The New York Times published eight submissions from men who have, in their past, put women in uncomfortable situations that they now regret. During the same week as the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, the newspaper opened its gates to their male readers by asking them to share their stories.
This piece struck a chord with readers for a variety of different reasons. Some felt anger and disappointment toward the publication for giving another platform to men allowing them to share their side but did not offer the same for women. Others believed this is a very important move for opening up the conversation on sexual harassment and could show men that these actions not only have a detrimental effect on their victims, but they themselves can also be haunted into their old age by the image of their poor behaviour.
The debate has become about whether these men who sent in their stories truly care about the open discussion of the impacts on both men and women in sexual harassment cases, or if this is a way for them to quickly rid themselves of their long-harboured guilt.
Notably, there were over 750 submissions within three days, but only eight were published as The New York Times decided they would not publish anonymous stories. Many men decided they could no longer be a part of the piece because sharing their name would leave them in fear of losing their jobs, families, and friends, which they were not prepared to do.
Most of the men in the final eight are retired or approaching retirement age. The information shared about each of them was their name, age when the incident in question occurred, and the year they graduated from high school.
Numerous people on Twitter have shared their varying thoughts on the arguably controversial piece:
Wow – respect for these 8 men who have dug into their past, recognized their mistakes and owning their behavior. Let’s honor their evolution and courage. #manbassadors Well done @nytimes @APQW https://t.co/5QbhLb9kky
— Lisen Stromberg (@LisenStromberg) October 18, 2018
8 men trying to rid themselves of their guilt. But no apologies then or now to the women concerned. Are we supposed to sympathise? And the hundreds of nameless men that wrote in. It’s creepy. https://t.co/MH8IQJHETr
— Angela Sheeran (@Sheerzee) October 18, 2018
Highly disturbing confessional accounts from 8 men who violated women they knew but I feel this uncomfortable conversation must continue.
Maybe you can relate to these stories.
If you really want to understand #MeToo https://t.co/pTwuiy4kxE
— Reham Khan (@RehamKhan1) October 18, 2018
I think this is what restorative justice could look like: 8 men and their stories of regret https://t.co/MyjwfeT0UD
— Judy Trinh (@JudyTrinhCBC) October 18, 2018
@nytimes your 8 men’s regret story / using the language of “age when you had the experience” as if the way they assaulted women was something they are not accountable / this is an example of how rape culture permeates our language
— anna and elizabeth (@aecrankies) October 18, 2018
I found these 8 stories of men's regret about sexual harassment comforting, validating, and I hope more men share stories of regret.
Eight Stories of Men’s Regret https://t.co/17Z8j5m1YN
— Working class Autodidact (@taeniatherum) October 18, 2018
@APQW asked men about events when they felt ashamed for what they have done to women. 8 men agreed to be named. Only through communication, and understanding by society of what is acceptable & what is not can we tackle gender inequity #genderequity https://t.co/fQYf1vPaOu
— Jamal Hakim (@thejamalhakim) October 19, 2018
Will this open conversation propel our society forward or set us back in terms of gender politics and sexual harassment cases?
Words by Georgia Hansen
Subbing by Maria Campuzano