Actors in “Yoni Ki Baat,” which translates as “South Asian Vaginas Speak,” performed monologues and skits about taboo topics in the South Asian community this weekend in the East Quad Auditorium.
The performances also addressed problems like stereotyping and hate faced by the South Asian community, especially women.
As in original Vagina Monologues, performers used the word “vagina” symbolically to represent female empowerment.
“Yoni Ki Baat” began as a project of the South Asian Sisters, a national group that aims to resist oppression faced by South Asian women and explore the taboos and stigmas that surround their lives.
It garnered attention at the University when Business senior Madhuri Singh brought the idea to South Asian Progressive Alliance, an student organization founded last year to encourage political and social awareness within the South Asian community.
LSA senior Priyanka Shah, co-director of “Yoni Ki Baat,” said she was glad the auditorium filled up on both days. She was especially pleased to see males and non-South Asians in the audience.
Topics such as masturbation, sex and even divorce are taboo in most South Asian communities.
“When we were putting this on, I though this was not going to go through,” Shah said. “I’m happy we had a lot of supporters.”
In a performance about the smell of a Desi, or South Asian, vagina, LSA sophomores Juhi Aggarwal and Trisha Barua addressed the stereotype of South Asians that smell like spices by acting as the older and younger versions of the same person.
The skit began with Barua, who played the younger character, telling the story of a high school quarterback who told her she smelled like chicken curry.
The character then starts using deodorant and washing her hair every day to get rid of the smell, despite her mother telling her she is ruining her hair.
The younger character goes online and finds that her diet could bring an unpleasant smell to her vagina.
As an adult, the character questions whose right it is to determine what smells good and what doesn’t.
“I started hearing about how ‘science’ is used as this tool to make one race inferior, and one race superior,” the character says. “So, maybe they were using this racist science to explain my (vagina’s) smell.”
Barua’s character eventually reaches the conclusion that she will stick with Nepali food.
“If you don’t like garlic or ginger, then it’s your loss,” Aggarwal said.
Through performances like these, women in the show addressed the larger issues faced by South Asians. The tone of the event was set in the beginning when all cast members came out to make one statement that defied a South Asian stereotype.
“I don’t smell like India,” one said.
Another said: “I am not defined by the color of my skin.”
As they spoke, two red ribbons were passed among them, forming a circle that symbolized a vagina. The cast members who stood in the audience away from the rest of the pattern, Shah said, symbolized individuality.
Shah said the red ribbons also symbolized violence, love, hatred and passion, which were expressed through the skits.
Each member also had at least one red item in each skit, she said.
The cast included South Asians, East Asians, Middle Easterners, whites and blacks.
All proceeds of the show will be donated to Apna Ghar, a domestic violence shelter based in Chicago, which primarily serves Asian women and children.