There’s no doubt that marching in heels is harder than marching in boots, but that’s exactly what the military women of Ukraine have been asked to do last week in preparation for an upcoming parade marking three decades of the country’s independence.
Accusations of sexism and misogyny ignited last Friday, when official photos of female cadets in the Ukrainian Army starting circulating showing them in rehearsal of the parade.
The photos were released by Ukraine’s defence ministry and showed female soldiers marching in black, mid-heel shoes.
Ivanna Medvid, a female cadet, said that the women were trying to adhere to what was being asked of them. “Today for the first time, training takes place in heeled shoes. It is slightly harder than in army boots but we are trying.”
Ukrainian journalist and political commentator Vitaly Portnikov called the practice of women parading in heels “a real disgrace.”
Maria Berlinska, an activist campaigning for gender equality within the country’s military, said the goal of the military parade should focus on the service’s strengths, and that female soldier wearing heels only displays incapability.
“Women, like men, fight in combat boots,” Berlinska wrote on Facebook. “During the war, many of our girls died on the battlefield in military uniform.”
Maria Shapranova, a Ukrainian commentator, critiqued the Ukrainian officials for having a “medieval” mindset and showing “sexism and misogyny”.
“High heels is a mockery of women imposed by the beauty industry,” she said.
Inna Sovsun, a member of the country’s liberal and pro-European political party, and former Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine, said that having women march in heels was an “idiotic, harmful idea.”
“Walking in the heat on our roads, the military risks injury, damage to shins, ligaments and even rubbing their feet,” Sovsun wrote on Facebook. “Why? To bring to life someone’s stereotypes about the only role of a woman as a beautiful doll?”
She said the country’s female soldiers were risking their lives and did “not deserve to be mocked”.
Since 2014, more than 13,000 people have been killed in a conflict between Ukraine and the Russian-backed separatists in the country’s east. Currently, more than 13,500 female soldiers have been fighting in the conflict.
The deputy speaker of the legislature and public relations expert, Olena Kondratyuk believes and inquiry should be launched, and that the authorities should publicly apologise for “humiliating” the women.