- Zack Maril ’14 is a senior mathematics major and one of our University Scholars. University Scholars are selected for their potential as academic leaders and are encouraged to share the subjects they are passionate about with the Honors community.
By Zack Maril
I was born just north of the Red River, but that doesn’t mean my parents didn’t give me a good education in manners. I hold doors open for folks who look like they might head my way and I’ll slip in a “No sir” or a “Yes ma’am” in a conversation when it fits. My parents raised me right, with my dad teaching me how to act like a man and my mom teaching me how to treat a woman.
Coming to school at Texas A&M has driven home everything that my parents taught me. Every time I dress up for a big event or date, I still remember calling my dad before my middle school dance at the last minute and asking him to teach me how to tie my tie. When I’m getting ready to go out dancing, I think about my dad throwing on a pair of blue jeans, pulling on his boots and putting on his hat before he went out. Now that I’ve gotten a little bit older, my dad has even started telling me all those stories about his adventures during sophomore year that he’d said I was too young to hear when I was kid.
Even more so though, the respect for women my mom taught me has only grown. As I’ve gotten to know the women in my life better, I’ve been shocked by what they have all undergone. Rape, sexual harassment, physical beatings, stalking, and more have all happened to people I know personally. And this pattern of widespread abuse and violence that I’ve seen affect the women in my life seems to be pretty standard in America. One in six women have been raped. Women of college age most likely to get raped, and, even more so, women who are in college are more likely to be assaulted than those who aren’t in college. If you remember that sexual harassment includes verbal as well physicals acts, then almost every woman has been sexually harassed at some point. Once I heard all those statistics, it was hard not to sit in class and figure out how many of the women around me had been hurt or abused.
All of this and more is why I am so excited to be participating in the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event. Walk a Mile is meant as a way for men to take a visible stand against sexual violence at Texas A&M. Every man who participates will put on a pair of red heels and then, surprise, walk a mile in those shoes. It offers men a way of starting to understand what it feels like to be a women teetering along on heels, while at the same time showing support for the hardships that women must endure every day. I think it is a fantastic idea and I’ve been out carefully recruiting all my male friends I can.
I wasn’t always so keen on the idea though. My dad never taught me to wear heels and so I figured it would be embarrassing to be seen out in public wearing them. I’m 6’5″ and I already tower over most of the girls I date. I really don’t need to be any taller or else I’ll be slamming my head into the top of door frames and scaring even more small children than I already do. Wearing heels isn’t a thing I need to do and, by most accounts, it would be sort of embarrassing.
What eventually changed my mind was remembering something my dad told me. I was trying on a suit for the first time and, being the tall gawky kid I was, the suit really didn’t fit right. I was worried I was going to look pretty goofy and I told my dad that. He replied that the clothes don’t make the man, but it’s the man who makes the clothes. Now, I look back on the pictures from then and, you know, I looked pretty goofy. But what my dad said has stuck with me.
It’s not the clothes’ job to make me into a man. It’s my job to make the clothes look masculine. But, really, if I can’t wear heels for an hour or two in support of a cause that I believe in without worrying about looking like less of a man, then how much of a man am I? If clothes are the only thing that determines how much of a man I am, what happens when I take off my boots or my tie?
More than anything, my dad taught me that being a man means doing whatever you can for what you believe in. Being a man means being independent when you think that everybody else is thinks your good idea is embarrassing. Being a man means that if I think that taking part in Walk a Mile matters, then I should do everything I can to support it, no matter what that means.
When it comes down to it, Walk a Mile does matter. With good reason, the victims of sex-related crimes often feel isolated and betrayed by society. For victims, depression and self harm often follow the initial abuse. Even more so, studies have found that the perpetrators of these crimes think that every other man rapes and assaults women just as they do. For victims, Walk a Mile shows them that they that there are people out there who think what happened to them was wrong. For perpetrators, Walk a Mile wipes out their disillusion and shows them that most men are not as sick and twisted as they are.
So, when April 15 rolls around, I plan on being a man and strapping on a pair of heels to show my support for victims of sexual violence. I encourage you to join me. I’m not exaggerating at all when I say that by participating in Walk a Mile you could be saving someone’s life.
For my part, I’ll be walking for my little sister and my mom. I’ll be walking for all the girls I’ve dated and all my female friends. I’ll be walking for the rest of the women I haven’t had the pleasure of getting to know yet. Sexual violence is wrong and Walk A Mile is a great step towards fighting it.