This piece originally appeared on The Georgia Straight.
What did I wear to SlutWalk Vancouver? Well, like many Vancouverites do most mornings of the year, I rolled out of bed, saw that it was wet and grey outside, and pulled on my rain boots and raincoat. My mother was wearing jeans and a black track coat. On our way out the door, my dad tried to foist these hideous neon pink hats on us, saying that we didn’t look flamboyant enough for SlutWalk.
When we arrived at the Vancouver Art Gallery just before 1:00 pm, we were relieved to see that we were not the only ones who decided to dress warmly (and blandly) for the weather. Except for the brave few who dared to bare skin to demonstrate that no manner of dress is an invitation for rape, the majority of us were bundled up.
However, an earlier estimate of 1,500 participants swelled to more than 2,000 as the march took off—showing that a little rain did not keep Vancouver participants from taking a stand against sexual violence and victim-blaming. “Since 2008, rates of sexual assault in Vancouver have skyrocketed,” said SlutWalk organizer, 28-year-old student Katie Raso, as she rallied the crowd. “We are here to say that no matter where we go, and no matter what we wear, yes means yes and no always means no.”
The participants seemed to have gotten the message. They carried signs such as “Let’s Change a Don’t Get Raped Culture Into a Don’t Rape Culture” and chanted slogans like: “My little black dress does not mean yes!”
As we marched toward the Vancouver Convention Centre to the beats of a Balkan brass band and a Native drum group, I spotted a young man striding along in a short skirt and four-inch leopard-print stilettos. "It’s my first time in heels," said Billy Taylor, "but I brought my sneakers in case I can’t make it the whole way."
Taylor’s slightly more conservatively dressed friend, Casper LeBlanc, added: "We’re here today because we want to support the end of rape culture and spread the message that there is no excuse for sexual assault." As I moved through the crowd to interview other walk participants, I felt a surge of pride for my hometown. I was inspired by the diversity of people around me. There were parents pushing strollers, groups of guys strutting around in Canucks hockey jerseys, a roller derby crew, people in suits with name tags coming straight out of a conference, kids running around, and maybe most inspiring of all, almost half of the walk participants were men.
Males of all ages carried signs saying things like “Bought Her Dinner? She Doesn’t Owe You Anything” and “Real Men Take No for An Answer”. The energy peaked when we marched through the Granville Street club district: a place where SlutWalk organizer Katie Nordgren says it’s hard to find a woman “who has ever been to a club along the Granville Strip who hasn’t been harassed or assaulted to some degree.”