During activist Don McPherson’s visit to Wittenberg this past week, he spoke to both men and women about issues regarding sexual assault, harassment and much more during two separate talks.
The college football Hall of Famer began his speech with a brief introduction of his accolades, accomplishments and extensive history in athletics. However, what may have been the majority of his speech was his passion and insight on women’s issues and feminism.
His talk focused on how things need to change in the way people talk about sexual harassment, rape, date rape and abusive situations. Instead of just focusing on what females and males need to do differently before or after instances of abuse, he believes starting conversations and changing the way people address and communicate the issue is most important.
The former Philadelphia Eagle spoke on how families aren’t having the uncomfortable, difficult talks about sex, drugs and alcohol that should be taking place. Instead, brief discussions with family followed by media campaigns of preventative language and scare tactics are used to relay information to society about how issues of sexual harassment should be handled.
Having those uncomfortable talks with one another, establishing blame and following through with the issues of abuse after the fact are necessary for change, according to McPherson.
Another important aspect McPherson focused on during the talk was semantics, or how people talk about the abuse issues. The way people label these issues as women’s issues negates males from responsibility, and lets the conversation to focus on how to prevent women from being raped, hurt or abused. McPherson stated that the conversation needs to be focused on what is wrong with the fact that males commit approximately 90 percent of these sexually harassing and abusive crimes.
McPherson drew comparison from the Ray Rice scandal, in which Rice abused his girlfriend in an elevator. McPherson stated it was tragic and awful, but the media focused on “why she stayed” as opposed to why he did it. He said that the conversation turned from “Ray Rice beats girlfriend” to “girl is abused, why did she stay?” In fact, the instance started a hashtag #whyistayed, in which people supported and talked about abusive relationships on Twitter.
Reiterating how to change the way people talk about these issues, McPherson emphasized the need to be specific, brutally honest and upfront with males and females about the reality and the need to make these men’s issues, not just women’s issues.
Closing his speech, McPherson urged listeners to stay in contact with him and surrounding communities, inspire conversation around them and keep talking about these issues.