“I think feminism is the worst thing that ever happened to women.” That was comedian Ali Wong in her Netflix special, “Baby Cobra,” which was filmed in 2016. Wong, who is playing to sold-out audiences around the country and has a book of essays coming out in 2018, is one of the most popular funny women on stage right now. Though she told Ariel Levy of The New Yorker that she was kidding about her feminism comment—“I think people who don’t get that are, like, not so smart…It’s a comedy show, not a TED talk”—the truth is that Wong’s comments about the situation of supposedly “empowered women” today are spot on.
Starting with her explanation of how to get a husband. Wong, who acknowledges being promiscuous in her youth—including contracting sexually transmitted diseases and hooking up with homeless men—realized at some point that she wanted to settle down. But to find a husband, she says in her raunchy Netflix special, you “have to make him believe your body is a secret garden when it is in fact a public park—that has hosted reggae fests.”
Presumably, modern feminists believe that men shouldn’t or won’t care about women’s sexual past, but Wong is aware that’s not the case. Similarly, Wong is not one of those women who considers proposing to her boyfriend. The process of engagement and marriage is something that follows a certain path, and she observes it both in her friends and her own behavior. She jokes: “I had a sneaking suspicion he was going to propose because I was pressuring him to do it…”
Women, she advises, have to make men believe that they are indispensable. “You’ve got to threaten to leave without ever actually leaving… And it’s too late to go back out there and start the whole manipulation cycle all over again.” In her early 30s, Wong is well aware her biological clock is ticking and knows she could not afford to start “all over again.”
“For five years, I’ve packed his lunch every single day,” she jokes, “I did that so he would become dependent on me.” Wong again is joking—yes, I get it—but in the modern egalitarian marriage, it is easy to lose sight of the distinctive things that each partner can bring to the relationship. It sounds old-fashioned to pack a spouse’s lunch (I certainly know women who do it), but there is something both kind and vital to improving a marriage’s routine.
Wong keeps insisting throughout the raunchy, hour-long comedy special that there is little appealing about being an empowered modern woman. She wants a man to take care of her financially. Regarding Sheryl Sandberg’s advice, Wong says, “I don’t want to lean in. I wanna lie down.”
In the end, she tells her audience that despite her success in snagging a man with a degree from Harvard Business School, they still need her income to succeed. Though she may not love the idea of being a working woman, it is clearly a necessity in today’s world. Even, and perhaps especially, now that the couple has a child on the way.
Indeed, the comedy special is most notable because Wong was seven months pregnant during the performance. She tells the audience that there were medical interventions required for her pregnancy: “When I was in my 20s, I ate Plan B like Skittles.” Here, Wong comes closest to spitting in the face of feminist orthodoxy. The idea that there might be consequences to the promiscuity of her younger years, let alone long-lasting effects from eliminating multiple pregnancies, is largely a verboten topic among supporters of abortion rights.
She explains that her friends—especially those who are stand-up comics—cannot understand why Wong would want to get pregnant anyway. Partly, of course, it’s to cement her bond with her husband. After witnessing a graphic labor and delivery, she suggests that men might want to run the other way, but then at the other end, there is this thing that means they can’t go anywhere. Well, that’s the theory anyway.
But Wong also says she wants a baby because she doesn’t want to be “alone” when she gets older. She jokes about the longevity of Asian women and her relationship with her own mother. But there is something touching about this idea. Wong’s mother fled Vietnam when she was only 18, and she is still very involved in her life. Despite all of the complaints Wong registers about her aging body and the difficulties of pregnancy, there is no doubt that she is looking forward, not to autonomy or independence, but to the warmth of family life.
Naomi Schaefer Riley is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum and a columnist for the New York Post. Her most recent book is The New Trail of Tears: How Washington Is Destroying American Indians.
Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or views of the Institute for Family Studies.