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Violence toward women an issue for men, former quarterback says

by Sherry Fisher - April 10, 2006

Men need to understand that violence toward women is not a women's issue, but rather a men's issue, says Don McPherson, former National Football League quarterback.

Don McPherson, former NFL quarterback, speaks last week about “What Does It Mean to Be a Man?” in a talk during Sexual Awareness Month.
Don McPherson, former NFL quarterback, speaks last week about “What Does It Mean to Be a Man?” in a talk during Sexual Awareness Month.
Photo by Jordan Bender

His presentation, "What Does it Mean to Be a Man?" was part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.   He spoke April 5 in the Chemistry Building.

 "We have to stimulate honest discussion about sexual behavior in order to prevent violence toward women," McPherson said.  

The problem, however, is that “people are not comfortable talking about it. They just say, 'We're against it.'”

After retiring from football in 1994, McPherson joined Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society.

He is founder and executive director of the Sports Leadership Institute at Adelphi University, which provides training to individuals and athletic organizations on leadership and issues relating to sport and youth development.

McPherson said he became involved in addressing issues likeviolence against women, "not because I was a perpetrator or because something happened to someone close to me."  

Rather, he started speaking to groups during his college years at Syracuse University, where he was an award-winning student athlete and was recruited to talk to youngsters about drunken driving.

 That experience made him realize that the idea of "just say no" and other so-called "prevention" language wasn't working. Open, honest, dialogue was the key, he said.

Alcohol is the number one date rape drug in our society, McPherson said. "What's the purpose of a date-rape drug?" he asked.

"To incapacitate a woman so a man can do what he wants to do. In some states, bars give away free alcohol and call it "Ladies' Night" so men can pick them up. It's easier; they're drunk. Ladies' Nights should be illegal."

Men "have to be part of the dialogue before bad things happen," McPherson said.

But that's not easy, he said, because people have been raised not to discuss topics like rape.

Men learn what it is to be a man when they are young boys, he said.

"What was the worst insult you could hear as a little boy?" he asked the audience. Responses included the words "sissy," "cry baby" and "girl."

He then asked, "What are men supposed to be?" "Strong," "independent," "fearless," and "tough" were some of the replies. Men, he said, are taught at an early age not to have feelings.

He recalled an incident where he saw a mother say "Be a man" to her small son who was crying. "If he learns his feelings don't matter, why should he care about other people's feelings?" McPherson asked.

Sex is used nonstop to sell everything, even shampoo, he said. “We've become desensitized."

McPherson talked about the derogatory language that some men use when discussing women, adding that if their peers don't stop them, such behavior becomes acceptable.  

"They shouldn't remain silent," he said. "It doesn't make you less of a man. It makes you a whole person. If we remain silent, we will continue to be a problem."

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