Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) members are taking to the Internet to complain about what they say are mandatory events compelling them to wear high heels in order to raise awareness for sexual assault.
These events, called “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,” have participants run or walk 1.26 miles while wearing high heels, and are intended to have men raise awareness for sexual assault. Events have been held all over the country, and now, ROTC is getting in on the action. One such event was held Monday at Arizona State University (ASU), while another occurred April 1 at Temple University.
Army Maj. Michelle Bravo, a professor of military science at ASU, told The State Press that higher-ups in the Army told the school’s ROTC to host some kind of event to raise awareness on sexual assault. The military has grappled recently with claims that it is rife with sexual assault that is rarely punished, and events like this allow its leaders to at least claim they are taking action to address the alleged problem.
Of course, high heels are hardly designed for rapid movement, so despite the relatively short length of the ASU run participants still had to contend with blisters and bloody feet, according to The State Press. While minor injuries are hardly unknown in military training, it’s also not clear how America’s military readiness is boosted by exposing ROTC recruits to unnecessary injury in an awareness-raising exercise.
While some ROTC members have told the press they were happy to take part, others have criticized the event as pointless or even disgraceful. It is also unclear whether the events are purely voluntary or if ROTC members have faced possible retaliation if they do not attend. The complaint of one anonymous cadet popped up on Reddit, saying that cadets who refused to participate faced retribution from higher-ups:
However, whether this claim is true is unknown. The Facebook group U.S. Army WTF Moments, one of the first places to talk about the high heel walks, received a statement from Maj. Bravo claiming the ASU walk was totally voluntary and those who declined to take part would face no penalties.
The statement also said that participants would not be in uniform, in response to criticism that putting uniformed soldiers in heels would sharply violate the Army’s dress code. Army regulations are actually quite clear about what kind of footwear should be worn with soldiers’ uniforms: Either standard-issue Army combat boots, commercial boots that approximate combat boots very closely, or special safety footwear if necessary. Red high heels, to say the least, don’t qualify.
At least at ASU, uniform rules appear to have held up, as photos of the event show that most participants are in civilian clothes. While some ROTC members can be seen wearing their uniforms, these participants are also wearing their normal boots rather than high heels.
In other cases, however, uniform discipline may have broken down. Pictures of the walk at Temple University three weeks ago show uniformed participants clearly wearing bright red heels. Similarly, many uniformed ROTC members took part in a walk at Ohio University last November, though that event doesn’t appear to have been organized by the Army.
Possible dress code violations aren’t necessarily the only issue in play. Others have pointed out that forced cross-dressing could be considering sexual assault and could violate the religious beliefs of some cadets.
The odd practice is only just starting to get attention, but actually has been promoted in the Army for over a year now. For example, Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, Alaska touted a high heels event held there last year.
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