Abstract Title

Powerful or Playful?: An Investigation of the Effectiveness of Walk a Mile in Their Shoes Events

Abstract

Sexual violence continues to occur at an alarming rate on college campuses. In an effort to reduce these numbers, several colleges have initiated efforts to mobilize men as part of the solution. These efforts range from prevention programming, to special events targeted at men. At one such event, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes (WaM), men walk a mile in high heels to raise awareness about gender relations and sexual violence against women.

However, recent research suggests that WaM may not be effective in achieving its intended purpose. Therefore, in an effort to understand the goals and meanings produced at the event, I conducted a qualitative case study of Kent State’s WaM event. I joined the WaM planning committee, distributed surveys and conducted interviews with walkers and planning committee members, and recorded field note observations during the event. Data were analyzed through explanation building and “theoretical thematic analysis”.

Findings reveal that walkers were largely motivated by a desire to support a worthy cause and have fun. Staff had objectives of increasing participation and engaging men in preventing sexual violence. However, the over-emphasis on fun and charitable support left WaM falling short on developing feminist activist behaviors. The “fun” of wearing heels reduced WaM to a parody of doing femininity. In addition, heels were used in a way that reinforced gender and sexual inequalities and failed to extend men’s awareness beyond a “worthy cause” with which they have episodic involvement. Based on these findings, recommendations for practice will be discussed.

Modified Abstract

This qualitative case study of the on-campus event Walk a Mile in Their Shoes (WaM) utilized the analytic techniques of explanation building and “theoretical thematic analysis” to understand goals and meanings produced at WaM. Findings reveal that walkers were largely motivated by a desire to support a worthy cause and have fun. Staff had objectives of increasing participation and engaging men in preventing sexual violence. However, the over-emphasis on fun and participation left WaM short on developing feminist activist behaviors. The “fun” of wearing heels reduced WaM to a parody of doing femininity. In addition, heels were used in a way that reinforced gender and sexual inequalities and failed to extend men’s awareness beyond a “worthy cause” with which they have episodic involvement.

Research Category

Social Science/Education/Public Health

Primary Author's Major

Psychology

Mentor #1 Information

Dr. Susan Iverson

Presentation Format

Poster

Start Date

March 2016

Research Area

Higher Education

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Mar 15th, 1:00 PM

Powerful or Playful?: An Investigation of the Effectiveness of Walk a Mile in Their Shoes Events

Sexual violence continues to occur at an alarming rate on college campuses. In an effort to reduce these numbers, several colleges have initiated efforts to mobilize men as part of the solution. These efforts range from prevention programming, to special events targeted at men. At one such event, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes (WaM), men walk a mile in high heels to raise awareness about gender relations and sexual violence against women.

However, recent research suggests that WaM may not be effective in achieving its intended purpose. Therefore, in an effort to understand the goals and meanings produced at the event, I conducted a qualitative case study of Kent State’s WaM event. I joined the WaM planning committee, distributed surveys and conducted interviews with walkers and planning committee members, and recorded field note observations during the event. Data were analyzed through explanation building and “theoretical thematic analysis”.

Findings reveal that walkers were largely motivated by a desire to support a worthy cause and have fun. Staff had objectives of increasing participation and engaging men in preventing sexual violence. However, the over-emphasis on fun and charitable support left WaM falling short on developing feminist activist behaviors. The “fun” of wearing heels reduced WaM to a parody of doing femininity. In addition, heels were used in a way that reinforced gender and sexual inequalities and failed to extend men’s awareness beyond a “worthy cause” with which they have episodic involvement. Based on these findings, recommendations for practice will be discussed.