Yoni Ki Baat. Yoni Ki Baat. I can’t seem to shake the rhythmic name from my mind. Maybe it’s the unique sound or my unfamiliarity with the name itself, but after attending the Yoni Ki Baat monologues last Saturday, the name taught me to remember the dialogues and their motives.
Founded in 2007, the Yoni Ki Baat (YKB) student organization was created at the University to represent the voices of women of color. The main event of their annual open dialogues is similar to “The Vagina Monologues,” a play that demonstrates the physical and mental challenges that many women face. While the organization was originated for South Asian identifying women, the group has expanded their members and speakers to all women of color. As stated in the show’s program, the group is “committed to inclusivity, self-growth and solidarity.”
The show was similar to that of slam poetry, where one speaker followed the next and shared their pieces. This year was YKB’s 11th annual show with the theme of “Resistance,” pushing back on the stereotypes and showing the hidden stories of underrepresented women. Opening the show was a group dialogue teaching the audience about intent versus impact and how to respectfully have a discussion on social justice.
With humor (like kicking off the act with the obvious line: “Ignorant people are fucking annoying”) and seriousness weaved throughout, the girls talked about the concept of “calling in” people to the conversation instead of “calling them out.” This act set the tone for the ones to come, the ones that would be highlighting facets of social justice in front of an audience with a variety of opinions and expectations.
The night displayed a mosaic of voices, speaking out about identity, vulnerability and representation. Some were personal and sincere, like “The Struggle of a Passionate Black Woman” and “Stop Fighting Me.” Others were sassy, sarcastic and comical, like “Bridge to Hairabithia,” where a woman spoke about cutting all her hair off and “Love Poem,” which was an ironic version of a love poem toward ignorant comments. The support the women had for one another was strongly felt, especially in between each act when the previous speaker and the next speaker would do a cute, personal handshake.
Despite the fact that all the monologues were mainly personal and focused on the self, many had to do with relationships and the impact certain relationships have on women. Acts like “The Invisible Line,” “Let Me Be Clear” and “Celestial Bodies” openly and emotionally told the stories of toxic relationships, some involving abuse and assault. Poetic lines like, “manipulation is like being thrown into a trance” and “my flesh looked like war after loving you” created an intense atmosphere for the audience. Many of the monologues included verbal letters to people who had hurt them in the past or to their past selves, reassuring them that they are stronger and presently in a better place.
While each woman carried her own sense of poise, confidence and individuality, I couldn’t help but notice a threading theme that connected these different voices: being the best version of yourself. These women demanded and deserved to be heard, authentically expressing to the audience that these stories exemplify their true selves.
As a white woman, I want to understand the identities of women of color. I want to empathize with their experiences; I want to be their ally and feel their resilience. As a white woman, this connection is hard to approach. But on Saturday, the YKB monologues invited me and the community into the conversation, and the YKB organization gave us the first steps to listening, understanding and supporting the women around us. As the 11th annual show came to end, I walked out of Rackham Auditorium ready for the next.