I was coming online to write a post about something totally-non-dander-raising, but made the mistake of first pausing to read the New York Times’s piece on how Hobart and William Smith Colleges bungled a student’s rape report.
This is not about that, as many others have already committed much digital ink to cogent commentary. Instead, this is about my sneakers.
While reading the article, I learned about an organization called Walk a Mile In Her Shoes, a yearly anti-rape men’s march wherein men walk a mile — a full mile! — in the hobbling devices known as “women’s high-heeled shoes.” Apparently, this creates “a playful opportunity for men to raise awareness.”
For participants, the organization also offers helpful hints on the mechanics of actually walking in heels, like this:
“Stick together. Use a friend as a crutch. Make sure you leave the proper distance between you and your friend in proper bro hug fashion. Once stabilized, use the bro hug double back tap combo to disengage.”
On one hand, I do very much appreciate that there are men who care enough about preventing sexual violence to devote time and energy to trying to help.
On the other hand, I have some thoughts.
1. Your bro-hug language looks like it could use some hyphens. Good grammar, unlike high heels and screen-printed banners announcing the arrival of your bro-parade, costs nothing.
2. Part of the fun and funny nature of your events is rooted in the (assumed) hilarity of bros wearing lady-clothes. As a lady-type-person, there is a strong element of mockery in this which, even if not consciously intended, makes me uneasy.
2a. If men can only engage in or pay attention to efforts to educate people on women’s safety and bodily autonomy when there are yuk-yuks involved, we’ve got problems. (That is: we’ve got problems.)
3. You might want to consider whether and how the gendered stereotypes you reinforce with your bro-jargon and high heels contribute to rather than ameliorate the problem you are marching against.
4. It seems as though a not-insignificant amount of energy goes into these events, from the planning to the procurement of shoes and wigs to the writing of detailed walking guidelines. Possibly there is a chance that all that time, energy, and money is better spent educating your bros and supporting women in other ways — donating to women’s shelters; participating in existing, women-led events like Take Back the Night — that do not make the exceedingly non-funny nature of rape and sexual violence all about your Manly Hi-Jinx.
I’m sure that after the drag parades, you adjourn to area coffee shops for earnest conversations about sexual violence. Maybe you could stick with those, and take it from there.
By the way, I am a woman. My shoes look like this:
Feel free to walk in those. They’re a lot more comfy than heels, and are way better for running away from rapists. I’m sure you can still figure out a way to parody being a woman despite the gender-neutral footwear — maybe pretend to forget math, or talk in a high-pitched voice? You’ve got options.
In short: keep trying, but please try again.