to others, used this power in a special way, and I'm thankful to all of them", she wrote.
Acknowledging the swift reaction - including likening its "irresponsible" and anonymous nature to the "Burn Book" from Mean Girls - Donegan also points out that eventually some of the men on the list were investigated and have since either left their jobs or were fired.
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".
"The fear of being exposed, and of the harassment that will inevitably follow, has dominated my life since", Donegan said. She said she later learned - via a Harper's fact checker - that Roiphe's piece identified her as, in the words of what she says was the fact-checker's email to her, "a woman widely believed to be one of the creators" of the list.
Donegan says that her reasons and hopes for the list were based in both naïveté and cynicism.
Alexander maintained the ruse for several hours ― successfully tricking several news outlets that ran stories identifying her as the spreadsheet's creator ― until Donegan's reveal on Wednesday night.
"The risk of doxxing is high", Tortorici wrote, referring to the practice of online critics publishing people's personal, private information against their ideological opponents without their consent.
"There is a piece by Katie Roiphe in the March issue", said Harper's vice president of public relations Giulia Melucci. Either those five who were "said to have pulled" changed their minds, or they were actually pulling a pretty solid scam. As protests about Roiphe's piece escalated, Nicole Cliffe, the co-founder of the Toast, quickly offered to compensate writers with pieces pending at Harper's who pulled their submissions.
It's probably true that the list contributors are all relatively low-level women acting sincerely. "Still, whisper networks are social alliances, and as such, they're unreliable", she said, adding that among their other flaws are elitism and insularity, as well as the fact that they often tend to exclude women of color.
In a statement to the Times and the Atlantic, Roiphe said she would not be revealing the identity of the list's creator.
She said she made a decision to come forward as speculation grew over who created it and she was approached by a writer for Harper's magazine.