Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Former athlete challenges ‘real man’ concept

Former NFL quarterback Don McPherson was tough, strong and in control — a “real man” by societal standards. But now McPherson is challenging men to remove the façade and open up about their emotions.

McPherson will speak at 7 p.m. Oct. 23 in Sturm Hall’s Davis Auditorium after spending the day on campus talking to students. Using his experiences as an athlete, McPherson will speak about how unhealthy ideas about gender construction relate to violence against women.

“This will be an upbeat, interactive discussion,” McPherson says. “I tend not to talk about ‘real men’ but about the wholeness of being human. A whole man is capable of being loving and nurturing as well as strong.”

When McPherson played with the Philadelphia Eagles and Houston Oilers, he says, he couldn’t show his weaknesses or vulnerabilities. After his football career he embraced the aspects of himself he had ignored for years. It was only then, McPherson says, that he truly became capable of sustaining long-term relationships.

McPherson says the first step in expanding the definition of masculinity is recognizing there’s a problem. Women and men both fall into the same limiting social constructs about masculinity. It’s important, McPherson says, for both genders to understand that when men are limited to few emotions, such as joy and anger, they are more apt to deal with conflict through force.

Besides encouraging men to articulate their emotions, he says men have a responsibility to confront inappropriate male behavior, such as violence toward women. He cautions parents that their efforts to make boys tough just create more problems.

“In the long run it limits their abilities to deal with a myriad of issues. It makes them weaker because they’re not able to act in full complement of who they are,” McPherson says.

McPherson co-founded and serves as executive director of the Sports Leadership Institute at the Adelphi Institute. He has appeared on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” and speaks frequently about masculinity.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Sexual Assault Response and PreventionCoordinator Lisa Ingarfield at 303-871-3853.

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