In July of 2021, Ukraine’s ministry of defense announced that it’s Female military members would be required to wear high heels while marching in Ukraine’s upcoming military parade on August 24th.
Ukraine, once one of the most important satellite states in the USSR, has long had difficult relations with its Russian neighbors to the east, tensions whose origins are rooted long before the formation of the Soviet Union, have recently boiled over with the 2014 Russian Annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and subsequent Ukrainian Civil war that continues to this day. This parade, which marks the date of independence from the Soviet Union, also is strategically important to Ukraine, as many countries in eastern use military parades as a show of might to the world and a chance to show off new equipment and weapons as well.
The main question is, why do the female soldiers, who wear combat boots in every other activity and duty they preform just like their male counterparts, suddenly being told to wear high heels? Lawyers and members of Ukraine’s opposition party have come out opposing the change, calling it a “deliberate harm for the health of soldiers”, “sexist”, and “Mid evil”
Women in Ukraine’s Parliament in particular have come out in force against marching in high heels, creating a committee to tackle the Issue. Both women like Inna Sovosun, a former cabinet member and Elena Kondratyuk, the deputy chairman of the Ukrainian parliament, have joined with other women in parliament to create a cross party group called “equal opportunities” (комітет з питань рівних можливостей)
To an extent this has worked. Ukraine’s defense ministry stated before the parade that female Soldiers would be given “more comfortable heels to march in”. Many are still angered at the at the idea of a demeaning shoe, no matter how comfortable it is.
Since this blog post is coming out after the parade took place, we can examine what happened. First things first female soldiers were forced to wear heels during the parade. However, these heels were much closer to a dress uniform style shoe or a high heel boot than the ones seen in Parade rehearsals. (a close up of the used shoes appears in the video above at around 3 minutes and 12 minutes in) Secondly, only two units containing women appears in the marching section of the parade, which begs the question if the women practicing in the sexist high heels were simply scrapped from the parade all together. Unfortunately, this information is unavailable to the public in English or simply isn’t available at all.
While, this whole ordeal has been an attempt to belittle women and their role in the Ukrainian armed forces, the Women of Ukraine did not take it lying down and fought back against what they thought was wrong, even if it meant banding together in Parliament. The ability for change to happen and relatively quickly can be seen as an absolute win for not just Ukraine but Eastern Europe as a whole, which has long struggles with women’s rights, health and safety. Even though the premise of heels wasn’t totally rejected, the ability for women to protest and change their uniform is a good starting point in a part of the world that is male dominated and militaristic at heart.