Artist Yan Yinhong was assaulted by two men who rushed the stage during a performance of her piece entitled “One Person’s Battlefield” – which the New York Times calls “her furious comment on sexual violence against women.” In an interview with Yan, she said: “[t]o me, their interference [in the performance] showed the vileness of society, and our society is vile.”
The Times describes the attack as follows:
The assault continued through her entire performance as she dodged the men who kissed and groped her, grappled her to the floor and thrust their hands up her skirt, the audience making only halfhearted efforts to help as they stood by and recorded the incident with phones and cameras.
All of this is completely horrifying, and the “halfhearted efforts” of the audience who mostly walked away with cool vids of a women being violently assaulted is especially stomach-turning.
To put the assault in context, Yan wearily explained a deeply intertwined culture of misogyny, failure by law enforcement to pursue sexual assault, and unchecked mental illness without any hope of treatment. When asked if she had reported the attack to law enforcement, Yan said that she hadn’t, as it would be an exercise in futility.
Chen Meixin, an art critic and curator in China, said that one of the men involved (Yan knew both of her attackers, who are both Beijing-based artists) had “psychological problems” that were untreated, because “in Chinese society you don’t get help when you have those kinds of problems.”
Artist Li Xinmo was also interviewed by The Times about the attack and sees a systematic anti-woman sentiment that is completely pervasive throughout Chinese culture. Li says she receives constant backlash aimed at her own work, which like Yan’s deals primarily with violence against women.
This anti-woman sentiment is particularly apparent in the response to the attack from other artists and art critics. Especially ludicrous is the interpretation of artist/critic Wu Wei, who wrote an article claiming that the attack was in fact a form of “interactive art.” He wrote that ”Li’s interpretation was itself a form of prejudice,” and that “Li Xinmo is always talking about feminism. But this kind of feminism, doesn’t it just become female chauvinism?!” Who told Wu about the MRA?
The interview closes with a particularly sad quotation from Yan, who said:
“I felt that I could handle it. There is so much of this in my daily life. I come across this kind of thing all the time.”
I’m completely appalled and shocked by the assault at the performance, but this is way worse, and unfortunately, pretty indicative (in an extreme) of a lot women’s experience.