Ohio University holds 7th annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

Participants stumble around in heels in uptown Athens during Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. Photo courtesy of Evan Chwalek

On Saturday, the streets of Athens were flooded with men in heels. At the seventh annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, Bobcats, fathers, ROTC students, fraternity brothers and community members marched in women’s heels to end sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking.

After the opening remarks at noon, the walk began on Court Street and proceeded to College Street, followed by Park Place and ended at Baker Center.

Director of the Women’s Center, Susanne Dietzel, commended those who participated.

“I am applauding you all; I am applauding the men who took the courage to stand up today and proclaim their solidarity with victims and survivors of sexual violence,” Dietzel said.

She also recognized the importance of the role of men in the fight to end sexual violence.

“Now we have reached another milestone in the development of our movement and that is the involvement of men,” said Dietzel. “Men are empowering themselves to do the right thing and to play their part in raising awareness and acting for change.”

Dietzel asserted that the commitment goes beyond the march and urged men to be true allies to women.

Bill Arnold, graduate assistant for bystander intervention and prevention education at Ohio University Women’s Center and Ohio University Survivor Advocacy Program, also encouraged men to actively be part of the resolution.

“Most perpetrators are men, but most men aren’t perpetrators,” said Arnold. “Just because men aren’t overtly part of the problem doesn’t mean they can’t overtly be part of the solution.”

Arnold shared startling statistics of rape and partner violence and argued that the problem is the objectification of human beings in society.

“Objectification plus property plus less value equals gender based violence,” stated Arnold.

Arnold urged the men in attendance to discourage the objectification of women in everyday encounters. International student Hashim Pashtun attended the march for the third consecutive year on Saturday and advocated for the equality of women.

Pashtun spoke on behalf of international students, stating that at his first march two years ago, he was the only international student in attendance.

“We are here to tell all of the women on campus, we care for you, we love you and we will do everything…to make sure that you are safe and sound and you have all the equal rights as we have on this campus, in this city, in this state, in this nation, and all around the world,” Pashtun said.

After the mile march, Pashtun’s feet were badly blistered and bleeding.

“I am proud of it and I won’t mind it bleeding again and again,” said Pashtun. “If that is the pain required so we can make sure that women are safe on campus, I think me and every man on this campus is ready to give this much pain to make sure that women have all the equal rights as men.”

Sideline support motivates walkers at the Class Gateway on Friday afternoon. Photo courtesy of Evan Chwalek

With pain evident on a few faces, the men recited: “We believe you, we support you, it is not your fault!” and “Whatever you wear, wherever you go, yes means yes and no means no!” amongst other chants.

Dean of the Medical School, Ken Johnson, D.O., expressed his wonder at the chants. Some were great and some were very direct and eye-opening, said Johnson. He intends to participate in the march next year and says he hopes to encourage others to do the same.

Johnson stated that it was an uncomfortable mile in women’s shoes. The discomfort for some was temporarily relieved when they were met on the sidewalk with free donuts from two men who hoped to do their part to support the march.

Dean Bruckner, a member of the Healthy Masculinities group on campus, decided to play his part in supporting the men and the march to end sexual violence against women. Bruckner met Jeff Walsh, whose son participated in the march with Reserve Officers’ Training Corp members. The two men stood on the sidewalk offering fresh donuts from McHappy’s Bake Shop to the marchers. The pair was eager to support the march and their gesture was visibly appreciated by the men as they staggered through the streets.

As the men made it to the finish line, they were still chanting, “We believe you, we support you, it is not your fault,” as they came to a halt at the top of Baker Center.

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes was the last event of a week of awareness for gender-based violence. Men traded in their boots and tennis shoes to march a mile in women’s heels. After the march, many men expressed a better understanding of what it takes to physically and mentally walk a mile in a woman’s shoe.

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