April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It gets a fair amount of attention in the U.S. military, in which thousands of assaults are reported annually and the Pentagon has acknowledged cultural problems that need to be addressed.
One place where the military is addressing the issue is college campuses, where Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) organizations train students before they earn a commission and become new officers. That has led to this:
Yes, those are photos of Army ROTC cadets wearing red high heels while in uniform. It’s part of a campaign known as Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, which bills itself as a “playful opportunity for men to raise awareness in their community about the serious causes, effects and remediations to men’s sexualized violence against women.” It isn’t focused on the military, although a number of units have participated in the past.
The photos above were taken at Temple University in Philadelphia. But a similar event at Arizona State University has generated controversy this week. An anonymous post on Reddit alleged that cadets there were required to participate, and would get a negative mark for not supporting the “sharp” mission, an Army acronym for the Army’s Sexual Harrassment/Assault Response & Prevention program.
The post has generated attention from a variety of conservative publications, including RedState (Headline: “Army forces ROTC cadets to wear high heels”) NewsMax (“ROTC Cadets required to Wear High Heels with Combat Uniform”) and The Washington Times (“Army ROTC program allegedly pressured cadets to walk in high heels for ASU event”).
A spokesman for U.S. Army Cadet Command, Lt. Col. Paul Haverstick, said ROTC units across the country were directed to participate in Sexual Assault Awareness Month events on their campuses “to help stamp out sexual assault on the campuses where they have a presence.” But Maj. Gen. Peggy C. Combs, the cadets’ commanding general, did not direct how the units would do so, and had other events as options, Haverstick said.
“After receiving some comments about uniforms, we are currently reviewing how local universities implemented their participation in these events designed to raise awareness on the issue of sexual assault,” Haverstick said in an e-mail.
About 15 of the 120 cadets at Temple University wore uniforms for the event, said Army Lt. Col. Gregory Nardi, the professor of military science there. It was an optional event, and most of those involved wore their uniforms, he said. Temple cadets will adhere to any guidance that senior commanders have for the event in the future, he added.
Cadets at Arizona State actually didn’t wear high heels with their camouflage uniforms — a sticking point for some who saw the photographs from Temple. The college newspaper at ASU posted this video with an article to highlight their event:
The professor of military science at Arizona State, Maj. Michelle Bravo, said in the video that the cadets “planned and decided that they would do” the high-heel event. That’s far different than the version of events presented on Reddit.
A phone call and e-mail to Bravo were not immediately returned.