MEN WALK A MILE IN HER SHOES® IN GREENSBURG, PA
At least 30 football players slipped their feet into red high heels before taking a one mile walk.
Yes, according to my husband, Monte (we live in Laurel Mountain Borough), who walked the same mile as the football players did—but without the high heels.
They Seton Hill University football team and Monte were among 650 participants in the 3rd annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® event sponsored by the Blackburn Center at Lynch Field in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. The event is a men’s march to stop rape, sexual assault and gender violence.
The Blackburn Center, domestic violence center, invited men to become actively involved in their mission—to use their feet to raise their voice and speak out against the social norms that perpetuate domestic and sexual violence.
Monte was grateful he met some friends to walk with, Jim Galik and Jean Slusser of Strangford (near Blairsville). Together they completed the entire mile.
You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.
Although Monte wore his street shoes, Jim walked in a pair of size 12 wedge heels.
What was it like walking in women’s high-heel shoes?
“The feeling was very weird,” Jim said. “You have to be comfortable in your skin. That over half (the walkers) were men made it easier.
“Actually, there was little discomfort. I bought a pair of sensible shoes—wedges—so there was not a balance problem. And I wore them for about four hours on Friday while doing normal activities. I felt confident (in doing the walk).”
The discomfort he felt was due to the fact that his second toe on his left foot is slightly longer than it should be, which caused him to limp a little.
He noticed that many of the male walkers wearing high heels struggled.
The men who opted to wear women’s heels took an extra step in understanding what women experience every day: walking in high heel shoes is symbolic of the difficulties and challenges women face every day—being on guard against the possibility of a sexual assault or of violence in their home, and for some, walking the path of healing following an assault.*
When Jim finished the walk he had a mini-insight, “understanding a little bit better about women who feel they need to or choose to dress that way.” He knows some women who complain it hurts (wearing high heels).
Jim said that what was more uncomfortable than walking the mile was purchasing his shoes.
“Jean was with me but she was shopping where there was her size,” he said. “There were two women at the other end of the aisle (in the store). They didn’t seem to be noticing me, though. But I wondered if they were wondering who this weirdo was buying women’s shoes.”
Jim and Jean represented the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ligonier Valley, located on Rt. 30 just east of Ligonier. Just before the event they recruited Monte to join them, and the three plus Simon and Becky Bouille posed for a team picture taken by the Blackburn Center. The Fellowship backed its walkers with a $500 pledge (from the Beulah Rosen Committee) for the Blackburn Center.
Jim participated because part of his basic value system “is to do what we can to face injustice, like domestic violence.”
Monte walked because he believes in the Blackburn Center’s work to stop domestic violence. Two friends donated an unsolicited $40 for the Center in recognition of his participation.
I intended to participate in the event but instead I was experiencing a severe enough stomach discomfort that I returned to bed.
The first thing Monte told me when he returned home was that he was “impressed that the football players walked as fast, or faster, than we did. They all walked the mile wearing high heels. Some of them walked pretty well.”
A non-football walker in front of Monte had some problems, he said. “The biggest problem I noticed was that they(the men wearing heels) went pigeon toed. But I didn’t notice anyone fall.”
Monte felt he wasn’t prepared to walk in women’s shoes.
“You would have to practice ahead of time,” he said. “I don’t know how you would do that.”
A couple of my women friends suggested that we should take him shopping now (at a Good Will store) and get him a pair of women’s shoes, ones with three-inch heels, and let him practice walking in them while he watches wrestling, hockey or football. Hopefully he will then be prepared to participate in the 2014 Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® event.
In addition to walking their mile, Monte and Jim signed a Ten Point Pledge, which includes the first three points:
- Approach gender violence as a MEN’S issue involving men of all ages, socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds.
- Not look the other way if another man is abusing his partner or is disrespectful or abusive to women and girls in general. I will urge him to seek help. If I am not sure what to say, I will consult a friend, parent, professor or counselor. I WILL NOT REMAIN SILENT.
- Have the courage to look inward. I will question my own attitudes and try hard to understand how my own attitudes and actions might inadvertently perpetrate sexism and violence and work hard toward changing them.
Domestic and sexual violence not only affects women. They affect wives, children, organizations, nations. Yet some of these behaviors are buried so deep within the culture that to define, acknowledge, and remedy the problem is a daunting task. The vast majority of victims and survivors of domestic violence is women, but men are also known to be victims. Whether the perpetrator or the victim, men must be a part of the solution to ending the violence.
The Greensburg event was a part of the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes®: The International Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault & Gender Violence.
It is a playful opportunity for men to raise awareness in their community about the serious causes, effects and remediations to sexualized violence. The walk literally asks men to walk one mile in women’s high-heeled shoes.**