Content warning: Themes of sexual nature
This opinion originally began as a more wholesome and insightful look at what it means to have holistic health even as we strive to be productive beings in a capitalist society.
But on a fateful evening this week, I saw Diet Prada’s newest post calling out a new music video called “Kung Fu Vagina.” I was at first amused. White women had done it again: created a horrific piece of “art” that perpetuated stereotypes while being, of course, culturally and historically incorrect.
But my humor quickly evolved to horror as I looked up the perpetrators on Instagram, two white Australian women Kim Amani and Shae-Lee Raven. Hundreds of comments gushed about the recent video on YouTube being “hilarious” and “creative.” I was sick to my stomach.
The jade eggs they were promoting for vaginal health also don’t exist as an “ancient Taoist art,” as they claim. I’ve heard nothing of this in Chinese culture and attempts to try and find archeological evidence of jade eggs being used for female sexual libido reveal they don’t exist in history.
So basically, white people appropriated Chinese culture to make up a fake history of a product they wanted to sell.
As someone in the comments of Diet Prada says best, “What in the Gwyenth Paltrow?”
The title scene opens with the distinct “Wonton font” which has been criticized for how it parodies the brush of Chinese characters to convey a sense of foreignness.
Eagle-eyed viewers pointed out that an opening scene showed a white woman wearing a kimono, a mix-up between Japanese and Chinese attire which honestly is the least of transgressions in this video.
Each scene is flooded with red lights, red backgrounds, red lanterns and red screens. It’s a cheap effort to attempt authenticity with white people assuming garb and aesthetic is all about the color red because it’s considered lucky in Chinese culture.
Then of course are multiple scenes where people mime out fighting poses and an Asian woman holds up a wooden block and breaks it, demonstrating the common knowledge that all East Asian people know martial arts.
The music is at best elementary, and at worst grating to the ears. A sound loop of twangy harp music attempts to authenticate what these white women assume is how Chinese music sounds. For your information, it’s the GuZheng or a Chinese zither, that’s heard a lot in Chinese music, a beautiful instrument that is also practiced by people I know.
It’s perhaps no surprise that of all cultures to appropriate it would be most lucrative to fully delve into existing stereotypes about the desirability and sexual promiscuity and timidness of East Asian women. Jade eggs must be the secret to why men have “yellow fever” or a fetish for submissive and quiet Asian women. They have vaginas that honey trap white men and white women need to learn this too.
At first, I had thought how privileged I was that my discrimination and marginalization was just a poorly directed and lazily researched tacky music video about sexual health. Most people can’t say the same about the other harmful stereotypes that abound of their culture or their ethnic heritage.
Then I paused, to think back to all the anti-Chinese sentiments that had fermented during the pandemic. The increase in hate-crimes directed towards Asians as a whole had increased suddenly as people were angry about the virus and looking to scapegoat a group.
And this isn’t the first time it’s happened when we remember that in the 1980s, Vincent Chin, a Chinese American man, was murdered in Detroit during the rising tensions of the American auto working industry towards Japan that was taking away business.
We aren’t just talking about an innocent mistake. These two women have yet to apologize for their behavior and judging from the censoring of their social media, they’re waiting out the cancel culture frenzy to resume business as usual.
I don’t think canceling is the solution here. Instead, I want us to think about the larger context of how the West continues to orientalize the East and perpetuate stereotypes in media. When we consider how the United States continues a tradition of imperialization through its colonies, we are forced to confront the truth that we have not come very far from thinking of other societies and cultures as backward and in need of our “help.”
Stereotypes also make it that much easier to create caricatures of people, to dehumanize and blame them when it’s politically convenient.
And appropriation runs deep within the wellness industry. Don’t even get me started on the white-washing of yoga. Other South Asian writers have written about this online. One can also argue that the history of wellness and security of white people, specifically in America, is rooted in harm toward Black, Indigenous and other communities of color: slavery, settler colonialism and convoluted ideas about “manifest destiny.”
We also cannot ignore the classist issue of wellness where these fabricated “jade eggs” are sold online by Goop for a whopping $66 to buy your way to sexual pleasure. Forget the yoni egg.
Who is allowed access to mental health resources, health insurance for that matter? Certainly, these are givens for those who simply have the disposable income to drop on a luxury product.
So white women, I’m not interested in hearing your “enlightened” journey to wellness and health until you address your complicity in racism and discrimination.