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Woman's art protesting sexual assault leads to sexual assault

Trigger warning, but let's face it, you're going to be upset when you read it no matter who you are.

This New York Times article details the story of Yan Yinhong, a woman artist in China. One recent work of hers is a performance piece "One Person's Battlefield", about sexual assault against women. During her performance, two men interrupted the show, ran onto stage, and sexually assaulted her, by grabbing and groping her. One man took out his penis and shook it at her, and another man reached under her skirt. Both of the men are Beijing artists.

Obviously the assault is awful, but what really gets to me is the response of certain members of the art community. While some, sane, people support Yan Yinhong, there are a number of people who see this assault as a response to her art, or a participation in her piece. One man goes so far to say that by labeling the actions of the men as sexual assault, Yan Yinhong is acting out of prejudice against men. “But this kind of feminism, doesn’t it just become female chauvinism?!” He asks.

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The actions of these men, to me, are a reaction to her art. However, they are not reacting in an acceptable way, and their actions shouldn't be justified as participation. These men reacted to her work by attempting to stop her from speaking with her own voice. They injected themselves into her art, without her permission. They sent a clear message that speaking out about oppression and sexual violence against women will be met with more sexual violence, and harder oppression. Their actions were meant to intimidate the artist and threatened other women considering speaking out.

Calling sexual assault sexual assault does not make feminism "female chauvinism". A woman telling her own story without asking permission from men is not committing a wrong against men. An artist should be able to control her performance. Her ability to do so should not be any less because she is a woman.

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