THE WEEK — May 23: A week to start walking

Walk A Mile In Her Shoes asks men to wear heels in a fight against violence, while the March Against Monsanto battles GMOs.

Walk A Mile In Her Shoes is turning its focus away from footwear and towards the idea that teaching youth is the best way to combat gender-based violence.

A week to start walking

It wasn’t until Billy Yu became a father, that he saw the true importance of men’s roles.

“I had been participating in conversations around equality and proudly called myself a feminist, but even then it really struck me how these paternal roles were ingrained in me — like being the one to go to work, and how much nurturing I did as a father,” says Yu. “For the sake of my 22-month-old daughter and my partner, it was a really important time for me to reexamine my behaviour.”

Yu will be doing just that this weekend, along with hundreds of other Victorians who will Walk A Mile In Her Shoes with the Victoria Women’s Sexual Assault Centre, for the seventh time. While participants will still don their favourite pair of shoes to join in, the centre is taking the emphasis off footwear this year to focus instead on what has become a month of learning opportunities for the broader community. From mens’ workshops with American filmmaker, author and anti-sexist speaker Jackson Katz to new school education programs, the centre has quickened its step to create a Victoria free from all forms of sexualized violence.

“What struck home with me is how men’s violence affects other men — as well as women. I think one of the most heartening things I have seen is the men in my life taking more responsibility for their role in gender-based violence,” says Yu, a former prevention educator with the centre’s Project Respect and co-ordinator for community education. “We’re not just doing this for the survivors and people who build the community; we’re doing this for future generations.”

Seven years after Victoria witnessed its first showcase of men shimmying around the city in high heels, and many of the same issues regarding gender-based violence still appear in the media: victim blaming, stigmas and new accounts of violence. Yet Yu says the conversations themselves have shown a shift. More than 600 people turned out to last year’s event, and the crowd raised over $30,000 for the centre’s programming — programming that brought speakers like this year’s Katz.

“We do still see a lot of spotlight placed on survivors, and we have also seen new forms of violence crop up through cyber bullying — no one would brag online about stealing a car, so we have to wonder how we’ve created a society that accepts this idea when it comes to violence against women,” Yu says. “The conversations we need to be having are ‘What does it mean to be a man?’ and ‘How do we view women?’ There is so much we can do to prove that, as a society, we won’t tolerate this behaviour.”

Join the walk this year Sun., May 26, 2-4pm at Centennial Square (Douglas). The walk is free, but all fundraising and donations are appreciated. For more, visit: walkamilevictoria.com.

If one walk isn’t enough

No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. This is the message that a group is pushing at the March Against Monsanto, taking place around the world (and at our own legislature lawn) on Sat., May 25.

Food lovers and activists will stand together against U.S. food company Monsanto’s genetically-modified foods. With public reports criticizing the company, accusations the group have pressed that GMO foods can lead to serious health conditions such as the cancerous tumors, infertility and birth defects. Recently, however, the U.S. Congress passed an act that bans courts from halting the sale of Monsanto’s genetically-modified seeds. Now, hundreds of thousands of people in 36 countries will stand in defiance.

“Canada has Monsanto factories across the country … This is a global crisis and so it will be a global event,” says Helene Harrison, a Victoria participant. “The packaged, processed and non-organic products sold in every store — from Wal-mart to London Drugs, Shoppers Drug Mart to Save-On-Foods — are filled with GMOs and are literally killing people and pets — yes it’s in pet foods as well.”

Join the Victoria March Against Monsanto on Sat., May 25, 12:30pm on the legislature lawn. For more information, visit march-against-monsanto.com. M

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