Over 600 men rejoiced at Yonge and Dundas Square Friday after marching a mile through downtown Toronto, in high heels.
Toronto’s fifth annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes fundraiser raised over $81,000 which will be donated to the White Ribbon Campaign.
The Campaign is run mostly by men who are dedicated to end violence against women through education, re-defining masculinity and the promotion of healthy relationships.
“Men need to be involved, men are committing most of the violence, men can make the changes to prevent that from happening,” said Todd Minerson, the Executive Director of the White Ribbon Campaign.
“Men are going to listen to other men on these issues so we have to be a part of this solution.”
Onlookers stopped to stare, and sometimes laugh, at the many men dressed in suits and bright red stilettos hobbling down Yonge Street.
Lee Hamilton chose to walk for the first time four years ago to support the women in his life who have been subjected to violence. He acknowledges that a deeper message sits underneath the hilarity of seeing men attempt to walk in high heels.
“We’re really making a statement. A large group of men walking through the heart of downtown Toronto draws a spectacle…the idea is to bring attention to the cause itself,” Hamilton said.
Jeff Perera, White Ribbon’s Community Engagement Manager, agrees.
“We’re not in any way trying to create a parody, or make fun of women in high heels,” Perera said. “Not all women wear high heels, and by wearing a pair of heels I have no idea what it means to be a woman. But it’s a statement to say, ‘we’re thinking about it.’”
Perera celebrated his fifth year walking for his mother at the event.
“Growing up in a home of abuse where my mom was physically abused by my father, seeing her covered in bruises really affected me…I recognized this is my male role model, this is my example of being a man,” Perera said.
Perera believes the key to ending violence against women is to break down the unattainable ideals of what it means to be a man. [unattainable? vague]
He says White Ribbon creates a safe space for men so they can learn to respect themselves, and the women in their lives.
We talk about the pressures you feel as a man and the toxic ideas of masculinity,” Perera said.
“The way we police each other to this narrow idea of being a man, how that affects us in romantic relationships where the only emotion we’re allowed to express is aggression or assertiveness or anger.”
Walk a Mile in Her Shoes takes place in over 60 countries. So far the walks have raised almost $400,000.
“It’s a moment to say ‘I want to reflect on the everyday realities for women and girls,’” Perera said.