“My vag like an operatic ballad.” This is the attention-capturing first line of “My Vag,” a comedic hip hop song by the half-Korean, half-Chinese rapper from Queens named Nora Lum, a.k.a. Awkwafina. The entire rap is a comparison of her “vag” and some other person’s vag, which is quite obviously not as good as Awkwafina’s, in her opinion. The song was actually written in reaction to Mickey Avalon’s “My Dick,” which did a similar thing but about a penis. In this blog entry, I am going to talk about how I think Awkwafina’s My Vag is a feminist anthem that breaks both Asian and female stereotypes in American media.
I think most people would agree that this song is unique by most standards in the American music industry; it’s just so blunt about discussing vaginas. The title itself is rather forthright. This shocking presentation of the female body, however, is actually what I think is so feminist about the song. Rosalind Chou, in the very first pages of her book, Asian American Sexual Politics, talks about how “Asian and Asian American women have been constructed as exotic docile bodies” (2). Chou also states later that “Asian American femininity is seen as attractive to men because of the stereotyping as passive or docile” (11). Chou also talks about this phenomenon in the chapter titled, “Asian American Women,” in which she recounts many incidents of rape and murder that resulted from this fetishization of Asian and Asian American women.
But this song, while about a woman’s sexual organs, is not sexualized at all. Awkwafina herself said in an interview with Bust that “my brand is very specific and it’s not sexualized at all.” I believe that Awkwafina is displaying something else, something that is not seen from Asians in pop culture. Awkwafina is barreling past this stereotype of docile Asian woman. Rather, she takes pride in her body, which is not something that Asian women are usually afforded today. While other women of different races may be able to highlight their sexuality and their body (for example, women pop stars such as Nicki Minaj or Madonna), Asian women have traditionally not. Chou talks about something called a counter-frame in her chapter on Asian American women chapter: “African-Americans, unlike Asian Americans, have a counter-frame and an established community that help them combat the pressures of hegemonic beauty standards” (84). Chou is talking about the concept of “Black is Beautiful.” But there is no “Asian is Beautiful.” Awkwafina is setting up a counter-frame with her song; she is essentially saying I can celebrate my own body like other women do and like men do. Keep in mind that the whole point of this song was to reflect “My Dick,” which is praise of the male body. Awkwafina is essentially saying, “If men do it, why can’t I?” A line from the chorus (thus it is repeated multiple times, which denotes importance and a core theme of the song) is, “Awkwafina’s a genius/ and her vagina is 50 times better than a penis.”
Not only is she setting up this counter-frame, but she is just being innovative in her art by not relying on her sexuality to make the song, like some rappers. Rather, she is bluntly praising her body in a funny way. This is shown in the lyrics and in her delivery. First of all, the fact that her song is a rap song is subversive itself; society, for the most part, looks down upon Asian American rappers, and the fact that she is a female Asian American rapper makes her song all the more subversive. The lyrics, in talking about her vagina, notably do not speak about how sexualized her vagina is. Some lyrics are, “My vag a chrome Range Rover” or “My vag Harvard Law School” or “My vag speak five different languages.” These are are comparisons to objectively good things in life, not just good sexual things. She never mentions using it as a way to pleasure men. All the lyrics are about how her vagina is great in its own standing. Her delivery, too, reflects innovation. She raps in a very calm, cool, measured way. She isn’t hyper-aggressive; rather, she exudes confidence. She is confident in her body, and that is certainly important to the song. You can’t make a song like this and not be confident. She takes pride in her body, and presents it to the world, much like men are accustomed to doing. She, in affect, is normalizing non-hyper-sexualized talk about vaginas.
So we can see a larger cultural importance to the song besides making people laugh: breaking the stereotype of Asian American women being docile and hyper-sexualized. While I do think that the more compelling reason for Awkwafina to write this song is to be funny and raunchy, I do also think this song serves a powerful purpose for her audience. In a society in which Asians, and Asian women in particular, and branded with degrading stereotypes, we need songs like “My Vag” to rile people up, making them uncomfortable, because change is means moving out of our comfort zone. “My Vag” is part of the long process of breaking Asian American stereotypes in a white-dominated America, which is important in the process of legitimizing Asian American art and media perception, especially hip hop.