They say that ‘you can't really understand another person's experience until you've walked a mile in their shoes’, so when activist Frank Baird was brainstorming in 2001 on how to get more men involved in the fight against violence to women, he decided to get them to wear heels.
The Humble Beginnings
So began the ‘Walk a Mile in Her Shoes’ campaign, encouraging men to walk a literal mile in women’s high heels to help make more people aware of the shocking statistics surrounding violence against women. It is a phenomenon that has caught fire, with dozens of ‘Walk In Her Shoes’ events happening all over the world in an attempt to raise money for a variety of causes related to preventing domestic and sexual violence.
The result has been overwhelming: tens of thousands of men have marched and millions of dollars have been raised for good causes. The main benefit in Baird’s mind though is finally getting more men involved in what is usually seen as a ‘women’s issue’, noting that ‘this march gives men the opportunity to publicly demonstrate their courage and commitment to preventing sexualized violence".
‘Walk a Mile in Her Shoes’ has garnered attention because of the funny sight of seeing thousands of men teeter for a mile in stilettos. Yet as humorous as the march itself may seem, the topic for which they are raising awareness is anything but funny. The march is not a stunt, but a statement about the bigger role men need to play in ending sexualised violence against women. For example, 1 in 5 women in the United States will be raped in their lifetimes, and 1 in 4 women in the United Kingdom will experience violence in a personal relationship.
The chances are that someone in your circle of acquaintances has been or will be sexually assaulted: perhaps your wife, mother, sister, daughter or friend. While there are plenty of women out there campaigning to help end sexual and domestic assault, more men need to join the cause and realise how the seemingly innocuous comments and views they may make and hold help to perpetuate violence in our society.
A Fashion Statement
Why heels? As well as making a statement about living through the experiences of women, many men who have taken part in the marches have remarked on just how vulnerable wearing heels makes them feel. While fashion (and even some office dress codes) dictate that women should wear ever-higher heels, the practicality of the footwear is near non-existent.
There is also a link to changing mens attitudes towards what rape is and preventing the emergence of rape culture in society. What women wear is often cited as an example of how they could prevent being assaulted, but Baird is one of the many activists trying to forward the common-sense view that the only person who can prevent a rape is the rapist. While sexual violence affects both men and women, 99% of rapists are men. Even worse, many men aren’t taking rape as seriously as they should: a survey of US college men showed that they believed an estimated 50-65% of reported rapes were false claims, when in reality the number of false rape claims is between 2-6%.
Men walking in heels definitely brings a laugh, but hopefully it will also bring awareness to many people who do not realise that there is an endemic problem of violence against women in every country on the globe. More can be done and should be done to prevent assaults and help victims of violence. You can find out more about ‘Walk a Mile in Her Shoes’ events in your area on the official website.