DANIELLE POPE: Why we walk — to build strength

Victoria is a walking city. Only moments after I was first in the area, I stepped into my first walk for insert-your-issue-here.

Victoria is a walking city. Only moments after I was first delivered into the area, I stepped off a bus and, accidentally, into my first participatory walk for insert-your-issue-here.

The benefits of walking are pretty clear. It improves balance and co-ordination, increases energy, helps maintain a healthy weight, manages conditions like heart disease, even strengthens the old bones. But there are other reasons to walk that researchers spend slightly less time monitoring — it stretches out your activist muscles, releases unity endorphins and forces you to look at the direction you’re taking.

This week, Victorians will have the opportunity to join a walk that has stepped all over North America in opposition to the casual assumption that survivors of sexual assault should be held responsible for their attacks. It’s called SlutWalk, and its meant to snag attention — attention for an issue that, so often, stays silent.

The real thanks for this goes to the Ontario police officer who made his opinions public in 2011, linking the way women dress to instigating assaults. But although Cst. Michael Sanguinetti was criticized and disciplined for suggesting women shouldn’t dress like “sluts” if they don’t want to be victimized, he succinctly verbalized the stigma that many have been pretending didn’t still exist. The fact is, even in 2013 it still exists, and a group of brave Victoria women have decided that our sleepy walking town is long due for a wake up.

On Sun., June 9, at 11am, self-proclaimed sluts of all genders and ages will strut from the legislature through the streets of Victoria: some in sweat pants, some in business suits, some in risqué outfits, some in jeans. Hopefully, you’ll be one of them — I will.

Before you go, consider the clinical prescription for getting the most out of your walk. Your head is up. You’re looking forward, not at the ground. Your neck, shoulders and back are relaxed. You’re swinging your arms freely (a little pumping is OK). Your stomach muscles are slightly tightened and your back is straight, not arched forward or backward. You’re walking smoothly, rolling your foot from heel to toe. You’re holding a sign. You’re yelling the call-and-response chant. You’re laughing with the people staring, in awe of you, on the sidelines. You’re smiling because those endorphins are kicking in about now, and you’re helping your body and all the bodies around you feel supported.

Yes, it might be a saturated market. Yes, we’ll continue to see walks every week for every issue from paper cut prevention to the serious stuff. Yes, there are times when it seems like a walk is hardly enough to make any real change. But, with all that focused energy, the intent is what makes change — and your presence counts.

With one foot in front of the other, every step is in the right direction. M

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