When I learned that Stephen Elliott is suing Moira Donegan for $1.5 million in damages, I was both shocked and unsurprised.
I was unsurprised because, well, we live in a world where white men can and do behave in absurd and abusive ways without consequence. We live in a country that elected Donald Trump as its president and just last week appointed an unhinged man, likely guilty of sexual assault, to its highest court.
The shock is harder to explain—I’ve navigated patriarchy my entire life but am still shaken to the core by the harm it allows and by its disregard for women. I am angry each time like it is the first time; I am devastated despite knowing the harm is inevitable.
The Rumpus was founded by Stephen, but it was always a community effort. The Rumpus’s mission statement was written by a woman, still an editor with us, Julie Greicius, who went uncredited for her enormous contributions to the site for years. Women—Roxane Gay, Cheryl Strayed, Zoë Ruiz, Lisa Dusenbery, Elissa Bassist, Julie and many more—have always been the heart of The Rumpus.
When I made the decision to purchase The Rumpus, I knew firsthand about Stephen’s lack of boundaries and disrespectful behavior toward female employees. But I hadn’t had the distance from him to speak out; I feared my powerful and famous boss. In the months following the sale, I gained that distance and was able to begin articulating what I’d experienced. Moreover, as we began the work of reclaiming The Rumpus and refocusing its mission, women spoke with me and wrote to me about their own experiences.
Stephen’s decision to go after Moira is hostile and reprehensible. For me, it is unforgivable. He has aligned himself with a lawyer who stands with and for rapists, and is suing a woman who did nothing more than try to keep other women safe. Stephen’s desire to remain in the spotlight, to refuse to have his career wrested from him as a consequence of his own actions, has taken primacy over logic and sanity.
The Rumpus hasn’t been affiliated with Stephen Elliott since January 2017, and we will continue to focus on our work: Giving a platform to marginalized voices and writing that might not find a home elsewhere; shining a light on stories that build bridges and tear down walls; and speaking truth to power.
I am tired. I’ve been fighting this fight since before I remember. I have thrown myself in front of trains again and again. I do this because I am lucky to be able to. I do this because those in power would prefer to see us silenced. I would like to give up, truly—but I never will. I don’t know that this is a fight that can be won; hope is in short supply these days. It doesn’t matter, because it is the fight most worth fighting.
I, and The Rumpus, stand firmly with Moira Donegan. Please consider making a donation to Moira’s legal defense fund.