Monologues probe taboo topics of sexuality and abuse

Vicki Lui/Daily
Buy this photo

By Neala Berkowski, Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 16, 2014

Over the snaps and laughter of an otherwise silent crowd, students and alumni performed monologues about taboo topics for women of color on Friday in Angell Hall.

Topics such as masturbation, self-esteem, racism, abuse, sexuality, abortion, dating and sex were brought up in both serious and more lighthearted ways in the 8th annual “Yoni ki Baat,” which translates to “Talks of the Vagina” in Hindi.

Yoni ki Baat began when an organization based in San Francisco, known as the South Asian Sisters, saw “The Vagina Monologues” — a similar event created to de-stigmatize women’s issues — and noticed that the show did not address the experiences of women of color, said LSA senior Niki Aggarwal. Because of the apparent oversight, they wrote and began performing a South Asian version of the show known as Yoni ki Baat with the blessing of Eve Ensler, the author of “The Vagina Monologues”.

“A group of University of Michigan students saw this show (Yoni ki Baat) in California and were blown away and immediately knew that they had to bring it to campus,” Aggarwal said.

South Asian Progressive Alliance, a former student organization, obtained the rights to perform the show at the University in 2006.

This show's theme, titled “We Kiss and Tell,” sought to contest the view of what it means to be a lady and provide a change for women on campus to express themselves.

Actress Moni Ramaswamy gave a monologue written by University alum Aditi Hardikar, titled “A Queer Complaint.” The performance questioned why only gay people have to “come out” and disputed stereotypes about the appearance of lesbians among other things.

“We really wanted our show to represent the female voices of this campus…and their experiences whether they’re awesome and funny or sad and empowering,” Aggarwal said.

Aggarwal said 13 of the monologues were written by students, which makes the event more impactful.

“It opened my eyes to a lot of things that women of color go through that isn’t always heard or expressed because of the society we live in,” said LSA senior Dan Green. “It’s good to have people that actually experienced these things and talk about them from their own perspective without any other factors influencing what they’re saying.”

Last semester, the group wanted to garner monologue submissions from across campus. To help students with their writing, they partnered with the Sweetland Center for Writing to have a workshop.

“I think this show is something unique for the South Asian community because everyone knows about the dance teams but this is something different it shows some diversity,” actress Amanda Nanyakkara, the event’s head of marketing, said. “When they hear, ‘South Asian,’ they think ‘Indian dance team,’ they don’t know about women’s experiences.”

Performing Yoni ki Baat requires the proceeds to be donated to organizations that help fight domestic violence. Proceeds from this performance will be donated to Mai Family Services, a community based non-profit that was founded to fight against domestic violence and mental health issues and meet the unique needs of the South Asian community of Michigan.