Wu Rongrong, Wei Tingting, Wang Man, Zheng Churan and Li Tingting are five courageous women who have been staging protests for the past several years in China. They are advocating for equal-rights legislation and highlight discriminatory behavior in government and businesses. Their protests have been viewed as “performance art”—a term strategically employed to dodge the political sensitivity of “protest.” On March 7, along with 5 other women and now more are being detained as this is written, they remain in detention. The concern is they will be charged with “picking quarrels and creating a disturbance,” an Orwellian turn of phrase used to jail government critics for up to five years.
The history of their protest art is direct and often humorous, yet gets under the skin of Chinese customs and culture and can be inflammatory. Their performances usually relate to events that they consider discriminatory, and they’ve received big coverage on social media. One action saw them with shaved heads to highlight some universities’ practice of lowering admissions standards for men that altered the gender balance with higher-achieving women. Another performance tackled sexual harassment on subways when the Shanghai Subway authority said for women to “have some self-respect” and not dress provocatively. The women road the subway wearing miniskirts, metal breast protectors, and signs saying, “I can be slutty, but you can’t get dirty.”
Another performance on Valentine’s Day 2012 was designed to dramatize domestic violence when the three of the women wore bridal gowns covered in red paint to look like blood. They paraded down a crowded Beijing street, with signs and chanting “Love is not an excuse for violence.”
A widely reported performance that went viral was the “Occupy Men’s Room” demonstration a few days later was meant to address a less threatening gender-related issue that could gain broad support. After all, long bathroom lines for women also affect the men who accompany them. That might have been the last straw.
On March 7, the five were getting ready to distribute pamphlets that spoke to issues the Chinese government policy supports: gender equality and combatting sexual harassment.
A good site for further information about what is going on in China is http://chinachange.org/, and to support Wu Rongrong, Wei Tingting, Wang Man, Zheng Churan and Li Tingting use the twitter at #freethefive.