“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”—Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird
We’ve all heard the sayings; we all know the idea. In order to sympathize with someone else’s pain, you must endure that pain in some degree at some point in time.
Last week, at one of the main Take Back the Night events, ETSU men took these mantras to heart as they participated in Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.
Students and faculty walked a mile around campus and State of Franklin—in heels.
This was the third year this event has been held on the campus of ETSU, and OASIS coordinator Kate Emmerich said the event has been popular since she first introduced it to the area three years ago.
Historically, education about gender violence and sexual assault has been directed towards women—how to protect and keep them safe. However, Emmerich feels that if more men would become engaged in preventing the behavior from happening to begin with, the education would be more beneficial.
“The idea is to engage men and teach them what the statistics are, why this is their problem too,” Emmerich said, “and how to confront people when they hear things like rape jokes and hear people objectifying women or see someone prying someone with drinks to get them to have sex.”
Emmerich said the message projected by the campaign is “for men to experience for one mile the pain that women have to go through just by being born women and the societal expectations that are pushed on us without our consent or choice, like feeling that we need to wear high heels in order to fit into the professional world.”
She added, “These are just shoes! Imagine all the other things we have to suffer just by being born female and having these expectations associated with that.”
All the money that came in from shoe-rental fees and donations went to Safe Passage, Johnson City’s domestic violence shelter.
Emmerich also provided background on the shoes used in the event.
“There is actually a cross-dressing shoe company that is affiliated with Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Inc.,” Emmerich said. “They direct us to a specific shoe company in Wisconsin that’s called Le Dame Footwear, and that’s where we order. They’re actually called ‘The Walk a Mile Heel.’”
Kappa Delta, creators of the Confidence Coalition, were partners for the event.
Kenzie Maples, a Kappa Delta member volunteering at the event, said, “We’re involved with Walk a Mile in Her Shoes because we really work toward promoting confidence in women, and this organization does a really good job with that.”
Kappa Delta has partnered with many OASIS events because of the similarity in goals with the Confidence Coalition.
Anna Graham, another volunteer, said, “I just think it’s cool that it’s promoting something that people like to throw under the carpet. It happens a lot. Let’s promote that it’s going on, and let’s do something about it. It gets people to realize that it’s something serious, but in a fun way.”
Participant Jaylen Grimes, who came with ETSU’s rugby team, said, “I’ve never done anything like this; this is a new experience, but this is why I’m here in college. It’s for a good cause—awareness of [violence] against women, which is a very serious matter. I’m behind it 100 percent, so I don’t mind doing it.”