7 1/2 months pregnant, Wong unapologetically performs on stage with a skin tight bodycon dress in the Netflix stand-up comedy special, Baby Cobra. This is the first time I have seen a woman in her third trimester perform on stage, even in my 10+ years of being a performing musician. She is able to ingeniously bring into light topics that are taboo to talk about at the dinner table, such as miscarriages, sexual promiscuity, female empowerment and race by bringing in
dark humor. The film is radical because she completely rejects the normative ideologies of what it means to be an Asian American woman implemented by white oppressors in society. However, while one might expect someone who escapes the hegemonic system through radicalism to be a social and economic hermit, she is able to perform in front of many and compete successfully in the political economy because she stands strong with her own ideologies and values. This is the mindset of colonizing the colonizer. With every ideology that is oppressed onto her, she twists and throws back her own ideology, ultimately advantaging from it.
Fetishes by male white oppressors are a way of hypersexually curtailing female Asian bodies into an exotic, submissive Lotus Blossom. Such fetishism has a long history, as seen with the early writings of Marco Polo as he said that Chinese women were “the most delicate and Angelique things, and raised gently, and with great delicacy…the value of them cannot be estimated” (emphasis mine).
This is precisely the process of orientalization, which psychologically puts asian women back into the place that belong in the system of hegemony, which is being a submissive sexual commodity. Wong fearlessly rejects all norms as she describes meeting her husband.
“I knew that he was a catch so I was like, “All right, Ali, you gotta make this dude believe that your body is a secret garden…When really it’s a public park…that has hosted many reggae fests and has even accidentally let…two homeless people inside. I thought they were hipsters.” -Ali Wong, Baby Cobra
Contrary to the image of an innocent Asian female, she candidly speaks about her abundant sex life. Instead of being an Angelique exotic submissive woman, she is raw, straightforward, and in a place of dominance in her sex life. She also claims that the only reason she was acting like her body was the Garden of Eden was to catch her husband, a Harvard Business School grad. She took advantage of her body being a temple to get what she wanted.
Why a Harvard Business School grad? Because she did not want to work anymore (her husband is also an Asian American male, contrary to the stereotype that Asian girls only date white guys). Why doesn’t she want to work anymore? Because retirement is the goal that all people wish to seek in the end. She glorifies stay at home mothers to say that they have it the best because they can do whatever they want. These are examples of how Wong rejects the norms of what it means to be an Asian American woman in a hegemonic society. She twists those ideologies that validate the system of oppression (which seek to weaken and keep the oppressed in place). Her ideologies triumph and benefit herself, ultimately a very comfortable marriage with long retirement.
Regardless of gender, women are seen as
biological robots bodies with only two “things” that comes out of it; periods and babies. And during this preparation of the latter, women mysteriously disappear from the performance scene and the minute the head pops out of the vagina, their careers are killed. Again, she radically takes advantage of this stereotype as she pursues her career goals by performing while pregnant. Because no other man does this, she can use this to her advantage. Wong goes further and talks about other things that come out of a woman’s body, such as producing milk, being wet, and having a miscarriage. She compares having a miscarriage to “losing a shoe” because it is more common than society thinks. In fact, when considering the audience reception of her stand-up, many women have reached out to Wong thanking her for sharing her experience publicly.
In conclusion, Ali Wong is able to render a radical performance because of her wit in intercepting harmful normative stereotypes that seek to weaken women and changing them into her own ideologies that she can in turn benefit from. I truly applaud her for being on stage in a male dominated arena as an Asian American performer, pregnant, and completely owning the stage. Less than 100 years ago, an Asian American woman risked losing her citizenship if she wanted to marry an Asian man. For years, Asian American women were just pawns of the system. However, Wong radically creates an ideology that lies within her own values, not validated by others. “Colonize the colonizer” is her ideology that helps her to radically escape the harmful system. With this type of ideology, it is possible for other Asians to escape the system of oppression.