Every spring, one of my old university’s fraternities would set up an event known as
“A Mile In Her Shoes,” wherein the young men would slip their feet into some high heels, sometimes in dresses and wigs, then walk approximately half a mile to signify the increased social risks women experience simply by being a woman.
Here is the gist of it, according to the march’s home page:
Each year, an ever-increasing number of men, women and their families are joining the award-winning Walk a Mile in Her Shoes: The International Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault & Gender Violence. A Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Event is a playful opportunity for men to raise awareness in their community about the serious causes, effects and remediations to sexualized violence.
There is an old saying: “You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” Walk a Mile in Her Shoes asks men to literally walk one mile in women’s high-heeled shoes. It’s not easy walking in these shoes, but it’s fun and it gets the community to talk about something that’s really difficult to talk about: gender relations and sexual violence.
Here is their promotion video:
Haha, get it? They’re “man enough” use the phrase “man enough,” commonly used to degrade or criticize guys who do not embody stereotypical masculinity! They’re hip! They’re cool! Look at them represent women, all of whom wear patent red leather heels with pointed toes! They’re “man enough” to wear heels because — wait, what? Never mind, they’re just guys wearing high heels while the beginning of that ridiculous Shania Twain song plays over and over and over.
Wearing high heels doesn’t signify the fundamentally different way women and men are treated by society with regard to sex and violence. Higher rape rates, higher rates of molestation, street harassment, workplace discrimination, domestic violence…I could go on, but we all have heard this before, and you are a busy person with things to do.
My issue with these marches isn’t that they are meant to help raise awareness (although many, many events that use the phrase ”raise awareness” are ludicrous and primarily used by pseudo-altruistic groups with self-involved leaders). I’m frustrated that they use pathetically stupid humor, alienate the trans* community and compare clumsily wandering around in high heels to the bemusement of a general community with, say, a single moment of what it’s like to experience violent or threatening behaviors of sexual nature.
Unfortunately for women, it’s not quite as entertaining to have somebody yell at you, chase after you, become irate if you ignore them or get aggressive when you reject them. Do I think men should have to experience that? Hell no, that’s absurd. The answer is never “let’s make things equally terrible.” But do I think they should take it seriously? Yes, and the incredible lack of seriousness for an event surrounding the ”raised awareness” of rape (for the, oh, three or so people who are not already aware of it) is disheartening and unsettling.