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The Scarlet & Black

Genders bend during march against sexual violence

This Saturday, downtown Grinnell will burst into a display countering gender normativity.  Men will be walking in heels.

The Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event is the international men’s march to stop gender violence. Not only men will participate, and wearing heels is not obligatory but encouraged. The website for Walk a Mile in Her Shoes states as its mission, “to create a unique and powerful public experience that educates individuals and communities about the causes of sexualized violence, provides them with prevention and remediation strategies and empowers them to further develop and implement these knowledges and skills interpersonally and politically.” Grinnell joins this worldwide movement to raise awareness as well as funds to go toward ending gender violence.

Real Men is working with Iowa Valley Community College (IVCC) to organize this event to raise awareness and promote the prevention of sexual assault.  Real Men is a student group created by RLC Dan Hirsch in which campus leaders strive to promote a positive image of masculinity.

The event comes to Grinnell through co-president of Real Men, Ryan Creps ’12, and his relationship with Laura Armstrong, a professor of English and humanities at IVCC. Creps, who grew up in Grinnell, took a Gender and Women’s Studies class with Armstrong while he was in high school.  Real Men was created around the same time that Armstrong initiated the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event in Grinnell.

“When she had started this Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event two years ago, it just seemed like a natural fit that I just started in this group with Real Men and we had maintained a really good relationship,” Creps said. “So I said, ‘of course we want to jump on this and help you guys out.”

During the first annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event in 2010 taking place in Grinnell, only members of Real Men walked with the community members.  This year, with college support from the Office of Community Engagement, Real Men hopes for one hundred or more college-affiliates to participate.

“The idea is to get men to break these gender norms and wear high heels which, you know, have been this sign of sexualization and inhibition of women over the years. When men break these gender norms it sends a large message to the outer community that is seeing this,” said Creps.

The registration fee, covered for students by the office for community engagement, is $10 and includes a T-shirt and a pair of heels to borrow. Sam Offenberg ’14, a member of Real Men, is hoping to find a pair of size 17 women’s heels to walk in.

“IVCC has collected a bunch of high heels.  So they basically just have a big box and we’re also collecting.  It’s really nice to have that resource because I feel like a lot of people who wear heels wouldn’t want to give up their heels to be ruined by size fifteen feet,” Offenberg said, as he looked down at his feet.

All proceeds from the walk go to Poweshiek County Emergency Services. Students, faculty, staff, and the Grinnell community will begin strutting downtown beginning at the Drake Community Library, 5th and Park, at 5 p.m. on Saturday.

“I’m not going to lie, I’ve been looking forward to walking a mile in her shoes.  I really am. It’s a great cause and it’s an excuse to wear high heels,” Offenberg said.

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