The men arrived in downtown Asheville in all shapes, sizes, and ages. They had names such as Adrian, Greg, Blaine, Dan, and Gordon. They came from all walks of life: hippies and hipsters, blue collar and professional, civil servants and college students. And they all wore women’s shoes.
The fourth annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event saw a lot of men gathered to wear high heels—some really high heels—and walk (or run) a mile up and down the hills of downtown Asheville to raise money and awareness for victims of sexual violence. The event is a product of Our Voice, the nonprofit crisis intervention and prevention agency that serves victims of sexual violence, age 13 through adult, in Buncombe County. Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is the most high profile event that Our Voice produces each year during April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Walk a Mile Asheville is part of the International Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault, and Gender Violence.
The beginning tutorial by Kip Veno of Lexington Avenue clothing store Hip Replacements on how to walk in heels was golden. He illustrated the proper techniques of walking in high fashion. Himself an icon of Asheville fashion, Kip donned super rocker black platforms and tight pink leopard pants. His assistants sashayed across the stage showing just the right way to hold your butt and strut your stuff. “Don’t lean too far forward” was the first rule, “you don’t want to fall over now, do you?”
The men were walking, striding, sauntering and hobbling toward their goal of making it a mile in high heels. There were 8-inch black platforms with rhinestones, high-heeled cowboy boots, and pumps covered in pom-poms and flowers. The creativity and sheer joy of the day was apparent in the footwear—and in all the faces of the participants. Some walked with signs offering messages such as “Consent is sexy.”
At one point in the walk, a couple who was obviously visiting from out of town, came out of a store and were suddenly faced with wave after wave of men, walking toward them in high heels. Men in sports uniforms, men in dresses, men in fraternity shirts, men in rescue gear—with hairy legs and feet in heels with rhinestones and feathers and pink patent leather. The looks were priceless. First confusion, then concerned expressions toward one another (“Should we run, honey?”), then a dawning of understanding followed by smiles and applause.
Most participated, and raised money, as some sort of team. Those groups were from all arenas: Asheville Rugby Club made a sporting showing, even playing some rugby in heels before the walk started. Just Economics, another wonderful nonprofit, was there to support Our Voice as was Asheville Foot and Ankle Group, which may have received some extra business after the walk concluded. Earth Fare, CrossFit Asheville, The Hop Ice Cream, military veterans, and many other teams were there representing community organizations, businesses, academics, teachers, and nonprofits About 20 guys from the Zeta Theta chapter of Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity at UNC Asheville showed up for the parade.
Many of the guys brought their own supporters. But many others in the Asheville community showed up, too. They came out of the businesses, they got out of their cars. Everyone cheered, waved, smiled, and encouraged their high-heeled heroes. As they walked, people reached out to touch an arm and say “thank you.” You could hear that thank you all up and down the route. One woman came out of her business and stood there with tears in her eyes and just quietly watched.
As the end approached, the hardier souls picked up the pace. Many of them actually sprinted in their heels to the finish. Sprinted!
They were still laughing and in great spirits as they crossed the finish line. Then when they stopped, it hit them. “My feet are killing me!” one participant said as the crowd laughed. The rugby coach stopped to show off his blisters. You could hear the sighs of relief as they kicked off their heels and sat down.
Every man finished the course. Some approached the finish with support, one guy leaning on his wife. People applauded as he crossed the finish line. Another man stopped just before the line. “You can do it!” someone yelled. After a deep breath to regain his resolve, he walked those last excruciating few steps. “Thank you!” the same person in the crowd yelled again. He beamed—and immediately kicked off his shoes.
When it was over and done, Our Voice had raised $37,000. For nearly 40 years Our Voice has been there to aid, console, advocate, and educate for victims and survivors. Our Voice maintains a 24-hour crisis line, does individual and group counseling, and serves as an accompaniment to medical services, law enforcement and court proceedings. All money raised from the April 27 event will go to further the organizations mission.
To be a part of Walk A Mile in Her Shoes for 2014 or to find out more about Our Voice, visit ourvoicenc.org.