UKRAINE: The Ukraine Ministry of Defense faced sharp criticism this week for its decision to train troops to march in high heeled footwear. The dress code was deemed harmful to the health of soldiers and also sexist.
The ministry required women from the Ukrainian armed forces to march in high heels during the August 24 parade to mark the 30th anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union.
However, in a shocking response to the sexist outcry, Defense Minster Andriy Taran announced on Wednesday that instead of scrapping the heeled shoes entirely, it will give female soldiers a newer model of footwear with “more comfortable” heels.
The newer model will have “lacing that will better hold the shoes while walking.” a statement from the ministry said. It added that if the soldiers “have a positive experience when testing this model,” it could become part of the ceremonial uniform for all female members of the military, CNN reported.
Elena Kondratyuk, deputy chairman of the Ukrainian parliament, summoned members of parliament from the “Equal Opportunities” cross-party group to call on Taran to reevaluate the decision.
Olga Stefanishina, vice prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine, wrote in a statement on Facebook last week – “Shoes with heels are incompatible with the combat capability of soldiers, and a ‘Prussian’ step on a parade in such shoes is a deliberate harm to the health of soldiers.”
Stefanishina’s Facebook post said there are 57,000 women serving in the Ukrainian armed forces.
According to an earlier statement from the ministry, the decision to alter the footwear came after Taran met with female cadets and listened to their proposals.
High heels and the perception
The controversy surrounding these Ukrainian soldiers and their footwear has drawn focus on another controversy on how women wearing high heels are perceived as sexually appealing and more feminine. It cannot be exaggerated enough that forcing the female soldiers to wear heels is akin to demanding these women to make themselves more sexually enticing for the male spectators at the parade. At least they will be offered “more comfortable” high heels, said Forbes.