Local writer and Pique columnist G.D. Maxwell doesn’t particularly enjoy wearing heels.
But that didn’t stop him from taking part in the sixth annual Whistler Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, which asks men to don red heels and stand up for the prevention of violence against women.
Instead, Maxwell, who contributed over $800 to the Howe Sound Women’s Centre (HSWC), elected to sport footwear he feels a little more comfortable in.
“It’s all about supporting the cause, and I feel like I can support the cause as well in red ski boots as I can in red high heels,” he laughed.
“I don’t even think women ought to wear high heels, quite frankly.”
Maxwell was among 45 men – the highest participation rate in the event’s history — who strutted their stuff along the Village Stroll on Sunday, April 12, joining communities around the globe on the march to stop rape, sexual assault and gender violence.
Participants raised just over $2,100 this year, funds that will go directly to the HSWC-operated Whistler Women’s Centre, which provides resources, referrals and emotional support for women and children.
While that total was down from the $5,800 raised in 2014, HSWC community programs manager Shana Murray said fundraising isn’t the most important goal of the event.
“It really is, for us, more about raising awareness in the community and having the guys out walking,” she said. “The fundraiser part is important as well because it helps keep our drop-in centre open, but we’re hoping more donations come in online.”
First-time walker Michael Robinson admitted that the heels “felt terrible” on his feet, but he was nevertheless eager to be a part of the community conversation around violence against women.
“It’s an issue that gets swept under the carpet and it’s absolutely vital to talk about,” he said. “It’s something men have to be much more aware of and much more open about talking about.”
Former Whistler mayor Ken Melamed has participated in each Walk a Mile event and even has his own pair of heels he breaks out each year.
“One of the top perks of being a mayor was that they actually gave me my own pair. It says ‘Ken Melamed’ on the shoebox,” he said.
The current federal Green Party nominee for the Sea to Sky riding, Melamed spoke about the broader, systemic issues various levels of government have worked on improving in Canada to one day achieve true gender equality.
“I think we can be very proud in Canada, where we do have a strong intention of bringing women into executive positions, into government. There are organizations dedicated to doing that, and I know our local government and throughout (senior levels of) government, we’re trying to encourage women to run, be leaders in their communities and be good, strong role models,” he said.
“(One) purpose of this walk is to let women know that there are a lot of men who know that we have a better society when women are respected as equals.”
According to the United Nations, the minimum percentage of women in government required to adequately reflect women’s concerns is 30 per cent. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities hopes to increase the ratio of women in local government to that level by 2026, up from 21.4 per cent in 2012.
In November, Whistler made history by electing its first-ever female-majority council.
Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is an international event that began in 2001 to address the prevalence of violence against women across all cultures. A 2013 World Health Organization study found that one in three women worldwide would experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.