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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Yeardley Love's Funeral

By Joe Ehrmann

I went to Yeardley Love's funeral with my twenty two year old son.  The University of Virginia lacrosse player was appearently murdered at the hands of a former boyfriend. My son, a college lacrosse player, was friends with Yeardley, her accused murderer, and many of the men and women on the UVA lacrosse teams.   Sitting next to him, I could feel and see him trying to process the conflicted emotions surrounding the enormity of this tragedy, compounded by knowing both the victim and the victimizer.  The young men sitting around me sobbed and sniffled. At one point in the ceremony I turned to an emotionally distraught young man and asked him if I could give him a hug. I was surprised at the strength and endurance of his hug as he held onto me seeking comfort and, I suspect, affirmation of his emotions and manhood. As he let go he said "thank you" without ever looking at me. Here lies part of the problem and a solution to the epidemic of violence women experience every day in Maryland and America.

At an early age, boys are fitted with emotional straightjackets tailored by a restricted code of behavior that falsely defines masculinity. In the context of "stop crying," "stop those emotions," and "don't be a sissy," we define what it means to "Be a Man!" Adherence to this "boy code" leaves many men dissociated from their feelings and incapable of accessing, naming, sharing, or accepting many of their emotions. 

When men don't understand their own emotions it becomes impossible to understand the feelings of another.This creates an "empathy-deficit disorder" that is foundational to America's epidemic of bullying, dating abuse and gender violence.  Boys are taught to be tough, independent, distrusting of other males, and at all cost to avoid anything considered feminine for fear of being associated with women. This leads many men to renounce their common humanity with women so as to experience an emotional disconnect from them. Women often become objects, used to either validate masculine insecurity or satisfy physical needs. When the validation and satisfaction ends, or is infused with anger, control or alcohol, gender violence is often the result.  

Violence against women is often thought of as a women's issue; but it is a mistake to call men's violence a women's issue. Since men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of this violence, this men's issue calls to question the cultural values that produce men who hurt women. Sadly, Yeardley Love was only one of four women murdered by intimate partners that day. Who knows how many others were raped, battered, sexually abused, harassed or exploited by men that day and every day in America?
Since Yeardley's funeral was packed with athletes, coaches, parents of athletes and sports fans, we need to look at the role sports could play in preventing future tragedies. Athletic Directors, coaches and educators have an almost unparalleled platform to bring together youth, families, and community partners to break the silence of gender violence and then design, implement and create preventive programs and activities. Educating boys and men in prevention programs is critical to reducing all forms of violence.  

Coaches can and should teach their players to challenge the attitudes and assumptions that dehumanize women. Players need to be taught how to confront abusive peers and how stand up and speak out on behalf of their mothers, sisters, daughters, grandmothers, aunts and female friends. Since so many boys no longer have a mentoring network of fathers, uncles, elders, and other males to initiate, train and guide them into manhood, coaches should and must assume part of this responsibility.
I'd like to think Athletic Directors and coaches all over  America brought their male and female teams together to help process Yeardley's death and to implement prevention strategies within their schools and communities. Yet as someone involved nationally in the sports world, I know that did not happen. A teachable moment was overlooked in the name of business, schedules, tournaments and the reality that men often choose apathy and indifference when confronting the conditions that foster abusive male behavior. Two weeks after Yeardley's death I watched the UVA male and female teams take field under the banner of ONE TEAM-ONE HEART-ONE LOVE.  In the name of the world I want my sons and daughters to live in; I can only hope Yeardley Love's murder sparks ONE MOVEMENT to eradicate gender violence.  

Robert Kennedy said,"Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world's ills, against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence....Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of our generation."  Each man and every coach must start challenging the social norms that define manhood and hold other men and players accountable for their behavior toward women.

1 comment:

  1. Coach Greg WilliamsMay 28, 2010 at 4:23 PM

    Very good article with some very thought provoking issues! However, until we as a culture, including the Church (and by that I mean any and all 'faiths' that profess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord whether or not they're actually teaching and discipling people along those lines), stand up against the laissez-faire and non-chalant attitude, and by our silence, acceptance of the casual free-sex attitudes in our media, education, govt., and yes again, the Church, we will continue to see this type of absolute disrespect for life, self and others!

    The casual sexual mores (actually a total lack thereof) in most of our culture, taught by so-called 'sexperts' from SIECUS, Advocates for Youth (how's that for a fallacious name) and Planned Parenthood (most of which have their roots in education and govt.) through our education systems, encouraged, promoted and glorified in the media and even accepted or taught as 'true and right' in many churches today has created a society that totally lacks Love and Respect, beginning with self and extending to others. This carries over into every part of our lives, mostly relationships, including those of coaches and athletes! While there may not be obvious or even evident sexual issues at hand in many cases, there is still, based on this type of pervasive and horrible so-called research and teaching, an underlying lack of respect for humanity, personhood and people in general that permeates and affects all of these issues and is very much at the heart of what we heard and saw regarding Ms. Love, her murderer and the others alluded to in this article!

    It begins in the Home, then the Church...and then we'll begin to see it once again positively affecting our education, media and govt., along with every other realm. The one thing we do have in Athletics and coaching is a captive audience if we will just take this to heart and reverse these horrible trends and teachings and begin to re-instill Love, Respect and all other character values that flow directly from these! We must also work to help parents understand this and work together with them in this respect!

    That is what SportsLeader, FCA, AIA and other excellent groups are working to do. The Character issues of Truth, Love and Respect are at the core of this problem and must be addressed in a Truthful way and not the way the world describes and defines any of these! However, if we won't take a stand and seriously deal with this ROOT issue, their approaches, while temporarily effective, will go the way of the rest of our culture and only address symptoms rather than causes and we will continue to see more and more cases of Yeardley Love!!!

    Thanks and... God bless in Christ!
    In His service


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