Yoni Ki Baat allows women of color to share their stories, challenge stereotypes

Thursday, March 23, 2017 - 11:30pm

“Hush,” the 10th Annual Spring Monologue Show presented by Yoni Ki Baat was a performance, directed by LSA senior Irene Syriac, aimed to challenge stereotypes and address cultural taboos faced by South Asian women and other women of color held. 

“Yoni Ki Baat” means “talks of the vagina” in Sanskrit. In 2003, the South Asian Sisters organization in San Francisco, inspired by the Vagina Monologues, put together the first Yoni Ki Baat performance as a space for women of color to share their stories. Thursday, it was put on in Rackham Auditiorium. 

Many monologues contained stories of queer women of color and the often-silent battles they face, often bringing the audience to their feet. Syriac commented on the importance of the event.

“I’m hoping people in the audience leave today thinking ‘I never thought that way before’ or learned something new,” Syriac said. “I think that as humans we are constantly learning and we are constantly having these new experiences — it’s good to hear someone else’s perspective on it.”

Over a dozen performers took the stage to address numerous topics, including their frustrations with social norms, understanding love and sexuality and coming of age. Most of the monologues were written by their performers, and took the form of rhythmic prose, music, poetry and monologues.

The Michigan Daily was asked not to record the event.

Music, Theatre & Dance freshman Maxwell Lipari commented on the effect the show had on him.

“The most important thing is hear other people’s stories,” Lipari said. “To get another perspective, especially for me as a white male. I don’t have these experiences, and hearing these stories can help me try to understand other people’s problems and try to be able to understand where they are coming from. That way, I can also help others try to understand what’s going on, and also recognize my own privilege.”

The program of the event contained a glossary, which Syriac said she felt was a necessary supplement to the performance.

“The thing about social justice is that there are a lot of terms that not everybody not really understands well,” Syriac said. “If anyone is here to maybe learn something or are not super into social justice and they don’t know a term, they might learn something while they’re here.”

Public Policy junior Chandani Wiersba, president the University of Michigan’s chapter of Yoni Ki Baat and event participant, expressed how she felt storytelling is critical in changing hearts and minds, and mentioned the weight it can carry.

“I hear over and over from all sorts of people that narratives are the most powerful way to connect and to have empathy,” Wiersba said. “I think because there is not a space on campus for women of color otherwise, we create that space to empower them and to have their voices heard.”

All proceeds of the event were donated to Mai Family Services, a community-based non-profit organization that focuses on addressing the needs of the South Asian community in Southeast Michigan. The organization specializes in domestic violence and mental health issues.