Nineteen Merritt men will walk a runway in women’s shoes to take a stand against gender-based violence.

Nicola Family Therapy is holding the Mz Judged beauty pageant at the Civic Centre on Dec. 1 in support of the international White Ribbon Campaign, in which men around the world speak out against violence against women.

The event will feature local men dressed as women in a typical – but not traditional – beauty pageant, complete with swimwear and talent portions.

“There will be an evening gown portion, swimwear or beachwear segment, a talent show segment, and a panel of judges,” Nicola Family Therapy office manager Shannon Daw said. “By presenting themselves as women for one night, they’re being judged like all women are, every day. It gives them a sample of what women live with every day.”

Nicola Family Therapy is a non-profit organization that provides counselling to groups, individuals, families and couples in the area, with the majority of the work offered to women and children survivors of violence. Proceeds from the event will help increase the services Nicola Family Therapy offers to men.

Though this is the first Mz Judged pageant in Merritt, Daw said it’s modelled after a similar event in Prince Rupert, which was supportive of Merritt holding its own pageant.

“It’s something new for our community,” Daw said. “We thought we would try it here, and it’s kind of a win-win situation. It raises awareness in the community and it gives men the opportunity to speak out by participating. There are a lot of people in our community who’ve never heard of the White Ribbon Campaign, so this is information for them as well. I find that with a lot of people that I speak with, once they realize the event is for raising awareness, they’re even more supportive.”

The men participating in the event chose their own stage names, including “Mz. Diagnosed,” “Ms. De Meanor,” and “Mz. Behaving.” Contestants will compete for the top crown, the Mz Judged 2012 title, and two runner-up crowns from five judges. They also have to raise $100 in pledges to participate, and the contestant with the most pledges will receive a special honour on the night of the pageant. Daw said it’s a fun way to raise awareness about a serious issue in the Nicola Valley and around the world.

“It’s not a drag queen show,” she said. “This is just men taking to the stage in high-heeled shoes for one night and presenting themselves as women and being judged as women – just what we face every day, basically.”

Given its mature theme, Daw suggests parents use discretion in bringing their children to the event, though it’s not technically an adult event. The pageant starts at 7 p.m. with doors opening an hour early for rush seating, and there will also be a cash bar. Tickets are $20 in advance at Nicola Family Therapy or $25 at the door.

In B.C., there were 13,574 victims of family violence reported to police in 2010, according to a report by Statistics Canada released earlier this year.

Select quotes from the Mz

Judged 2012 hopefuls:

Most attractive physical attribute:

Mz Diagnozed has played soccer all his/her life and has very muscular thighs and buttocks as a result. (Bob Hughes)

Eyebrows and ear hairs (John Anderson/Mz Laid)

My juicy smile (Derek Mobbs/Mz Steak)

My long legs that carry me on many wild western adventures (Mark Elliott/Mz Adventure)

Wrangler butt (Jayson Charters/Downtown Shirley)

A beauty mark like Cindy Crawford on my left eye. My nephew says it looks like a spider (Dan Fremlin/Mz Behaving)

What makes you so special that you should win:

I’m here to give people a good time and to make sure that when they leave, the issues of the evening stick in their minds. (Chris Brock/Mz Fire)

I have had violence in my family and would really like to bring attention to this cause (Danny Moses/Mz Conception)

I have “mad” skills (Matt McLean/Mz Placed)

Because I’m all that and a bag of chips (Norm Flemming/Ms De Meanor)

I’m not that special, but I’m earnest! (David Berezan/Mz Daisy Maynot)

Why do you make a good woman:

I make a good woman because I can chug beer (Ryan Ganton-Stanley/Mz Cellaneous)

I am very in touch with my maternal instincts (Leroy Slanzi/Mz Understood)

Quiet dignity and grace (Trevor Skappak/Mz Violated)

Been surrounded by them all my life; mother, sisters, daughters, wife and now granddaughters (Mike Hassel/Mz Terious)

I’m sensitive but still able to take control. (Brian Snee/Sammy Snee)