Football and Feminism: A look on the 2018 reading project

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This year’s keynote lecture for the Kylene and Bradley Beers Reading Project will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 25. It had previously been scheduled for Sept. 4, but was cancelled due to expected inclement weather. Don McPherson, former NFL quarterback and current activist, will give the lecture, titled “Football to Feminism and the Blind Spot of Masculinity.”

Each year, the Reading Project assigns a piece for students to read before beginning their first year at Tulane. They then discuss the book with their classmates and participate in other activities in order to further explore the themes presented in the book. According to the website, the Reading Project aims to create a “common intellectual experience for the entering first-year class.” The Reading Project’s keynote lecture is an event where either the author of the book or a scholar with expertise in its themes speaks to freshman and whoever else is interested, as the lecture is free and open to the public.

This year’s book was “Beartown” by Fredrik Backman, a harrowing novel concerning a small hockey town in Sweden where the teenaged star player is accused of sexual assault. It explores the pride that the economically declining town holds for their junior hockey team and the racism and misogyny that have become intertwined in its culture, buoyed by the town’s insistence that the players can do no wrong. It speaks to a pattern of silence and disregard for women in a culture that puts sports and winning above all.

McPherson certainly has experience in the sports world. He is a College Football Hall of Fame member and played in both the National Football League and Canadian Football League. He has been a college football analyst at ESPN, BET and NBC, and he was the lead studio analyst at Sportsnet New York for the Big East Conference and American Athletics Conference football for six seasons.

After his football career, McPherson turned his attention to activism, using the influence he gained from his time in sports. In 1995, he began pursuing feminist activism, taking over as the director for Sport in Society’s Mentors in Violence Prevention Program, in an effort to diminish violence by men against women. Throughout the years, he has conducted hundreds of college campus lectures and workshops designed to address issues of domestic and sexual violence against women.

McPherson has worked closely with the United States Department of Defense and Department for Education on efforts to reduce violence against women in schools and the military and has testified in front of congress twice in the same vein. He has received multiple awards for his activism efforts, including the Frederick Douglass Men of Strength Award, given by the organization Men Can Stop Rape. The Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook University recently brought him on as a member of their advisory board.

McPherson’s lecture will take place next Tuesday, Sept. 25, at 5 p.m. in the McAlister Auditorium.