During my son's first elementary school basketball practice, I remember catching my breath when his coach warned the young boys not to play like little girls.
It was not the last time I would hear similar words hurled at young boys when they didn't fulfill a coach's expectations. My correcting the volunteer coaches, telling them that such comparisons were sexist and demeaning, did little to change the situation.
Those scenarios were quickly followed by increasingly misogynistic lyrics in my son's preferred music and by peer pressure that defined manly.
Unfortunately, there were far too few examples of men offering an alternate view on a public level of what it means to be a man, leaving women as less than equals in the eyes of some boys.
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That is changing.
"You Throw Like a Girl: A College Football Hall of Famer and Heisman Trophy Runner-up's Take on What it Means to be a Real Man," is the topic of a speech scheduled to be given Thursday by Don McPherson, an All-American quarterback for Syracuse University and a leader on the 1987 undefeated team.
McPherson wants more men to get involved with the fight to end sexual violence.
Billy Korinko, men's programming specialist at UK's Violence Intervention & Prevention Center, said McPherson is a leader in anti-violence activism.
"He has a powerful message for younger males," Korinko said, "a message about power-based sexual violence, and the need for more men to get involved in this work."
McPherson empowers the young men and boys not only to become involved in stopping sexual violence, but to engage their friends in changing the mind-set that allows it.
Korinko met McPherson at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis., when McPherson worked with students and faculty. He received "rave reviews" there, Korinko said.
McPherson's lecture centers on the idea that what we say can have a detrimental impact on young minds, he said.
"He does it in a way that they don't feel interrogated," Korinko said. "He is simply asking for their help."
The lecture is co-sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center, said director Chester Grundy, because there seems to be a growing number of cases of sexual violence nationwide.
"Young men are not understanding what it means to be a man," Grundy said. "They have no idea how to resolve issues with women or other people."
Grundy said he hopes that McPherson, who calls himself a feminist, will emphasize that manhood is not associated with physical prowess.
"It is what it means to be a leader and a servant," he said.
In popular culture, men who have money and know how to "handle" their women are glorified," Grundy said. "It would be different if there was a range of images. I don't think our young men get exposure to other choices."
McPherson will help men become more aware of the culture they live in and the seemingly innocuous signals they receive, Korinko said.
"Not just be more aware," he said, "but also to act, help educate others and to intercede."
Sexual violence, however, is not only perpetuated by men.
"We are very conscious in this office that we are not just talking about men's violence against women but all power-based sexual violence," he said.
That means any church, civic group or athletic organization that mentors young people should try to take their young charges to the lecture. I think it would be good for coaches to attend as well to make them more aware of the power of words.
The sooner we reach those young people and the adults who influence them, the sooner we can help end gender violence.