By Shawn Potter
Bridgewater State University’s slogan “Not to be ministered unto, but to minister,” set the stage for the domestic violence discussion. On Thursday, Nov. 20 Don McPherson spoke in the Conant Science and Mathematic building’s auditorium to a group of students and faculty regarding issues surrounding the topic of domestic violence.
As a former NFL player, captain and quarterback for the Syracuse University football team, McPherson made it clear that his speech was not focused about personal experiences. Instead, he admitted his passion for public speaking which has extended over the past twenty-seven years.
Before McPherson began talking on his own account, he made it clear to the audience that he was open and eager to start conversations about the issue. Speaking at events in conversation forms, he feels, is very productive.
McPherson first explained how he starting getting involved in this work, working as a student athlete at Syracuse with a program called Athletes Against Drunk Driving. “I was doing so because at the time, I believed what the society was saying about what athletes are and who [they] should be.”
He created a program based on that. He said, “I found that I enjoyed talking and having conversations with young people about different social issues, but I also realized that we don’t talk honestly with young people . . . we use scare tactics and prevention language when it comes to talking about different social issues.”
McPherson pointed out an example of these social issues, such as the ‘just say no to drugs’ sign, or a mangled car placed in front of a high school to remind teens to be careful so they could view reality.
McPherson opened up the discussion for audience members to ask personal questions. The discussions mainly revolved around issues of violence in the NFL. McPherson noted that the NFL is a business and they do not worry about domestic violence.
In response, an audience member asked, “Do you feel the NFL are passing the blame on elsewhere?”
To which McPherson responded, “No, I wish they would. I wish they would pass the blame. I wish they would engage in higher education. We all have to be part of the solution.”
McPherson explained that he is a feminist and activist in the prevention of all forms of men’s violence against women. He has been focused on this work for the past twenty years. McPherson touched heavily upon the main reason for his discussion. He further explained the main reason why he is active in preventing men’s violence against women.
McPherson stated that men’s violence against women is not only a women’s issue. He added, “If we call them women’s issues, what does that allow us as men to do?”
At this the audience replied phrases such as “It’s not my problem” or “It’s not my issue.” McPherson countered by explaining, “the reality is that all those issues are men’s issues, because foremost ninety percent of violence committed against women is committed by men.”
He added that the issue pertains to everyone. He explained that as a society, we avoid talking about issues of violence because we do not know how to, which is the reason why we use scare tactics and prevention language.
The former NFL player additionally explained the reason for his comical tone and attitude while speaking.
“I use humor because I couldn’t do this if I couldn’t laugh at some of this, and I don’t want to come in here and just say its bad. There has to be that balance and I’m very conscious of doing this. I love this. Looking back at all the positive things I have done in the past, that doesn’t come close to doing this,” he said.
McPherson is still very involved in football and loves the sport. “I still love the game. It keeps me there and relevant in that conversation so that I can influence where I can influence.”
On his final note, McPherson said, “Call me out if you want to, I always say to men. Let’s have an argument about this, because at the end of the day its about how we are going to make men better without degrading women. We as men have to have this conversation, and not be afraid to have it. I believe what’s hanging in the balance is not only the issue of men’s violence against women, it is our humanity.”
At the end of the event, members of the audience were encouraged to fill out a brief survey of the event. There was also an open Twitter feed going live through the event, and the discussion was encouraged to continue outside of the conversation in the auditorium.
There will be more discussions in the Spring semester. If you or someone you know feels strongly about the issue of relationship and domestic violence, feel free to ask questions on Twitter by using the hashtag #StopViolenceBSU.
Shawn Potter is a Comment staff writer.