Male students from various fraternities, clubs and sports teams gathered by the Arch on Tuesday to protest sexual assault and violence against women by wearing women's shoes – a symbolic act intended to show solidarity
The men fumbled through bins of high heels to look for a pair that they guessed could be the right size. After finally getting them on the right feet, the next challenge was walking. Most of the male students struggled to find the balance and poise to master the foreign footwear. After getting used to them a little, they were ready to walk a full mile in the high heels as a form of protest.
These were all students participating in the annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event sponsored by the Women’s Center, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Alpha Kappa Psi Fraternity, Brothers Making A Difference, healingSPACE Sexual Violence Resource Center, the Interfraternity Council, Active Minds, Counseling Services, the Public Safety Department, Ramapo Athletics and Ramapo Pride. The event was also part of Ramapo’s “It’s On Us” campaign to end sexual assault on college campuses.
“A lot of different organizations got involved this year,” said Women’s Center Student Violence Prevention Coordinator Kevin Hurtado. “The great thing is they actually reached out to us for this event which shows how much people really want to get involved.”
Hurtado added that with the recent sexual assault cases on campus last semester and at the beginning of this semester, the topic of rape is on a lot of people’s minds.
“It’s unfortunate but it shows that it’s real,” Hurtado said.
This event was also combined with the Clothesline Project, which displayed T-shirts made by rape survivors all over the Grove.
“It’s a way to air out the dirty laundry,” said healingSPACE’s outreach assistant, Gina Giordano.
“I hope that while you’re walking in heels you also look at some of these T-shirts,” Giordano said as she addressed the crowd of students waiting to start the mile-long walk around campus.
In his opening speech, James Perlas, the Women’s Center’s men’s outreach coordinator, urged everyone to enjoy the event but also think about how they can take the momentum from the afternoon to inflict real change.
“It’s a really fun event and it’s fun to take pictures and everything but it doesn’t end with this. For it to really make a difference men have to take it beyond this. It ends when we all step up against sexism and violence against women,” Perlas said.
After the speech, participants prepared for the walk by getting posters and adjusting some already painful heels.
As the walk was just about to begin, Kat McGee, the Women’s Center’s assistant director, gave the men some words of wisdom: “My advice is slow and steady.”
Aside from an interesting view, passersbys also heard the protest chants coming from the crowd and through megaphones.
“One, two, three, four, we won’t take it anymore! Five, six, seven, eight, stop the violence, end the hate!” they chanted as they walked through the Grove, past the Student Center and through the quad.
Some chants were written and distributed at the start of the event while others seemed to be made up on the spot throughout the course of the walk.
“What’s a real man? Strong! What’s strength? Standing up for others!” ad-libbed some of the marchers who felt inspired to come up with their own chants.
“Kudos on your healthy masculinity!” shouted Perlas at the front of the pack.
Billy Butka, one of the men who participated in wearing heels, described the experience as, “somewhat painful but manageable.” Butka said he came to have fun but also to support a good cause.
“This issue has affected a lot of people I know and I’m here to raise awareness about it," he said.