"Walk a Mile in Her Shoes"
USF participates in annual International “Men’s March To Stop Rape, Sexual Assault and Gender Violence.”
USF.edu News Writer
TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 18, 2010) – In the Marshall Student Center amphitheater, rows of tables were set up and organized by shoe size. Male USF students picked through the boxes, some hesitantly exchanging their Adidas and Nikes for colorful high heels as female students helped them pick out the right fit.
The University of South Florida men’s baseball team sat off to the left of the amphitheater, dressed in their basketball shorts, t-shirts and sunglasses, beads of sweat forming on their faces and bright red high heels tapping on the ground.
Thursday, Oct. 14, was USF’s third time participating in the annual event, “Walk A Mile in Her Shoes: The International Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault and Gender Violence.” The event was sponsored by the student organization Necessary Improvements to Transform Our Environment (N.I.T.E.), and two programs that it presides over, The Center for Victim Advocacy and Relationship, Equality, Antiviolence League (R.E.A.L.).
“I told them to get my brother the loudest, most obnoxious pair of high heels,” said M.J. Mendy, the student marketing coordinator for athletics.
Her brother, Sam Mendy, plays shortstop on the baseball team and came out with his team for the second consecutive year to participate in the event.
“We have no problem with it,” Sam said. “It’s for a good cause. We’re taught to respect women and we need to. [The high heels] hurt a little bit but the stuff we go through at practice is a lot worse.”
Silliness and fun aside, Nanci Newton, director of the Center for Victim Advocacy, reminded the crowd why they were there.
“This is such a fun event that it’s easy to forget the reason we’re here,” Newton said. She recounted the story of a young lady she met at last year’s event who was seen crying as the high-heeled men walked by.
“I’m a rape survivor and I never realized how many men cared,” the girl said.
Dean of Students Kevin Banks participated in the event, walking in a custom pair of high heels.
“He’s always worn flip-flops because we couldn’t find a pair of high heels that fit him,” said Eileen Dabrowski, the march’s coordinator. “This year, I made it my life’s mission to find them. They were especially made for him.”
Banks led the crowd with a cheer:
“R.E.A.L.!” the men chanted back as they pumped their signs in the air.
After the introductions were made, hundreds of students lined up to grab signs with messages like “Be a man, take a stand” and “Heels=Healing” to walk across the campus in an array of traditional female shoes, like stylish pumps, sequined flip flops and even one pair of pastel pink go-go boots.
“It’s a really good way to raise awareness for this cause,” said Alicia Gomez-Fuego, a senior and psychology major.
“For both men and women,” added her friend, Vanessa Rojas, also a senior psych major.
Dabrowski, a recent USF graduate and former N.I.T.E president, is responsible for bringing “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” to USF three years ago. She said the event’s name comes from the adage that you can’t truly know another’s experiences until you’ve walked a mile in her shoes.
And this event does literally just that. Men, accompanied by female students, teeter around campus on a mile-long walk demonstrating their willingness to stand up for women’s well-being.
“A lot of women are raped during their college years and that’s not ok,” Dabrowski said. “If women could end violence against women, it would be over but we need men involved.”
At the end of the march, everyone was invited to sign the “R.E.A.L. Men’s Promise to End Sexual and Relationship Violence” and even Rocky the Bull was seen scribbling his name with hoofed hand.
Daylina Miller covers student activities and trends and can be reached at 813-500-8754.