Our annual Walk a Mile In Her Shoes event is one of Blackburn Center’s signature opportunities to showcase the role that men can – and do – play in supporting our vision of communities free from domestic and sexual violence. While our walkers include women and children as well as men, the focus of the walk is on engaging men in Blackburn Center’s mission to end gender violence. Men from the community participate in a public reading of our pledge, Ten Things Men Can Do To End Gender Violence, and commit to personal action in support of that pledge. Local male community leaders help us kick off the walk. And of course, our male walkers — from athletes to bikers to students to dads and granddads to military members to business leaders and more — are literally “walking the walk” in this call to action to end gender violence. Many of our male participants opt to wear high heels (LINK), taking an extra step in understanding what women experience every day: walking in heels is symbolic of the difficulties and challenges women face every day—being on guard against the possibility of a sexual assault or of violence in their home, and for some, walking the path of healing following an assault. Male allies are critical to the success of not only our walk, but also our mission to end gender violence.
In recent weeks, the subject of male allies has been a hot topic. Current actor and former NFL player Terry Crews made headlines with his fantastic interview with Dame Magazine. According to Crews, the feminist issue that really resonates with him is the marginalization of women: “What happens in society when women are marginalized and not respected is that the smartest people are there, but you don’t use them.” Between rejecting traditional gender roles and championing equality, Crews is a proud feminist — and a strong male ally. Of course, Crews isn’t the only famous man to “come out” as feminist recently. Comedian Aziz Ansari has also declared himself to be a feminist, stating that he’s for “equal rights for men and women.” Ansari has received a fair amount of criticism for “mansplaining” or dumbing down what feminism is, but he is pushing forward with his beliefs. For example, he now uses his shows as an opportunity to educate men on how common it is for women to be followed or harassed on the street, asking women to raise their hand if they’ve had this experience, and men to clap if they’re surprised that all or nearly all women raised their hands. And while his statements — or the statements made by Crews — may not be perfect, it is incredibly important that these men are discussing these issues and shining a spotlight on subjects that aren't typically in the public eye. Famous men aren’t the only ones who should be speaking out about feminism, gender equality and gender violence — every man should do it, in order to truly make a change in our society. If you’re looking for tips on how to be a male ally, this post has some great ideas!
At this year’s Walk, we know that we will see strong support from Westmoreland County men — and we hope to see that support extend throughout the year. You can register for the event here, and take the pledge to end gender violence here – and make a personal commitment to actions to support that pledge. As always, men can support Blackburn Center in a variety of ways, from donating to support our work to volunteering with our organization. We appreciate your support — and look forward to seeing you at St. Clair Park on April 18!!