Walk in her heels

| Niels ter Meer

While it was never gone, sexual misconduct has been in the news again recently. It’s important to empathize with victims; to put ourselves in their shoes, says student columnist Niels ter Meer (23). He offers a slightly elevated perspective.

Photo by: Rikkert Harink

There is this song, called ‘Pendant 24h’. It’s premise is that to switch bodies with someone of the other gender, is the ultimate nuance. Just experience a day like them, then you’ll know how they feel. For, say, empathy’s sake. With the sexual misconduct cesspool wide open once again, thanks to the guy with the uncensorable name, this amazing song is once again particularly relevant.

If the stories in the media aren’t horrifying enough by themselves, all of this is happening right under our noses too. We’ve all heard about Vindicat’s bangalijsten, or pictures and phone numbers of female members on fridges. Associations hold galas, which – going of the description they wrote themselves – breath nothing but sexism. In other circles, there are ‘normal’ student parties and year groups, which, as Maia De Quay points out, exude a culture which facilitates the same. For me personally, there are also the stories of the women in my life whom are dear to me, and some I barely knew. They ranged from despising to depression-inducing.

But back to that song. It also comes with a music video, which has the artists (a man and a woman) literally switch bodies via a ‘melange du switch’. ‘If you drink this, you will wake up tomorrow in the body of the other.’ Since I don’t live in that music video, in lieu of that, I asked a friend whether I could borrow her heels for a bit; to live this chance, just for a bit, how she might feel in them.

What a nuance that was. I now completely get why some women — and a few men — are in love with their heels; I get why you would feel cool and attractive and insert-cliche-here (and it was surprisingly easy walking in them). But I also got a bunch of stares — and one massive ‘you go man!’ look from some random woman. However, I’m a relatively unassuming 4 or 5 check-mark man, (depending on how good you think my Dutch is), so if I on heels get stares — even though I didn’t completely go Harry Styles — I can only imagine what women have to deal with when it’s too tight or shows too much skin. Maybe it was too showy or eccentric for society’s sake?

But it’s not about somewhat taller me here; it’s about those — mostly women, but also a few men — who are confronted with sexual misconduct. It’s about empathy. Empathy helps us put a culture and systems in place which prevent it as much as possible, and the social support that comes from it helps those confronted deal with it. Realizing the damage it does to the minds of victims, and the discomfort it causes elsewhere in their lives — empathizing — is one important step.

So until Tinder is no more dick picks and just hearts of all colours, we still have a long way to go. Talk to those who experienced sexual misconduct (if you don’t know anyone, you might want to consider why not), let them know you are there for them. And, maybe most importantly, imagine how you’d feel if it were you who was walking in their shoes. I mean heels. Maybe try them on too?

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