Last week NFL hall of famer Don McPherson joined myself and about 40 other students in Stirn Auditorium for what I consider to be one of the most profound conversations I’ve had in all four years as an Amherst College student.
The topic was misogyny and sexual violence, specifically in college or professional athletics. McPherson asked why these and other issues are referred to as “women’s issues” when, 98% of the time, they are perpetrated by men. They are “men’s issues,” then, not because men are the victims but rather the aggressors.
When asked how they are ‘supposed’ to present themselves to the world, male students in McPherson’s audience came up with the following terms:
McPherson pointed out that these traits also apply to women, and promptly drew a box around all five of them to illustrate quite an important point. Western tenets of masculinity have limited men to these, and only these, definitions of what make a man truly a man. It is also true that men are the exact opposite of what they expect of themselves: emotional, loving, caring, vulnerable, scared, and dependent on people other than themselves (as are all human beings) to make life worth living. Historically and culturally, men have been limited in ways that may not apply to women. The exclusion of women from war, politics, business, education, and other societal institutions is partially credited to the belief that we are the “emotional” sex. It doesn’t always occur to modern feminists that the same bucket of water in which patriarchal society seeks to drown us can also be seen as a relaxing, refreshing dip. Stereotypical visions of women as hyperemotional or hysterical are still alive in many ways today. These labels can, however, be quite liberating, especially when the alternative is no emotion whatsoever.
I believe that a true feminist must also examine the ways in which men have been restricted by the same gendered ideologies that limit women. Feminism is inextricably linked with masculinity because there cannot be a conversation about women without having a similar one about men. Masculinity remains an understudied concept by individuals other than scholars who make it their business to deal with these and other questions.
In short, Don McPherson may be the future of feminism. There is clearly much, much more to be said about McPherson’s talk and the beliefs encompassing it. Below is his website and a link to an article he wrote about Jerry Sandusky, sexual violence and the ‘cult of silence’ in which many men thrive.
The time has come to change how feminism and its masculine equivalent are defined.