Queefing, breastfeeding, eating pussy, period sex, putting your baby in the garbage… Ali Wong’s unapologetic and hysterical assertions of her body, motherhood, and sexuality in her latest Netflix comedy special “Hard Knock Wife” expand the possibilities of Asian womanhood.
Similar to her first Netflix comedy special “Baby Cobra,” Wong is very, very pregnant in “Hard Knock Wife” and this time, wearing a skin-tight leopard dress and her iconic red-framed glasses.
Through unashamed and overly graphic storytelling, Wong demonstrates how motherhood does and doesn’t change you. She celebrates her body and sexuality, while simultaneously lamenting the ways she’s lost control of both these aspects of herself as a result of having a baby.
Before I fully delve into how “Hard Knock Wife” pushes the boundaries and definitions of Asian womanhood, it’s important to identify the ways Asian women have been historically racialized and sexualized in U.S. history. By understanding the context and impacts of Asian female objectification, we can more fully appreciate the radical nature of Wong’s performance.
Asian Womanhood throughout U.S. History (the TL;DR version)
As the first Asians began migrating to the U.S., gender, sexuality, and respectability politics were weaponized in immigration policy to keep Asian women out of U.S. borders.
During the Chinese Exclusion era, the Page Act of 1865 prohibited “the entry of prostitutes” while stating that “all Chinese women would be suspected of prostitution unless proven otherwise.” By racializing ALL Chinese women as prostitutes, we were racially inferior and sexually immoral, and therefore doubly ineligible for U.S. citizenship.
In U.S. media, Asian women have historically been represented as both the Lotus Blossom and the Dragon Lady: two contrasting portraits that function together to objectify and dehumanize Asian women.
On the one hand, the Lotus Blossom is sexually attractive, alluring, passive, obedient, physically non-imposing, and deferring (especially to white men). The Lotus Blossom is distinguished by her powerlessness and sex appeal. In fact, it is her lack of power that makes her sexually desirable.
Performance of Miss Saigon
On the other hand, the Dragon Lady is dangerous, untrustworthy, manipulative, and uses sex and sexuality to get what she wants. She is a feminine version of yellow peril: the racist stereotype that Asians are dangerous to the West, thereby justifying xenophobia and colonialism.
These constructions of race, gender, and sexuality prescribe cis-heteronormativity, powerlessness, and submission to the white male fantasy onto Asian women. As these stereotypes get promulgated in mass media, they justify and uphold colonial legacies and exclusionary policies.
Like any stereotype, “prostitute,” “lotus blossom,” and “dragon lady” lack nuance and complexity. In all of these simplistic constructions, Asian women’s expressions of gender, sexuality, and the body are defined by outside forces, fears, and agendas. Asian women’s agency is overwhelmingly invisible.
Asian Womanhood through Ali Wong
Thus, Ali Wong’s narratives about sex, her body, and motherhood reclaim power and imagination back to Asian womanhood. From her raunchy and over-the-top stage presence, to her anecdotes on licking ass and “her nipples that look like fingers,” Wong pushes who and how we’re allowed to be.
Period sex, oral sex, and adulterous sex with a hypothetical 25 year old nanny… Wong disrupts politicized preconceptions of Asian womanhood by adamantly naming and demonstrating her sexuality on her own terms. Her body is not subject to the white male fantasy or xenophobic policies as we’ve seen throughout history, but is fully her own to celebrate, critique, and make fun of.
Furthermore, Asian cultures are generally highly shame-based, especially in regards to sex and sexuality. Although female comedians talking about sex isn’t particularly radical or new, Wong doing so as a Chinese-Vietnamese woman mid-pregnancy is. Her embodied message is refreshingly disobedient to cultural expectations of Asian women.
So thanks Ali Wong, for fearlessly and shamelessly expanding the boundaries of Asian womanhood. Here’s to more Asian women celebrating their pussies, sexualities, and failings in motherhood.