Curator's Remarks

身临险境 / "In the Perilous Environment," Lü Pin, feminist activist
Remarks delivered at the opening of the exhibit on January 26, 2016
Translated by Yidi Li, PhD Student, Joint Program in Women's Studies & Psychology

我想从2015年1月28日的一封电子邮件说起,那封电子邮件是对我和发信人的谈话的整理。其中写道:

I want to start with an email from January 28th, 2015. That email was a review of conversations I had with the sender.

“女权运动在中国似乎快到了critical mass ‘临界点’,就是从量变到质变的临界点。”

“Feminist activism has almost reached ‘critical mass,’ the point in an evolving situation that leads to new and irreversible developments. ……”

[Translator’s note: Critical mass theory in gender politics and collective political action is defined as the critical number of personnel needed to affect policy and make a change, not as a token but as an influential body.]

“……中国女权运动的春天可能快来了……。但是,这个临界点也是一个双刃剑,圈外的人会女权主义的进步而欢呼雀跃,圈内的人却会感到越来越有压力,这个压力最主要是来自政府的压力,政府已经看到女权运动的动员方式具有的颠覆性和组织性,所以已经锁定了当中的部分人。”

“……The spring of Chinese feminist activism may come soon …… However, this critical mass is also a double-edged sword. Outsiders will cheer for the progress of feminism, but insiders will feel more and more pressured. The main pressure is the pressure from the government. The government has noticed the subversive and organizational features feminist activists use to mobilize people, so they have already focused on some of them.”

“所以这个时候更是关键的时候,我们要尽可能地争取更多人对女权主义甚至女权行动的认同,让我们的经验更加具有可复制性,被更多人所参考,这样以来,即使我们一不小心被打压了,机构可以被打压,但是人们的思想已经被女权启蒙了,政府是打压不了这种思想的。结论就是,我们要争取不当炮灰。”

“So this becomes a more crucial moment. We have to fight as much as possible to gain more people to identify with feminism or even feminist activism, making our experience more replicable so that more people can refer to it. So in that way, even if we are accidentally suppressed, the organization can be suppressed, but people's minds have been enlightened by feminism and the government cannot suppress that thought. The conclusion is that we have to fight to not become the cannon fodder." [Translator's note: cannon fodder = victims]

我想解释一下这个预见的背景。我要把时间倒推到2012年的2月14日,情人节。在中国北京最繁华的城中心的街头,寒冬中出现了三个身穿婚纱的女孩,她们的婚纱上涂抹着“血迹”,她们手举牌子提醒人们要反对家庭暴力。这是后来人们称之为“中国青年女权行动派”的第一次公开亮相。

I’d like to explain the background of this anticipation. I want to push the time back to February 14th, 2012, Valentine’s Day. On a freezing cold winter day, in the busiest section of Beijing City, there were three girls in their wedding dresses. Their wedding dresses were smeared by “blood stains.” They waved signs to remind people to oppose domestic violence. This was later known as the first public appearance of "China’s Youth Feminist Activists."

这个活动的地点是在北京城区最中心的位置,前门大街。这里紧邻中国的政治中心天安门,曾以北京本地文化传统而著称,后来它又被改造成一个专门面向旅游者的商业区。这是一个在政治、文化和经济方面都具有象征意义的地点。在这个地点上这些年轻人所发起的抗辩,我想也是同时针对这几个不同的面向。

The location of this activity was the central axis of Beijing City, Qianmen Street. Next to Tiananmen Square, the political center of China, this place used to be famous as the local cultural center of Beijing, and was later transformed into a tourist-oriented business district. This is a place that has a symbolic significance in the political, cultural, and economic aspects of China. The defense initiated by these young people on this site, from my perspective, was aimed at these different aspects.

而她们所提出的家庭暴力,本身就是能触动到这三个角度的议题。这个议题在中国已经有十多年的工作积累,和很多其他国家的妇女运动一样,中国的民间妇女运动非常重视家庭暴力,并且围绕这个议题组织了她们曾经相当大规模的联盟。但按我现在的看法,她们当时,还不能称为一个运动,因为运动是大规模的身体性的集结。中国的民间妇女活动是由知识者最早开拓和发展的,她们为其付出很多,但如何到达更广泛的普通民众却是一个瓶颈性的问题。另一个瓶颈在于如何理解国家与妇女权利的关系:希望国家履行其保障权利的责任,但却忽视了一点:这个国家统治本身就是极度父权性的,并且缺乏合法基础。然而当我们向国家游说希望国家在妇女权利的议题上实施局部正义的时候,却因边缘和无力而得不到足够的回应。

And the issue of domestic violence raised by them, in itself, touches upon these three angles. The issue in China has accumulated more than a decade of work. And like the women's movement in many other countries, the Chinese civil women's movement attaches great importance to the issue of domestic violence and has organized a fairly large-scale alliance around this issue in the past. But in my opinion, at that time, it cannot be considered as a movement because a movement is a large-scale physical aggregation. China’s civil women’s movement was originated and developed by intellectuals. They paid a lot for it, but the bottleneck is how to reach a wider range of ordinary people. Another bottleneck is how to understand the relationship between the state and women’s rights. We hope that the state can fulfill its responsibility to protect people’s rights, but we ignore the fact that the state itself is extremely patriarchal in nature and lacks a legal basis. When we want to persuade the state to implement partial justice on women's rights, we are not able to get an adequate response due to marginalization and lack of power.

所以我想2012年2月14日的这次活动,是一次Come out。这几名新娘都非常年轻,她们通过书本和互联网接触并认同了女权主义,她们结识了NGO并成为员工或者志愿者。她们对性别问题有强烈的体验,希望能做些什么。但她们几乎不拥有什么社会资本,她们不是学者,不是资深人士,所以她们不能走早期活动家的路,没有机会去和政府磋商建言。但她们可不可以以她们自己的主体性去发出自己的诉求呢。这就是这次活动:让人们看到,年轻人所提出的问题,向社会,尤其是向国家。而且为了让人们看到自己,她们寻求戏剧性和画面感,她们穿上了带血的婚纱。——她们让人们“不得不”看见她们。

Therefore, I think the activity on February 14, 2012, was a coming out. These brides were all very young. They got to know feminism and identified with it through books and the Internet. They became acquainted with the NGO and became employees or volunteers. They had much experience with gender issues, and were hoping to do something. But they hardly had any social capital: they were not scholars or veterans, so they could not take the way the early activists took, and they did not have any chance to offer advice or consultation to the government. But could they use their own subjectivity to make their demands? That was what this event was made of: It made people notice the issue that these young people raised for society, especially for the state. And in order to make people notice them, they looked for some kind of drama and visuality, so they put on the bloody wedding dresses. They made people “have to” notice them.

所以这从一开始就是一个关于VISIBILITY的故事。第一,她们要人们不得不看到这个议题,第二,她们要人们不得不看到这群人。所谓看见议题,不仅是让妇女权利走出小圈子为人所知,更重要的是为人知就意味着——它被接纳成为公共议题,社会都承认这个问题很重要。不是女人的事,私人的事。接下来,是因为大家都认为此事重要,政府不得不有所回应。所以在这个过程中,非常重要的就是传播和媒体,因为它能放大无名者的力量。所以你们看到,她们的所有信息都浓缩在一张照片上了,而且大家看到这张照片,不用说明就知道这是什么。这是最容易传播的。看她们,是无遮无拦的现身。

That’s why this was a story about VISIBILITY from the very beginning. First of all, they wanted people to have to notice this issue. Second, they wanted people to have to notice this group of people. “Noticing the issue” was not just about making the issue of women’s rights become well-known, more importantly, it meant that the issue had to be accepted as a public issue that society would acknowledge as something that was very important. This was not something for women, or something private. Next, as we all considered this to be an important matter, the government had to respond. Thus, in this process, communication or media was very crucial, because it could amplify the power of the unknown. So you see that all of the information was condensed into a photograph (like this). And when we take a look at this photograph, we know what it is without any explanation. This is the easiest way to communicate or spread the information. Looking at them, they are coming out with no obscuration.

在那之后,这些年轻人在中国各地做了很多的活动,因此积累了海量的照片。而“受伤的新娘”的形象也在不断被复制。当然,可以说这都是表演,制造影响力。不知道为什么中国人对媒体造势总抱有很多的偏见,所谓哗众取宠。所以问题是:拍着照片发到网上,问题并没有被解决啊。但要知道在这些照片背后,跟进地,这些年轻人也做了很多的工作,例如她们会写公开信。2012年她们征集了1.3万个签名支援一个家庭暴力案件,2013年她们征集了1.3万个签名要求通过家庭暴力法。这是中国在这个领域中迄今最大规模的联名动员。

Since then, these young people have done lots of activities around China, and have collected tons of photos as a result of that. And the image of the “injured bride” has been constantly replicated. Of course, we can say this is all about performance, creating influence. But we do not understand why Chinese people always have a lot of bias for media campaigns, so-called grandstanding. So the problem is: taking photos and posting them on the Internet, but the issue has not been addressed. However, we should know that beyond these photos, these young people have attempted many follow-up actions. For example, they would write an open letter. In 2012, they collected 13,000 signatures to support a domestic violence case; in 2013 they collected another 13,000 signatures in order to ask for the passage of the Domestic Violence Act. So far this has been the largest collective mobilization in this domain in China.

对这些年轻人,和她们的支持者来说,那是一段激动人心的岁月,但是同时却始终心怀忧惧,因为,从一开始,警察就始终在监控和阻止她们的活动。中国是禁止示威和集会的。对人们在网上发布的言论或者私下的电子通讯,政府有不受限制的监控权。因此,公民社会的活动始终是在周旋,但周旋能不能成功,并不取决于我们自己。

For these young people, and their supporters, that was a period full of excitement. But at the same time, they were constantly feeling nervous and anxious. It was because the police had been monitoring and blocking their activities since the very beginning. Demonstrations and rallies are prohibited in China. The government has the unrestricted right to monitor the online comments people posted or their private electronic communications. Thus, the activities of civil society are always being dealt with, but whether the deal is successful or not, is something that does not depend on us.

照片并不能反映出创造那个时刻时所经历的惊险。我的一个年轻朋友曾经说,当她在活动中,看到警察,她的两片阴唇都吓得抖动。是的,这就是她们为了自己的国家而承担的。

The photograph(s) cannot reflect the breathtaking experience created by that moment. A young friend of mine once told me that when she was at the event, after seeing the police, her two labia were scared to jitter. Yes, this is what they have undertaken for their own country.

曾经,我自认为认识,或者至少知道中国所有的女权主义者,可见那时候圈子有多小。后来我认识了这些年轻人并意识到一个新的女权行动主义的社群正在兴起。接下来,是因为她们不断地投放事件和话题,成功地占到媒体的版面和人们的注意力,也令更多人意识到,私下的哀音变成公开的怒吼,是重要之事,而且,当你尝试,会发现改变比预想中可能更容易。于是,越来越多的人开始加入,乃至自发地愤愤不平,尝试自己去做些什么。这就像死水被投入石子,再投,再投,震荡开始酝酿。这就是我开头所说的,临界点的预期。

Once, I knew or at least thought I knew all feminists in China, suggesting how small the circle was at that time. Later, I got to know these young people and realized that a new community of feminist activism was on the rise. Next, because they continued to produce events and raise topics that successfully grabbed media attention and also made more people recognize that making the sad private tone become the public roar was such an important matter. Further, when you started to try, you would find that changes might be easier to make than expected. As a result, more and more people began to join. They even spontaneously felt angry, trying to do something by themselves. It's like throwing stones into stagnant water, when you throw and throw, the storm starts to brew up. That's what I mentioned at the beginning, a critical mass to anticipate.

然而此时正是中国政府缩紧公民社会空间之时。我认为政府对女权主义并没有兴趣,重点是,它不希望被问责,更不希望还有其他力量去组织和动员人民。社会的自发和自治对统治来说是最危险的。我并不认为女权主义的活动已经强大到能动摇政府统治,而且它也没有明确的政治的议程,即,它不把反政府作为自己的目标。

But this is actually at a time when Chinese government is shrinking the space of civil society. I think that the government is not interested in feminism. Most importantly, it does not want to be held accountable. It really does not want to see that there are powers that are organizing and mobilizing people. The spontaneity and autonomy of society is the most dangerous aspect of it for rulers. I do not think that feminist activities have been strong enough to shake the ruling government. It also does not have a clear political agenda, that is, it does not see anti-government as their goal.

但是,是不是反政府,这也不是由我们决定的。2015年3月初的“女权五姐妹”案件,虽然有一定的偶然性,但是,其实是必然发生的一次冲撞。我同意王政老师的观点:这一案件对中国的女权运动产生深远的影响。中国政府撕下了社会主义的男女平等的面纱,而女权主义也不得不面临被政治化的命运。国家与妇女运动的关系,容不得多少暧昧含糊了。

However, whether it is anti-government (or not) is not a decision made by us. Although the “Feminist Five” case happening in March 2015 has a certain level of occasionality, it is in fact considered a collision that has become inevitable. I agree with Dr. Wang Zheng’s point of view that this case has had a profound impact on Chinese feminist movement. As the Chinese government has torn the veil of socialist equality, feminism has to face the fate of being politicized. Between the state and the women's movement, there is not much ambiguity and vagueness that can be allowed.

女权五姐妹的获释绝不是结束。不仅是她们到现在都没有真正恢复自由,更广泛的是,整个女权行动主义的活动空间被大大压缩,停止了街头活动,有些讲座、研讨会也被叫停。有些参与者退出了运动,很多人不再敢加入NGO。中国的女权行动主义由盛而衰。

The release of the “Feminist Five” is definitely not the ending of it. It is not just because they have not truly received their freedom. More broadly speaking, the entire space of feminist activism has been largely reduced, during a time of fear and confusion. Street activities were stopped; some lectures and seminars were also halted. Some participants withdrew from the campaign; many people no longer dared to join the NGO. Chinese feminist activism has experienced a decline.

这让我们体会到国家是如此的强大,而我们的力量还太弱小。另外,我们的组织和人还缺少资本和资源,来度过这一段困难。

This makes us understand that our country is so powerful, and our strength is still too weak. In addition, our organization and our people still lack the capital and the resources to get through this period of difficulties.

但另一方面,中国的女权主义却在继续兴旺,几乎不受影响。因为很多人甚至不知道发生这个案子。所以她们继续在网上热烈地讨论着一切与性别歧视有关的问题。敢于自称女权主义者的比以往什么时候都多,而且非常年轻,还有初中生。这在以往是不可想象的。她们在互联网上集体声讨的力量足以让男性名人和明星羞愧。

But on the other hand, feminism in China has continued to thrive, almost unaffected by all these. Because many people do not even know about this case. So they continue to passionately discuss all issues related to gender discrimination online. Those who dare to call themselves feminists are far more numerous than ever before, and are very young; some of them are junior high school students. All of this was unimaginable in the past. The power they own to denounce collectively on the Internet is strong enough to make male celebrities and pop stars ashamed.

我们的政府是很强大,但它并不能窒息一切声音。社会还在努力斗争,许多女人已经在觉醒,要让她们重新装睡没那么容易。但是,当社会进步,代价却是先行者的牺牲甚至被遗忘,又要重演这样的故事吗?

Our government is very powerful, but it cannot suffocate all voices. Society is still trying to struggle, and many women are already awakening. It is not that easy to let them pretend to fall asleep again. However, when social progress happens, the price becomes the sacrifice or oblivion of the pioneer. Does the story have to repeat itself?

我坚信我们的社会,妇女运动,仍然需要核心的行动主义者,否则,辩论也只是泡沫。人们需要身体性的行动,弄脏自己的手,走向最前沿,最危险的那一线,才能去令社会进步。

I firmly believe that our society, the women's movement, is still in need of hardcore activists; otherwise, the debate is just a bubble. People need to engage in physical acts, to get their hands dirty, to go to the forefront and the most dangerous frontline, in order to make social progress.

这就是我们创意中国女权行动展的目的。我们想以记录和呈现,表扬这些人在过去几年所付出和所成就的,这是她们应得的光荣。我们也想提供中国的案例,贡献于全世界的社会运动行动库。我们也是为了彰显行动主义的合法性,以此作为斗争,支持中国国内妇女运动的空间的恢复。当然,也是为了让更多的人了解在中国发生了什么。我必须说,在中国发生的人权迫害 不仅是中国人的危险,在世界上也应该引起足够的警觉。但另一方面,在黑暗中,最重要的是,人们始终在斗争。

This is our ultimate reason for organizing this exhibition of Chinese feminist activism. We would like to record and present for recognition the contributions and achievements of these people in the past few years—this is their deserved glory. By providing a case from China, we would also like to make contributions to the archives of social movement activism worldwide. We also want to demonstrate the legitimacy of activism to help restore the space of domestic Chinese feminist activism. Of course, we also want to let more people know about what has happened in China. I must say that the persecution of human rights in China is not only a danger for Chinese people, it should also trigger vigilance worldwide. But on the other hand, in the dark, the most important thing is that people always keep fighting.

至于临界点,我想说的是,我猜中了开头,但没有猜中结尾——因为这一切我们都是在中国未曾经历过。我再次意识到,没有局部正义可言,女权运动的临界点不可能只是它自己的临界点,而必然是整个社会变革的一部分。而女权主义也必然是一种政治性的选择。所以,从“女权五姐妹案”开始,我们又进入了新的COME OUT的阶段。

In terms of the critical mass, I want to say—I guessed the beginning of it but not the ending of it—because we have never experienced any of these in China. Once again, I realize that there is no such thing as partial justice; the critical mass of feminist activism cannot possibly be the critical mass of its own—it must be a part of an entire social change. And feminism is bound to be a political choice. Thus, since the “Feminist Five,” we have entered a new phase of coming out.

No to gynecological examination gate

Click on this image to see more information.

Feminist Activism in China