Silent stands for male peace
IT MIGHT have looked like performance art installation on the grass by Ballina Bridge on Sunday morning, but it was actually "a call to arms” by a group of men against violence and rape.
The gathering of around 37 men was the first of series of "silent stands” to take place over the next five weeks in Lismore, in the hope of "laying new foundations to enact the peaceful man within our community”.
As the men quietly reflected on the "overtly masculine trait” that leads to violent behaviour towards women, dogs barked and children played happily in the sun.
But for all those in attendance, there was no denying the emotion invoked by the gathering.
Afterwards, organiser Phil Blackman led an exchange of responses, telling the group how touched he had been to see them gather in meditation.
Since announcing the vigil, a process seemed to be gaining momentum around "a sense of the type of man” these men wanted to enact.
"Through shared questioning of our hope and intentions, perhaps we can create a ripple of meaning as a collective of men,” he said.
After what has happened to Eurydice Dixon in Melbourne, and 28-year-old Qi Yu in Newcastle, "we don't have to be defensive or sit and do nothing, we can offer another way”.
"We want to be the strong peaceful, attentive, passionate, fierce and creative men our women want us to be but we are not going to get there unless we take another route.”
Blair Rankin, who attended with his daughter Rosie, said it was "nice to see men taking time out to come to show there solidarity with what has happened”.
"There are guys from all walks of life here. It is a true cross section of our community,” he said.
"I brought my kids. I didn't know whether it was appropriate, but I wanted to show why there were men here after what has happened.”
Another response raised was the "plain fact” there were 14-year-old boys within the immediate community "engaging in some sort of non-consensual sexual activity with girls on a regular basis”.
"Kids are drinking at parties... and multi-million dollar corporations are contributing to the promotion of our children's sexuality and the degradation of women.”
He said the isolation that stripped men of emotional resources to cope with life's failures was an issue. Through coming together, the self-loathing that leads to violence can be alleviated and men can begin to project the type of man they would like to be.
According to the Victorian Violence against women survey, one in three Australian women has experienced physical violence. One in five, has experienced sexual violence.
Mr Blackman is asking men to "be bold and courageous and, if nothing else, to support me to make a silent stand and lay a few new foundations within our own community”.
For the next five Sundays, men are invited to meet at Lismore Memorial Baths at 9.15am to take part in the vigil.
For more information, go to the Facebook page: An end to violence and rape - enacting the peaceful man.