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You Throw Like a Girl: The Blind Spot of…

You Throw Like a Girl: The Blind Spot of Masculinity

by Don McPherson

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
You Throw Like a Girl is a book about masculinity and its blind spots. The central argument is that we don’t raise boys to be men, we raise them not to be women (or gay) and in so doing we devalue women and rob men of their full humanity. After his career as a professional quarterback in the NFL and CFL, Don McPherson began working in the nonprofit sector to leverage is role model status to do outreach and education, particularly on domestic violence. His work in that field led to his own interrogation of his upbringing and cultural values he had internalized. He traces his developing awareness of how we limit men’s emotional expression and guide them into destructive patterns of behavior.

You Throw Like a Girl is very much a feminist book, but it is also intended to liberate men from the limitations placed on them by rigid gender roles. McPherson is certain in a more egalitarian, less patriarchal society, men, as well as women, would be happier people. He is dismayed by the many bad sources of conditioning from the ubiquity of porn online to the standard media tropes that elevate the strong, silent type of man as a model of masculinity and mock more emotionally available men as effeminate. However, he is not advocating for censorship, making the case that less censorship is needed, that parents should talk about sex and intimacy, that sex education should be about more than preventing STDs, but also about what healthy sex is and the value of intimacy. We need to stop associating sex with shame so children learn healthy attitudes that include the idea that sex is mutual, not something boys take from girls or men from women.

You Throw Like a Girl is a valuable book on men, women, violence, and liberation. It seeks to liberate men as much, or more, than women. McPherson’s target audience is men. Many of his ideas tread familiar ground, but from a new perspective. There is also fresh insight into how misogyny is created afresh, from the ground up from one child to the next, one generation to the next.

I have to say the first few chapters are a bit of a slog. There is so much of the jargon of anti-oppression work that I have a hard time picturing someone persevering to where the book gets really good. McPherson uses that exercise that asks students what they do on a regular basis to avoid being sexually assaulted, an eye-opener for men. Perhaps that might have been a good introduction to draw people into the book.

From the beginning, he talks a lot about privilege, his privilege as a man and as a professional athlete and celebrity. The thing is, it might be better to hit people with their privileges after you have paved the way, not right from the onset. People who are not into social justice are so reactive to the idea they might have privilege, that I fear he will lose his readers before he gets to the good stuff. McPherson himself writes about his frustration on being told the people who need his book won’t read it and the people who read his book won’t need it, but that is true of most anything about social justice. Particularly if you start by discussing privilege.

I liked this book a lot, once I got past the first couple of chapters. I thought McPherson adds value and depth to our understanding of misogyny and its construction. I may just read it again.

You Throw Like a Girl will be released on September 17th. I received an ARC from LibraryThing.

You Throw Like a Girl from Edge of Sports | Akashic Books
Don McPherson author site

  Tonstant.Weader | Sep 9, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
While "You Throw Like A Girl" would seem like a 'big issues' book it feels deeply personal. Don McPherson certainly came to his views through many years in social work, but like all men, he has grown up within a society dictating what it is to be a man with little room for variation. He brings his personal and professional experience, and passionately argues for a new masculinity embracing all of our humanity. He argues that this is not just about fighting the toxic masculinity that endangers women through men's violence. It is just as much, and probably more, about freeing men from the narrow confines of traditional masculinity. He wants men to be able to feel and process all of their feelings in healthy ways and take on meaningful roles and skills without concern for gender expectations needlessly applied to those activities. And I agree. ( )
  fundevogel | Sep 2, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Don McPherson’s You Throw Like a Girl: The Blind Spot of Masculinity (2019, Akashic Books) is a reflective memoir of how one man learned to be a man and what that means for society. A former star quarterback, the author tells how he learned to talk with boys and men about how to prevent violence against women by claiming themselves as people first and men second. McPherson shows us how men are restricted by social expectations and how this restriction leads to the dehumanization of those who are not Men. Importantly, he teaches men how their ideas about their roles as protectors and warriors harm themselves, as well as those they love most.

For those who are interested in promoting self-exploration, McPherson introduces tools like “The Man Box”, which encourages the deconstruction of social messages about gender. We all internalized ideas about what it means to be a man or a woman; sometimes, these ideas get distorted, leading to imbalances in our identity and our relationships with others. Vulnerability, not generally considered a male trait, is displayed on the pages of this book with significant effect.

His idea is to be a whole person, not a one-dimensional notion of gender, and through the process of becoming whole to discover fuller, equal relationships with others. When men step down off their self-created pedestals and model equality with women, then boys and girls will be emotionally and physically safer. The correlation between power and violence is a message that women have discussed for decades. In this book, we hear from a man, trained and reinforced with male privilege, speak to men about power.
Applying the man box tool—often used as a gender box—to addiction treatment is a topic for exploration sparked while I read this book. Here is a tool for understanding identity, including an addict identity. Each of us is constructed using multiple identities, so there is a lot to explore in how an individual's identity directs their behavior—and how identity change is part of behavior change and healing.

I would like to see McPherson go further in his social criticism. Yes, men are trained to “not be women”, but there are whole other groups out there that deserve equal treatment from men. As society grapples with gender fluidity and gender identity, how do folks who are not men or women feel safe as they struggle to define affirming identities? An identity built on not being something still ties that identity to its mirror image; identity built on approaching an idea leads to more powerful change. Casting off the old mold is only a first step. It would be interesting to continue the discussion begun in You Throw Like a Girl onto what it means to be a whole, vulnerable, emotionally aware person.

This book caught my imagination and I recommend it to coaches, teachers, parents, and those who influence the psychological development of boys and adolescents. McPherson uses his story of transformation from sports idol to social activist to highlight lessons and tools we can all use to live a better life. Maybe the most essential message of this book is the author himself—he walks the walk to learn how to live the life he models. ( )
  RmCox38111 | Aug 28, 2019 |
  gwspiral | Aug 26, 2019 |
This book is an ARC (Advance Reading Copy) sent to me by Akashic Books.
YOU THROW LIKE A GIRL is one of Akashic Books Edge of Sports imprint. This series “addresses issues across many different sports at both the professional and nonprofessional/collegiate level”. I have read several of these titles and they are - each one - excellent, informative, interesting, and sometimes life-changing reading.
YOU THROW LIKE A GIRL was accompanied by a lengthy press kit which always proves interesting and informative. I was impressed by the bio information on Don McPherson. As “a national speaker and advocate for the prevention of sexual and domestic violence, he uses the appeal of sports to focus on a positive understanding of the masculine identity.” An editor’s statement and several news articles about Mr. McPherson’s work are very complimentary.
YOU THROW LIKE A GIRL is scheduled to be published on September 3, 2019.
An Introduction; 8 Chapters; and a Conclusion. The Conclusion has a very important, personal, thoughtful message - “Be your son’s father; not your father’s son.”

I quite liked the following passages:
p. 19 of the Introduction. “Most men will quickly and readily agree that violence against women is wrong and that something should be done to stop it.”….. “However, what men do not always want to deal with, is a solution that demands scrutiny of their own behavior and privilege, even in the context of doing what they know is right.”

pp. 46-47 of Chapter 1. I really identified with the classroom incident involving the inappropriate behavior of the 5th grade boys. I encountered this same behavior (and reaction by my peers and administrators) many, many times as an educator.
Chapter 1 was the most relevant to me while reading this book. Mr. McPherson writes “The expression ‘Boys will be boys’ is typically used when boys’ behavior ranges from less desirable to outright deplorable. It’s most often invoked as an excuse for grossly inappropriate or dangerous behavior and sometimes delivered with nostalgia for a simplistic form of masculinity devoid of the maturity and personal responsibility of ‘manhood.’ This is the most dangerous blind spot of masculinity because it neglects the roots of violence and violent behavior.”

Chapter 6 is a very important chapter with ‘Men’s Privilege = Women’s Problem a focal talking point.

p.160 of Chapter 6 contains a World-Shattering/Myth Shattering sentence. “To explain why college men engage in sexually predatory behavior, we often blame the copious amounts of alcohol that flood the campus environment. In actuality, alcohol only serves the purpose of lowering men’s inhibitions: it reveals their attitudes and expectations more than it causes them.”

This is a very thoughtful, very informative, very intelligent, extremely powerful book. Every man and woman should read it. ( )
  diana.hauser | Aug 15, 2019 |
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