I’m something of a feminist and so when I saw that Ali Wong’s stand up special on Netflix openly declared she was going to explain why feminism was “terrible”, I eye-rolled. Someone who has to make a big deal out of general ideological statements in their stand up special would probably come off to me as preachy. But targeting feminism in particular just seemed like something that’s been overdone at this point, particularly in stand up.
Even someone who said that they were going to talk about why Republicans will end up causing the inevitable heat death in the universe would just be tiresome…though possibly interesting, so perhaps that’s a bad example. But in any case, my general thought isn’t so much that stand up folks need to stay away from discussing politics so much as shorthand descriptions don’t always lend to the nuance that may be going on.
Thankfully such was the case with Ali Wong in her Netflix special, Baby Cobra.
I nervously started off the special unsure of what to expect (I had never heard of this comedian before though Netflix guessed I’d give it a 4 / 5 rating and I did, to be fair) and when Ali got into why she thought feminism was “one of the worst things that has ever happened to women” it was actually funny.
She explained that before feminism came around women were able to simply hang around the house. They didn’t have to work a job or shit on the toiler next to their co-workers. They didn’t have to deal with making incomes or feeling “empowered” by leaning in. Instead of leaning in, Ali Wong would much rather prefer to lay down.
Wong therefore took one of the most aggravating parts of mainstream feminism for me (it’s obsession with status, power and especially work) and openly defy it through anthems of laziness. Throughout the show she repeated the theme of finding value in being a housewife and doing things on her terms as much as possible with as little work as possible.
As such it was not only fairly ideologically invigorating but funny to see someone proclaim that they simply don’t want to do anything. That marrying the man of their dreams who got a degree from Harvard Business School was their ticket out of work and that they’d rather sit home and do nothing. And when Wong gets older she tells us that she’ll just have her kid take care of her. This will continue the cycle of Wong not needing to work and eating whatever she wants, etc.
Of course, this is stand up comedy.
So let’s take this all with a grain of salt.
Wong is pointing out a bit of a half-truth to make a comedic point. While it’s true that women didn’t have to work (as much) or at least weren’t expected to do so outside of the home, they obviously had to do much (if not all) of the domestic labor themselves. This included child-rearing, laundry, dishes and so on. These things took much time away from women who otherwise may have had a life to themselves that would’ve allowed for more self-expression.
And even today it isn’t as if women aren’t still forced to do a majority of the housework. Though this raises the important point of how liberal notions of feminism tend to fail women. They push women to take on more power, status and work for themselves while ignoring or downplaying the already-exiting overworked elements in their life.
There are times of course when liberal feminists take note of such disparities in work but even here their solutions tend to be inadequate. Giving women more power in a capitalist society and within that same framework may have some positive side-effects of reinforcing the notion that women can take important roles and deserve respect. But it also reinforces that such leadership and respect needs to come from capitalism itself instead of autonomous women.
None of these things Wong touches on or I’d expect her to touch on. But it was a very funny way of defying my expectations and left me laughing. It was particularly funny when she ended the stand up special by saying that because of her husband’s degree at Harvard Business School that she needed to pay it off for him with her TV famous money.
Thus she concluded that he had really trapped her.