Yoni Ki Baat: 50 Shades of Gender, Identity, Race, Sexuality and Violence

Last weekend, the South Asian Student Associated hosted its annual Vagina Monologues: Yoni Ki Baat. This event was held in collaboration with multiple cultural organizations on campus such as ISA (International Students Association), CASA (Caribbean and African Students Organization), LASO (Latin America Students Association) and, MCS (Muslim Cultural Society).

The event spanned over 2 days and 23 performances, including self-written and popular pieces performed by a diverse group of Clarkies. The theme this year was “YKB: 50 Shades of Gender, Identity, Race, Sexuality and Violence.” 

Day one started with a piece called “Half-Blood” and was performed by Ariana Mohammed. It was based on the rampant societal labeling that we face everyday and how it leads to identity crisis and frustration for people from mixed or diverse backgrounds.

This was followed Kaiomi Inniss’ performance called “Meditation on Yellow”, that shed light on the ongoing exploitation of the Caribbean culture and traditions by the privileged West and how it mimicked the oppression the Caribbean people have faced in the past.

“How to cure a feminist”, performed by Medha Monjaury was a sarcastic take on the gender status-quo and the how women are often objectified and are the ones who have to change according to their male partner. While it was a more humorous piece compared to others, it addressed real life situations and social hypocrisy. Another Clarkie, Marika Thompson performed a piece called “Dear Straight People”. It addressed homophobia in its different forms and the deep and lasting impact it can have on people. Lack of self-expression is still oppressing large strata of society and this issue needs to be paid more attention to.

Recently, through media and popular opinions, Muslim women have been facing flak for how they choose to express their religious believes. “Lollipop”, a piece performed by Azra Tahria reflected on a comment that compared Muslim hijabi women to lollipops and also spoke to the hypocrisy of Muslim men towards Muslim women.

For me, the most spellbinding performance of the night was a self-written piece by Elyana Kadish, “A not so sincere apology to the person I left behind”. It gave us insight into the personal lives of people who have to stay inside the closet and how the world, their own family treated them when they decide to be true to themselves. This one really captivated the audience. Suaida Firoze, Hasini Assiriyage and Elyana Kadish performed the YKB classic “Hairy Pussy” reflecting on the unreal beauty standards set up for women.

Breaking the rhythm of women’s issues and rights, Brennin Consalvi performed a piece by Kevin Canter “People you may know”, and talked about an issue that is brushed aside by many, the plight of male rape victims. Suaida Firoze followed this up by “No man’s land”, very aptly describing the dilemma international students face after studying abroad. This resonated with me as I went through something very similar with my family and friends back home.

Again, changing up the tone of the night a little bit, Melina Toscani presented her bilingual, poetic piece about exploitation of Latin America and its people for resources and, while these actions might have physically damaged the land, it hasn’t killed the spirit of the people. The night came to end with a piece performed by members of the SASA about labelling of people, cultures, race and, how useless and unnecessary the concept is.

The second night of YKB opened with an energetic and charismatic recital of the Maya Angelou classic “Still I Rise” by Milky Abajorga. Her performance set the tone of the night as the performances that followed exhibited opened up about the oppression of women and the stigmas attached to their cultures and traditions. From a daring declaration by Amira Farrag that her hijab was not about judgement and oppression but a declaration of her submission to Allah. Ending her piece with the powerful statement, “My hijab, and everything under it, is mine”. The South Asian Sisters provided two poems that reflected on the hardships and realities of life as a South Asian woman. Sweta Basnet ended the first half of evening with the “Period Poem”, a piece imploring women not to hide the fundamental element of their lives and challenging the stereotypical male view of the female period.

Opening the second half was a hilarious anecdote performed by Hasini Assiriyage about the concept of blaming a woman’s rape on the way she is dressed and debunking the “She was asking for it” stereotype. The duet of Oyut Amarjargal and Melody Uyanga Mungunchimeg opened up about the effects of the Mongolian culture of women and its similarity to that of many women around the world.

The most striking performance of the night in my opinion came from the penultimate act by Marika Thompson who opened up about the realities of being a gay black female in the USA. Her experiences with police brutality and having to prove that as a black female she can get her education and use it to build herself up. The deeply emotional self-written piece entitled “Tired” was the perfect round up of the pieces from both days. Two of the pieces, “Half Blood” and “People you may know” from the previous night were repeated, and the evening ended in the same manner as the first with a piece by the SASA E-board members entitled “Labels.”

The two day event was one that left every member of the audience either in tears, or very close to it as we experienced the joys and pains of every piece.

-Radhika and Ashleigh 

* As there were an incredible number of performances this year, this article did not cover every single piece. Unmentioned performances include “Unborn Dreams” performed by Qurrat Ul-Aim (Anny), “Wedding Night” performed by Lubaina Selani, and “Rapefugees” performed by Jitske Grift.

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