By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
Some strutted and some stumbled, but over 400 men from Starkville and Mississippi State University slipped on their best heels yesterday to march to end sexualized violence against women.
The fourth annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event is organized by the department of relationships, violence and outreach at MSU to raise awareness of sexual violence.
“Sexual assault is not just a woman’s issue; it is a societal issue. Men are a part of that equation to eliminate sexual violence,” counseling psychologist Beatrice Tatem, who organized the event, said. “Most men don’t commit sexual violence, but we’re challenging those who do not do it to check the men that do.”
The men were challenged to walk a mile, or four laps around the Junction on the MSU campus, all while wearing high heeled shoes. Though the event might not sound appealing to most men, “Walk a Mile” had a record turnout. So many men registered this year that event organizers ran out of high heels, but that didn’t stop men from participating in the event.
Tatem credited the record numbers to the increased participation from the campus fraternities. Every fraternity was represented during the walk.
“We have a stereotype that all fraternity men are into the parties — that negative stereotype — but that’s not true,” John Thompson, a graduate assistant for fraternity and sorority life, said. “We wanted to show our campus and our community that we stand for more than that.”
Though some men struggled with their new footwear, the message was worth the pain.
“We wanted to get involved because I think everyone has a mother or a sister who we care so much for; we would hate for them to be one of the people we’re out here walking for,” Phi Beta Sigma Kevian Conley said. “We want these ladies to know that we may not understand what you go through, but for a day we can take some time and try to understand.”
The fraternities weren’t the only ones to participate. Starkville firefighters, Mayor Parker Wiseman and Verizon Wireless volunteers all came to the event.
“Anything that we can do to draw awareness to sexual assault or domestic violence is great, and I think some firemen wearing some high heeled shoes is going to draw attention,” Firefighter Brian Arnett said.
In addition to the record turnout of men, many women came out to support the event.
Tatem said the event’s success sent a message.
“I’m speechless; I’m touched; I’m motivated to continue to do work that often times can be seen as controversial,” she said. “I’m touched by the spirit of these students who came out in large numbers. I could just cry.”