Dozens of gentlemen laid their bags and sneakers off to the side as they took their seats Saturday in the SUB Atrium. Listening intently, the men prepared themselves for what was to come. On cue, they put on bedazzled high heels and decorated flip-flops, then set out to change the world.
The inaugural Step Up and Walk for Women event, organized by the Alpha Chi Omega sorority was created to raise awareness about domestic violence. Modeled after the nationwide event Walk-a-Mile, this is the first time the sorority has done the event itself, said Jenna Hagengruber, vice president of philanthropy for the sorority.
“We knew that other Alpha Chi chapters have done it and, when I was running for VP of philanthropy within the chapter, some of the girls came to me and suggested that I do the event,” she said.
The men who participated in the free event put on women’s footwear, primarily heels, and walked approximately one mile to literally put themselves in the women’s shoes.
Male-dominated groups from around campus and the Albuquerque area participated, including Greek members, UNM’s soccer and rugby teams and even military members, Hagengruber said.
“We tried to reach UNM campuswide. It was great to have so much participation and not just from Greeks. The lacrosse team actually won, because they had the most people show up,” she said.
Jeff Doerr, a Sigma Chi fraternity member, said he went all at the event because the concept held a lot of meaning for him.
“I wanted to participate because women’s violence is a big deal in my family. There is a history of women’s abuse in my family and I wanted to be there to support what I believe in,” he said.
Doerr’s chosen shoe was a size 14 women’s scarlet heel adorned with jewels. He got the feeling of what it was like to be in a woman’s shoes, he said, in a good way. He said he enjoyed the event so much that he saved his heels for next year.
The campus event included tables and talks by the Women’s Resource Center, the Rape Crisis Center of Central New Mexico and Agora Crisis Center. Angela Catena, a gender violence prevention program assistant at the Women’s Resource Center, worked closely with Hagengruber and the chapter to pull the event together.
“(Step Up and Walk for Women) is a good opportunity to get the guys involved instead of attacking them and making them part of the solution instead of part of the problem,” Catena said. “It broke down gender norms and gender stereotypes, making them think and feel things they never had before.”
Step Up and Walk for Women will be an annual event put on by Alpha Chi Omega, Hagengruber said. The event is not meant to raise money, but to raise domestic violence awareness, she said.
Alpha Chi Omega hosts several awareness events every school year, including the Spring Tea, a gathering of the sisters to raise money for their philanthropy and Omega Man, a male beauty pageant.