After Steubenville – Don McPherson, Former NFL Player, on Toxic Masculinity
There has been a lot of worthy essays written about this topic, but this effort caught my eye — “Former NFL quarterback Don McPherson challenges media response to Steubenville verdict,” part of human rights group Breakthrough’s One Million Men, a campaign to engage men to end violence against women around the world. It was unreal to see the rape culture-affirming coverage by the media (Candy Crowley and Poppy Harlow of CNN’s coverage come to mind, sadly), that went on and on about the destroyed lives of the convicted rapists, forgetting the victim here is the girl who they violated.
“I was sitting about three feet from Ma’lik when he gave that statement,” Harlow said. “It was very difficult to watch.” Candy then asked CNN legal contributor Paul Callan what the verdict meant for “a 16 year old, sobbing in court, regardless of what big football players they are, they still sound like 16 year olds.” “What’s the lasting effect though on two young men being found guilty juvenile court of rape essentially?” Crowley wondered.
Don McPherson responded with these words of wisdom – just raise our boys to see women as human beings. It’s sad that it has to be that basic:
“The troubling reaction of many media outlets to the sentence of two teenage football players who were convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl is a crystal clear example of how society continues to teach boys that girls and women are “less than.” As we saw in Steubenville, and its aftermath, this approach to masculinity leads some men and boys to perpetuate violence against women and other men and boys to remain silent.
This kind of toxic masculinity creates a culture that leads to a national of conversation that express sympathy for the young boys that committed a crime, focusing on their destroyed football careers and uncertain futures in prison, while completely ignoring the victim. Where was the sympathy for her?
We must challenge how we raise boys regarding masculinity, as it is often at the expense of women. I’ve realized that society doesn’t raise boys to be men; we raise them to not be women. The lives of men are inextricably interwoven with the lives of women. Women’s issues of safety and equality directly affect our lives as men. Beyond that, women are humans, with the same rights to safety and freedom as men.
Instead of allowing the humiliation of a young girl to pass unchallenged through social media and text messaging, we must teach men it is our moral responsibility to not remain silent or passively on the sidelines, but to be actively engaged in confronting this problem in every corner of homes, communities, and societies.”