In his third year participating in Whistler's Walk A Mile in Her Shoes, which asks men to stand up for the prevention of violence against women, former Whistler mayor Ken Melamed still isn't used to wearing the event's signature red heels.
"I remember how uncomfortable it was in the past years and I'm actually dreading the walk," he said, minutes before setting off from Village Square with 27 other men in heels who raised approximately $5,800 in all for the Howe Sound Women's Centre (HSWC).
Still, even with the discomfort that can come with sporting two-inch heels, Melamed knows how important an event like Whistler's fifth annual Walk A Mile is.
"When you look at the statistics, the level of violence (against women) that continues to persist despite years of trying to address the issue, I think we can't slow down any efforts to raise consciousness and show our solidarity with women," he said. "Men care and we don't really have any tolerance for violence against women, and I think it's really important to show that support from men who tend not have to deal with this stuff."
Held in September last year, the walk was moved to Sunday, April 20 in 2014 to coincide with the closing day of the World Ski and Snowboard Festival and help drive awareness in the community during one of the resort's busiest weekends, according to HSWC resource manager Megan Reynolds. The effort evidently paid off, as local men raised nearly $3,000 more than September's walk, despite their being six fewer participants.
"Whistler is very supportive," Reynolds said. "Certainly there's been lots of support from the men in the community and a strong willingness to come out and support the walkers themselves."
The funds raised will go towards programs offered by the Howe Sound Women's Centre Society, like the Women's Drop-In Centre in Whistler, which helps women and children leaving abusive relationships, as well as the Squamish centre's health and wellness programs and community outreach efforts.
Reynolds said it's crucial that men get involved in the discussion around violence against women in society.
"It's really important for men to stand up against violence against women and create a voice for women who otherwise don't have one," she said. "It really demonstrates a collaborative approach to the anti-violence movement, and that men are part of the conversation and the change we're seeking to create equality for women and safety for women and children in society."
Whistler Arts Council facility manager Chris Hodkinson took part for the first time Sunday, raising over $200, and said the walk is a great way for men "to demonstrate, even in a small way, that there's a society-wide responsibility in addressing this issue."
Another first-timer was Mountain Life Magazine editor (and Pique columnist) Feet Banks, who sported a red helmet on the walk not for safety purposes, but as an accessory to his fire truck-red heels.
"Violence against everyone is wrong, and especially against women; These are our mothers, our sisters, our daughters — the foundation of civilized society," he said. "Anything you can do to help the women's centre to me is a no-brainer."
Banks also consulted with a few of the women in his life for some tips on strutting in high heels, and had some sound advice for future Walk A Mile participants.
"Take er' easy," he said, "and I think if you really want to go for it, just stay on your toes, don't worry about the heels. If you can do the whole mile on your tiptoes, do it."
Walk A Mile In Her Shoes is an international event that started 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.
Visit www.hswc.ca for more information on Whistler Walk A Mile and all of Howe Sound Women's Centre's programs.
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