A whisper network is an informal chain of information passed privately between people, typically women. It consists of gossip about people in a community (frequently a professional community) alleged of being sexual harassers or abusers.[1][2][3][4] The information is often shared between women by word of mouth or online in private communities, forums, spreadsheets, and 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 identify a common abuser 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 of private networks. Among the published lists were 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 about men in academia called "Sexual Harassment In the Academy: A Crowdsourced Survey" which had grown to over 2000 entries by the end of 2017. It 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 that can damage reputations.[3][15] However, there continues to be debate on the best alternatives for women who have been punished or ignored by official channels to warn other women.[2][12][13][16] It has been noted that certain vulnerable groups, such as young women and women of color, rarely get access to these private lists. 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 and warn other sex workers about clients who have threatened, extorted, robbed, or been violent.[19]

See also



  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. 11 January 2018. 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.