Sunday, February 7, 2016

Women: Crime and Punishment

Criminologist Caesar Lombroso once asserted that women were “overgrown children . . . infinitely more hideous than men” (Graves 38). In an era where women on television are more often shown pulling each other’s hair and screaming as though there were no tomorrow, is it that hard to believe that, following the First World War, Hargrave Adam personified them with a “lust for vengeance . . . incredibly cruel?” (Graves 38). One must wonder, however, if the statistics are as eager to crucify women as are their male critics. Are women really the gender most capable of evil?

Little girls are born into the world the same way as little boys - cradled in their mother’s arms, eliciting a fascinated twinkle in their father’s eye - or are they? Not every little princess meets such a welcome but, whether or not they do, and to what extent, can have an undeniable impact on her likelihood to, one day, violate the law. From the time a child is born, care given by her parents will decide the level to which to she builds a “discourse of fear”, defined by Saskia De Groof as the repetition of certain words, themes and perspectives, or the “pervasive communication, symbolic awareness, and expectation that danger and risk are central features of everyday life” (Groof 267-268). This fear come to be structured by a girl’s perception of the people around her, her community and, most importantly, her growing interaction with both. 

In 2002, a study of over one-thousand Belgian adolescents age 14 to 18 were surveyed through face-to-face interviews, as well as questionnaires filled out by one of their parents, as to the frequency and type of education, stimulation, freedom and autonomy afforded while growing up. The study found that girls “closely supervised” by parents were more likely to “have a preference for commercial media”, a taste linked to “increased feelings of insecurity” (Groof 278). This aforementioned propensity in  media-consumption also left girls significantly more fearful of crime than their male counterparts.

Not so surprising, researchers were unable to avoid the fact that such media consumption paired with the typical socialization of girls caused them to score above males of a similar age when it came to the amount of fear built into their personalities and outlook on the world. Put simply, findings mirrored what we all knew - during crucial years in development, girls and boys alike were taught what it meant in society to fulfill the role of woman and man. Young boys and girls surveyed by the French in 1999 both identified the ideal girl as being characteristically “organized, caring, coquettish, sensitive, beautiful, tender and understanding”. Most telling, however, came the opposing list of negative traits, including “fearful” and “docile” (Groof 283). Groof goes on to cite a 1997 article by May Goodey, wherein it is noted that “girls are socialized to be vulnerable, to need protection . . . to be cautious” (Groof 286). 

What does this mean for the development of the young girl? It is my assertion that the socialization of girls from such a young age, as evidenced above, can possibly cause one of two modes of behavior. On the one hand, girls could adopt the point of view of a victim, feeling as though they will always be dealt a lesser hand than men and, thus, are ill equipped to adequately face the world around them. On the other hand, girls may actively adopt more masculine traits such as being brave, aggressive, or overly ambitious. The latter possibility carries with it the chance that girls will not only acquire these types of behavior but will use them to rebel against the very society that sought to limit or marginalize them. A conclusion cannot be drawn, however, until further investigation into the growth and behavior of the female individual is ascertained. 

In 1990, Gottfredson and Hirschi claimed a general theory of crime in which it was asserted that low self-control accounted for “‘all crime, at all times’:  acts ranging from vandalism to homicide, from rape to white-collar crime” (LaGrange 41). Basically, these theorists believed that the lower a person’s self control, the higher their likeliness to engage in criminal activity. Contrary to gentleman like Adam and Lombroso, Gottfredson and Hirschi believed males offended the law more readily and often than females. Feminist criminologists echoed this sentiment, suggesting (as I did earlier) that “female crime participation is shaped by the societal enforcement of gender-hierarchal social roles" (LaGrange 44). It stands then, that the crimes said females commit should reflect these gender-specific roles - and that, they do. This is particularly evident when it comes to the most violent crime of all - that of murder.

In order to observe the manner in which women commit murder, several factors must be considered. These factors include who women murder, how they do it and, most importantly, why. Observing violent crime committed by women between the years of 1890 and 1920 in Kansas City provides a surprisingly telling explanation regarding the aforementioned questions and more. 
In December 1912, a woman named Carrie Wright entered a police station exclaiming that her husband, armed with a knife, handed her a razor and told her that, this time, they were going to “fight it out fair” (Graves 38). This is only but one example of countless domestic violence disputes the city experienced. At some point, however, women stopped being pitied victims in lieu of taking justice into their own hands. This is where me meet Elizabeth Coleman who, in 1917, took a revolver to her husband, not to forget Mrs. Mary McDonald with the butcher knife (Graves 38-39). All said and done, “more than two-thirds of women’s murder victims had been men, many of them husbands” (Graves 41). This is no rare occurrence. According to a study considered by Coramae Mann, nearly half of women who have committed murder have done so against men whom they were in a domestic partnership with, whether that be a marriage or simply a rendezvous (with murder rates rising with the latter) (Mann 69:79).

But it wasn’t just men affected by women on a power trip. It was also their children, a phenomenon similarly captured by Mann. According to Graves, “women have been much more likely to cause the death of children and infants than of other adults” (Graves 40). While this may have been historically true, the above paragraph disproves that of the near-past and present - a place where it still exists, but to a lesser degree than women’s violence against men. In Kansas City, for example, children constituted twelve-percent of women’s murder victims during the time period studied. Infamous in the area was Ms. Katie Falig who, with a thirty-inch cord, strangled her infant in 1915. Popular cases in today’s society reflect this behavior, with Andrea Yates making headlines in 2001 by drowning her five children in the family’s bathtub. In fact, homicide remains “one of the five leading causes of early childhood death in this country” (Mann 70).

Interestingly, despite victims being those they were intimate or in a familial relationship with, women who commit murder are often treated with the light side of the law. What goes on in the jury’s mind, behind eyes that have seen such intricate detail of the crime presented to them? There are several speculations. According to Graves, all those news stories in the Kansas City papers chronicling women who had fought back abusive husbands planted “seeds of sympathy” that became evident went the women went to trial (Graves 38). As for old Elizabeth Coleman, MacDonald and their fellow female murderesses, only one “who pleaded not guilty of murdering her husband was found guilty” (38). But that’s not the end of it - the one who was found guilty happened to have had a male accomplice. The male presence alone was enough to harden the jury. Nevertheless, Graves continued to postulate that the jury saw these women as protecting themselves and their children, an effort justified even by violent behavior. 

If this was the attitude of the people of Kansas City, they certainly contradicted themselves when it came to the punishment of women who had killed their own children. Katie Falig, for example, plead guilty to fourth-degree murder, yet was paroled on the very same day! In fact, only one woman in the time period studied was indicted for infanticide (Graves 40-41). 

And yet, the studies come down to this - men leave women for other women, so women kill the men. Men leave their kids when they don’t want to deal with them. Women can’t leave, so they kill them. Still left to be undetermined, what does this say about the society in which these women live? If Gottfredson and Hirschi were correct, somewhere within the gender roles women are fulfilling is something that may provoke them to go over the edge. 

Just as French children in the study earlier discussed pegged women as quaint, fragile and sensitive, so women really seem to be. When said women are placed in a world that thrives on the creation of  a “discourse of fear”, there is a conflict between accepting the place of caring little female and a human being that needs to protect and look out for oneself. This discourse of fear, in my opinion, is no longer limited to that which is instilled by parenting. This fear is everywhere, especially in the media. Backing up this theory is a 1998 study wherein both men and women were shown news stories from the archives of the St. Louis Dispatch and Kansas City Star. According to Stan Ketterer, “The topics [in chosen articles] were key crime issues in the state at the time - concealed weapons, date rape pill, methamphetamines and sentencing for crack and powdered cocaine” (Ketterer 77). The results of the study did nothing less than completely confirm the fact that women are naturally more disturbed by stories of crime than men. They also found the articles to be more readily credible and relevant to their lives (Ketterer 79-80). If crime is so disturbing to women, and they realize that it is pertinent to their survival to  be aware of such activity around them, why do some begin to behave in a way consistent with the very criminals they fear?

The answer to this is simple. There must be a point where a woman stops being what society trains her to be and begins to rebel. Forms of this rebellion may come by way of women joining gangs, which is occurs in greater numbers than ever. They begin to take on more masculine characteristics in order to cope in a world where women are nothing more than a stone to step on (Miller 1-4). Similarly, according to Graves, “[People] . . . could understand and pardon deliberate violence from women when violent husbands provoked them . . . women’s violence against someone outside an abusive marital relationship may not have been pardonable but could be eventually forgiven because it was not deliberate” (Graves 38-39). Perhaps these women were, as society trained them to do, merely protecting themselves and their children and, thusly, “were rewarded for doing so, even by criminal justice authorities” (Graves 39). And as for those women who kill even the children they are meant to protect? Mann subscribes to the theory that it is gender inequality that keeps mothers bound to their children. It is having no outside lives that may drive women to kill what chains them down, noting that “rates of child homicide increase in proportion” to such feelings of unfairness between women and the men that had promised to father their children (Mann 71). Graves, too, finds herself questioning if such a situation held influence over Ms. Falig’s actions, asking, “Was Falig a seduced and abandoned young woman unable to cope with her shame or support her baby?” (Graves 40). It’s worth a thought, even if we cannot know the answer. 
Works Cited 
Blackwell, Brenda Sims. “A Power-Control Theory of Vulnerability to Crime and Adolescent Role Exits - Revisited”. CRSA/RCSA 39.2 (2002):  200-217. EBSCOhost. Web. 3 April 2012.
Blackwell, Brenda Sims. “On the Relationships Between Gender, Power Control, Self-Control, and Crime”. Journal of Criminal Justice 33 (2005):  1-17. EBSCOhost. Web. 2 April 2012. 
Campbell, Kathleen et al. “Personality Traits are Linked to Crime among Men and Women:  Evidence from a Birth Cohort”. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 103.2 (1994):  328-338. JSTOR. Web. 1 April 2012. 
Chesney-Lind, Meda. “Women and Crime:  The Female Offender”. Signs 12.1 (Autumn 1986):  78-96. JSTOR. Web. 1 April 2012.
De Groof, Saskia. “And My Mama Said:  The (Relative) Parental Influence on Fear of Crime Among Adolescent Girls and Boys”. Youth & Society 39 (2008):  267-293. SAGE. Web. 2 April 2012.
Graves, Donna. "‘We'll Fight It Out Fair Right Now’: Homicide, Felony Assault, and Gender in Kansas City, Kansas, 1890-1920”. Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains 26 (Spring 2003):  32-49. EBSCOhost. Web. 1 April 2012.
LaGrange, Teresa. “Low Self-Control and Opportunity:  Testing the General Theory of Crime as an Explanation for Gender Differences in Delinquency”. Criminology 37.1 (1999):  41-72. JSTOR. Web. 30 March 2012.
Ketterer, Stan. “Women Perceive Crime Stories as More Disturbing Than Do Men”. Newspaper Research Journal 23.4 (Fall 2002):  76-80. EBSCOhost. Web 1 April 2012. 
Kruttschnitt, Candace. “Crime in the Breaking:  Gender Differences in Desistance”. Law & Society Review 32.2 (1998):  339-366. SAGE. Web. 1 April 2012. 
Mann, Coramae. When Women Kill. Albany:  State University of New York Press, 1996. Print.
Miller, Jody. One of the Guys:  Girls, Gangs and Gender. New York:  Oxford University Press, 2001. Print.
Stark, Rodney. “Physiology and Faith:  Addressing the Universal Gender Difference in Religious Commitment”. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 41.3 (2002):  495-507. JSTOR. Web. 2 April 2012. 

A Personal Inventory: Feminism - A Label Worth Wearing

As some of you may be aware, my month-long absence from this blog has been due to the fact that I moved back from college for the summer, lugging both literal and figurative baggage from the dorm room back to the place I call home. After strenuous hours of unpacking all that had been my life for the past two semesters at McDaniel, it became apparent that my mind would need just as much unpacking as the pink and purple sticker-slapped trunks that held many a novel and poster. The transition from independence and academic dedication to rule-following and codependence is never an easy - or enjoyable - feat. The withdrawal from freshly blossoming relationships with new girlfriends is like jumping on a diet plan for the first time in months. You know the time off from the sweets will do you all some good, but the health benefits of dark chocolate and the pleasure that comes with consuming it far outweigh the need for change. Yet, something worth pondering has sprung from all of this - something change oft encourages.
While I hadn't posted anything to this blog, I had questioned myself as to if I should return to it at all. While  at college, this blog served as the platform through which I could discuss the events I observed out there in the world that jeopardized, endangered, or merely sparked that divine feminine core that resides in myself as well as my female sisters around the world. One particular question surrounded my contemplation - "Why?" Why am I running this blog? Is it for myself, my friends, my mother, the women I know and may benefit? Is it for some sort of sordid self promotion? My answer is this:

Many people, even those closest to me, hassle me over the fact that I call myself a Feminist. I'm labeling myself, they say. I'm fitting myself into a category that struggles beneath the breathless oppression of gender and society to flee label itself. But to me, feminism is a label worth wearing proudly, and a concept worth believing in and fighting for in a time when everything else is in question. It would be a lie to say that my affinity for the feminist movement and all that goes with it is not a direct result of both nature itself as well as the nurturing I received throughout my growth into an adult woman. Having been raised by a single mother who gave birth to me four months early because of my father's domestic abuse, I was raised under the biblical standard of belief that men were different that us. Everything in my father's life seemed to have been handed to him, while my mother starved in order to buy my food and medication and used an open oven as the heat source for our home. As I started to get older, my mother broke beneath the weight of jobs requiring manual labor. But when I visited my father, his job seemed to be to sit and get smashed on J&B all day under the roof of his own bar while his fellow male comrades offered to buy me a Coke and told me all the things they thought of my fine, youthful womanhood under the assumption (a correct one, at that) that I was too embarrassed and self-unsure to repeat a word. The Lifetime Channel was our church, the women who fought against shady husbands and demeaning bosses the saints that inspired our hope for the future. "Pre-nup, Pre-nup, Pre-nup" served as both mantra and prayer.

[to be continued...]

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"I Love You" & Related Tactics of Desecration - A Public Service Announcement


Among you lurks something terrifying - designed from the core to take all that is inside of you and rip it to shreds. In the house across the street, the cafe around the corner, the dorm across the quad - it stirs in the sun and in the shadows, evaluating potential prey and waiting to bite. It can smell your vulnerability from miles away, like a trademark perfume, begging to lick it off of you and make it it's own under the guise of the smallest of friendly gestures. But you must not fall victim to it's sympathetic eyes and bashful grin - the hesitation behind it's smile is the only bloodthirsty tick it can't control. "I could be your friend," it will implore you, the first claw it will plant firmly beneath your skin. Your guard is up and your a year past beating yourself up for having turned into a stoic because it's so much easier to see yourself as a strong wall that can stand up against the sweetest of smooth talking minutemen than to crumble slowly with the realization that you may end up alone forever, like your mother and your best friend from high school who you disassociated from when you finally decided to make something out of your life. But this, this is even stronger than that. It can tear that wall of yours down with its bare hands, removing one small stone at a time, before you've noticed there's another claw digging in, firming its grip. You'll convince yourself that you deserve to let yourself go just this once. You can't go around with a stick up your ass forever. If you never try, how will you ever find the one? So you hand yourself over, minuscule  amounts at a time - but it will take a mile for every piece you offer as you extend your hand. The third claw is in and you're starting to have second thoughts. The things it tells you don't seem to fit with the reality its caused you to so eloquently dream. You try to think about it. You're overanalyzing, paranoid, you're becoming like you were before - you know, back when you fucked up everything else good in your life. "I can do this," you decide. But as you approach it, to tell it you're ready to show it everything - you look down and you finally realize....

....It's been stripping you naked all along.

Is this the way love feels?

Are you or someone you care about involved in a relationship that seems more like a soulless monster pursuing its prey than a loving partnership of light? You aren't alone. Abuse comes in all different shapes, sizes, and scenarios. No attack is too small, nor moment too fleeting, to be taken seriously as a threat to your personal wellbeing. No woman (or man) should ever have to feel like their skin isn't even enough to hide within. Romantic partners can seem like a miraculous twist of fate - but can just as quickly materialize beyond the fog of euphoria - only to be so despicable in reality that you're left feeling like you've just seen a record-setting mirage. Being lied to, manipulated, used, or PHYSICALLY HARMED are all reasons TOO MANY to get help. Your sisters are here for you; and we will help you rip every monstrous claw out, one fucking claw at a time.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Cheer For Your Rapist, Dammit!

Considering the latest in lovely campus news, I've found myself particularly on alert for news involving sexual assault, harassment and rape, as well as attitudes toward the aforementioned atrocities. This afternoon, I came upon a San Francisco Gate article via Slutwalk Baltimore, which chronicled the plight of a Texas high-school cheerleader who refused to engage in a chant of her rapist's name at a Silsbee High basketball game. Four months prior to the game in question, the cheerleader (referred to by initials H.S.) proported that Silsbee's star athlete, Rakheem Bolton, had raped her while at a party in town. At the time, Rakheem pleaded guilty to the rape, receiving a "suspended sentence" on the misdemeanor assault charge.
The present issue revolves around the fact that H.S. was informed that she could either cheer for Bolton like the other girls or go home, at which point H.S. actively joined the team, but "folded her arms and was silent". H.S. and parents then did what I believe any soul-possessing human being would think to do in such a situation - sued the school district for violating her right to freedom of expression. Then, the unthinkable happened:
"An appeals court in New Orleans ruled against her, saying a cheerleader acts as a "mouthpiece" for the school. Federal courts have also ordered H.S. and her parents to reimburse the district more than $45,000 for the costs of defending against a frivolous suit."
What the HELL is going on in this country? As Baltimore Slutwalk comments on the travesty, "Rape someone? Be a star athlete. Refuse to cheer for your rapist? Get kicked off the team you worked so hard for. Priorities:  America has them."
Is this country really so morally barren that they demand a rape victim to publicly revere the man who violated her?

Prevailing Thought: Why the fuck was Mr. Bolton not banned from participating in athletics after committing a rape that the community was obviously well aware of? Where were the mothers of fellow athletes (and fellow cheerleaders, for the love of God!) not calling the school and raising holy hell about the fact that their children were interacting with this boy? If the courts had done their job, the dirtbag wouldn't be one-upping his victim in front of the entire student body - he'd been rotting behind bars.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Eye Opener - Sexual Assault Hits Home

Today marks the beginning of a sad week in McDaniel College's neck of the woods. Yesterday morning I woke from a good night's sleep to find the following email waiting for me:

"On Sunday, May 1st, 2011 at approximately 1:30 a.m. a female McDaniel College student was walking home from an off-campus event that had taken place in the 230 block of Pennsylvania Ave.  The student was approached by a white male, approximately 35 years of age.  He is described as: thin to medium build, approximately 5’8”, with a scruffy beard and short brown hair, wearing jeans and a plain black hooded sweatshirt.  After a brief verbal exchange, the student was physically forced into the yard of 218 Pennsylvania Ave. and was sexually assaulted.  The student fought off the suspect and returned to campus.  The student contacted the Department of Campus Safety, who immediately responded to support the student and assist local law enforcement agencies in their investigation and search for the perpetrator."
Reading this to a few family members, I was shocked to hear their responses, particularly when relating the information to two male family members. The first, after being read the email, responded simply with, "Yes, that is, if she's even telling the truth." The second responded, "It's not big deal. There are [sexual predators] everywhere. They're in this neighborhood, they're in other neighborhoods, they're where we work, they're everywhere we go. Nothing you can do about it. Nothing to worry about." My mother, the only female in the residence at the time, was also the only person to become legitimately concerned for my wellbeing on the campus and the other girls on campus, as well as overtly sympathetic toward the actual female that was attacked.
Yes, sexual assault is not exactly rare. But the rate at which it occurs does not make it okay. Are we really so desensitized to this sort of thing that we allow it to become commonplace? After bringing this up with a friend, she said something that just might hold some truth: perhaps this has become commonplace because the message is always "Don't let yourself get raped" rather than "Do not rape."

Will you allow the women of your communities to become the "usual victims"? Or is sexual assault, particularly when it occurs in close-knit communities, something more to you than just another statistic?

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Royal Wedding - Built Up Like Christmas And Over Just As Fast. Or Is It?

I must admit that I really looked forward to the nuptial arrangement of Sir William and Kate at Westminster Abbey. I have had passing obsessions with Princess Diana with my youth, my likely due to the fact that my mother had a lasting obsession herself. I have faint memories of a "Dress Up Doll Diana!" book as a child, one that I never cut up to actually use due to the fact that it was, intuitively, an object to be revered and handled with care. In fact, it still sits on my bookshelf, untouched as ever. It is the very acknowledgement that it remains untouched that provides insight into the way I have handled the royal wedding and all the media clamor that it has entailed. Around the nation, eyes remain peeled and glued to television screens, eager to observe every move of the couple. The question behind each set of eyes, however, is the same - Why? Why, despite our rationale that all of this has been blown out of proportion, are we so desperate to not miss a second of it? "It doesn't impact out lives; there are greater issues at hand," we say to each other. But in our homes, on our computers, even on the newspapers littering our kitchen tables, stand William and Kate, photograph after photograph, article after article. And we hunger to take it in.

I cannot speak for anyone else, but I have a theory. First of all, we all remember Princess Diana - the regal, beautiful woman who took it upon herself to be the strongest woman she could while in a position that most conform within to cling to semblance of comfort. We watched her death - the controversy. We were trained to revere. We knew we had witnessed something horrific, something out of control. And the explanations we received left something to be desired.
My mother and I watched the Lifetime movies. Diana became a symbol. I'm not sure what she became a symbol of, but she magically transformed from being a Princess met with a tragic end into a legend - how could something so awful happen to someone of such a status? The royal family of afar became shrouded in darkness. And we watched as her children grew out into the light.
Now, William old enough to marry. . . will the woman he chooses live up to her role? Does she know what she's getting herself into? The same old questions tie into a tired line of dialogue. So why do we all seem to care so much?

Today, the Huffington Post ran an article by Paul Raushenbush entitled, "The Royal Wedding as Sacrament." A few things that Raushenbush stated really rang true to me, and put into perspective exactly why many of us may be acting in such a manner contradictory to our guiding principle.
"Weddings are intrinsically hopeful acts. Yet they are also realistic. Within the very liturgy of marriage there is acknowledgment of sickness and poverty, and the certainty of death. Standing on the balcony of Buckingham Palace were individuals who have seen great sorrow and the absence of the groom's mother was a reminder of the fragility both of weddings and of life itself. In the face of all this, the liturgy of marriage involves a forceful assertion of the value and necessity of commitment to the future with mutual support and unity, even within the face of adversity."
Not only does Raushenbush touch on the significance of the wedding in relation to Princess Diana - he reminds us of our mortality. The royal wedding may not be a turning point in all of our lives, an event so monumental that we, ourselves, will be forever altered. What it is, however, is a reminder to all of us that there is hope in this world just as there is tragedy. We may not relate to Will and Kate, but what we can relate to is the symbolic value their matrimony lends to England. In a world where "sickness and poverty" are threatening greater pockets of the population, here is a moment of light on which all can concentrate. Even William and Kate are reminded of their fate; for their lives are the ones that truly are changing, and with their vows comes the promise to each other to remain faithful till death. Raushenbush asks us to do the same, if only in our religious lives:
"The sacrament of marriage includes the blessing of God's providence. Within the ornate language of the liturgy of matrimony shines a deep longing that God will strengthen the ties that bind the couple to one another and bring them peace. Perhaps what we are all longing for when we watch this beautiful spectacle is to remember God's blessing on our own lives, to help reconcile our own relationships and bring peace to our fractured world."
One needn't believe in such a God to take a lesson from Raushenbush's words. The royal wedding just may serve as an unconscious reminder that life goes on. Acknowledge our strength now. Life is not a hurdle, but an invitation to cross the finish line into a new beginning - motivation to tie together our loose ends in the same way William and Kate tie their lives together now.

Perhaps I and all of my female sisters out there have just developed a princess complex better left unexplored. Or maybe there really is something greater going on beneath the gossip and glamour of a new princess being introduced to the world.
Rest in Peace, Di

Sunday, April 17, 2011

"Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" Westminster - Then Take Them Off and Call it a Day

While the debate over abortion and the relentlessly false vilification of Planned Parenthood rattled the nation to the point of seemingly imminent government collapse, my little corner of the world here at McDaniel College took a morsel of time out of the monotonous daily grind of campus life to "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" - the "international men's march to stop rape, sexual assault and gender violence."

Presented by the Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County, fliers handed out to the surrounding community read the following:
"Each year, an ever-increasing number of men, women and their families are joining Walk a Mile in Her Shoes . . . Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is a fun opportunity for men to educate the community about a very serious subject and to rally the community to take action to prevent sexual violence." 
"There is an old saying: "You can't really understand another persons' experience until you've walked a mile in their shoes." Walk a Mile in Her Shoes asks men to literally walk one mile in women's high-heeled shoes. It's not easy walking in these shoes, but it's fun and it gets the community to talk about something that's really difficult to talk about:  gender relations and sexual violence."
"It's critical to open up communication about sexual violence. While hidden away, it's immune to cure. Unfortunately, it's difficult to get people talking. People unfamiliar with it often don't even want to know it exists. It's ugly. People that have experienced it themselves want to forget about it. How do you get them talking now, so they can prevent it from happening? And after it's happened, how do you get them to talk about it so they can recover?"
"Walk a Mile in Her Shoes provides several opportunities to get people talking. For preventive education, it helps men better understand and appreciate women's experiences, thus changing perspectives, helping improve gender relationships and decreasing the potential for violence. For healing, it informs the community that services are available for recovery. It demonstrates that men are willing and able to be courageous partners with women in making the world a safer place." 
 As a member of Gamma Sigma Sigma, a sorority lending services to the event, I got a firsthand look at what was taking place, as well as the attitudes of those involved. While I couldn't have been happier that McDaniel College staff, from the president to a few members of faculty, were taking time out of their Spring weekend to tramp around Main Street in hideously oversized high-heels, waving around signs of solidarity, I almost felt as though it was showing more than it could speak for. What would happen if a rape victim had walked up to one of these men after the walk? What would happen if a student had no where else to go, but felt that, after seeing one of her coaches taking part in the walk, she could go to him  and confide in him what had happened to her? Cars lined the streets, the drivers inside with their faces plastered to the windows, eager to see what was going on. A policeman on a segway followed the group along, stopping to give parking citations along the way. But was anyone really thinking about the tragedy of what their were raising awareness for?
To my knowledge, no one involved was made aware of information to give in the case that someone should confront them with the desire to voice a problem from personal experience, or in the quest for help. No meetings were held to better equip these people with tools for becoming a person of support. No connections were made with the local women's shelter or advocacy groups. So while the walk unquestionably raised awareness, did it really open any channel of communication? I don't believe so.

It is commendable that the nation is coming together on the idea that men could better understand women by being put in their shoes. But the goal must transcend the literal representation - which, if you think about it, is a little bit of an insult to what needs to be happening in reality - and really aim to educate men and organize local groups in the name of of all the issues the movement is seeking to prevent.
(Not to mention the fact that the only McDaniel students involved in the walk were either Gamma Sigma Sigma sign-carrying volunteers, or football players that had been appealed to by their coach to wear heels as they walked down the street.

A week-long celebration of the McDaniel Allies club has taken over the campus this past week. Why did something like this not occur in the name of "Gender Relations & Sexual Violence" the week prior to the  walk? Because it's easier to have a "fun opportunity for men" that to truly address what many men are guilty of - possibly even the same men walking down Main Street with their heels duct-taped to their feet.