VM: I think there’s still — I can’t speak for other people — but I feel like there’s two things going on with specifically domestic violence in our community. 1.) There are some women — who because of language barriers or immigration status, are afraid or don’t know about the resources they have if they are in a situation of violence, so that’s just an outreach barrier, but I know those organizations really work on trying to reach out to them. 2.) There’s also an issue within some parts of our community where some people still feel like, “oh well that’s not an issue that affects us because we are more educated or we have been in the country in a while, and those sorts of things don’t happen in our family.” It has nothing to do with education level — these things still happen. People don’t expect or suspect it or believe it can be happening. Things like that further silences women who need the support.
Q: Where else has Yoni Ki Baat performed? Are you hoping to expand to other states?
YKB has been performed in a bunch of places at this point — always by women who live in that area. Some places, like the University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin, and Seattle, have made it an annual event.
The list includes: University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin, Seattle, Chicago, Washington D.C., Clark University, Rutgers University, Los Angeles, UC Santa Barbara, Stanford University, and the University of Iowa. Some of these have used our scripts and some have used submissions from women in those communities.
We’ve had a few script requests from groups in South Asia (Bangladesh and Sri Lanka specifically) but a performance there has not yet happened — we would LOVE for that to become a reality!
Q: Yoni Ki Baat has addressed a breadth of issues from violence against women to body image, and so much more. Can you tell us more about the performers and stories shared by South Asian women? What do these stories tell us?
VM: One of the cool things that I found through doing this project is just the diversity of experiences that people have shared with us. Just because we come from similar backgrounds in some way, by no means makes our experiences the same. And so we’ve Just because we come from similar backgrounds in some way, by no means makes our experiences the same.gotten stories and poems about domestic violence. We’ve gotten stories and poems about hair removal, we’ve gotten pieces about coming to terms with hair loss. We’ve had stories about wanting to become a parent and not being able to. We’ve had stories about giving birth and a doctor who is an obstetrician who’s on the receiving end. We’ve had such a wide range of stories that just blows my mind, that first of all, people are willing to share their most intimate stories and have those stories performed in a live audience. Over the years, we’ve gotten requests from other organizations and other parts of the country and we’ve given them our old scripts, and sometimes they use pieces we give them and seek submissions from people in their community.
— Nina Pine (@Nina_Pine) March 11, 2013
Q: The show also explores gender identity. How has the LGBTQ community been represented in the South Asian community?
VM: There’s definitely a trend, internationally, of more visibility for people in the LGBTQ community, definitely we see in the U.S. a huge change in terms of acceptance and media representation. And it’s changing at such an amazing fast pace which is awesome, so visibility wise — it’s the same issue of it’s great for them, but doesn’t happen to us. Same thing with other issues.
We’re not a political organization, we’re just an art organization — we are allowing people to share their stories so same thing with Over the years, there’s been more women reaching out with their stories of gender identity or sexual identity.domestic violence issues — we present what we are given and I feel like over the years, there’s been more women reaching out with their stories of gender identity or sexual identity, and I just feel like it’s an issue of visibility and the more we can normalize this as part of the human experience, and the more stories we can share to reflect them, just providing a space.
I remember when I was a kid, I remember going to an Indian Independence Day event with my family and they were doing a parade and floats were coming by and there was Trikone, they are a South Asian LGBT organization. I just remember I was the only one clapping, I was eight years old and was so confused as to why the entire audience suddenly grew silent. I feel like that wouldn’t happen today, I feel like our community has grown more tolerant in a lot of ways.
Q: Can you share a few monologues or snippets from your Yoni Ki Baat’s upcoming performance at the Women’s Building in San Francisco on March 22 and 23?
“This is how it feels, when your tongue enters me, scarlet sacred blasphemy…”
“Looking for a bride for our well-established son, residing in the US…only contact IF prospective bride is VERY FAIR…”
“My vagina likes to be hurt. The other night in a San Francisco dungeon, in a blissful haze brought on by too many orgasms, I looked up at the woman with her fist halfway in my cunt and said dreamily, ‘Mmm, that feels so nice…!'”
“Hello ladies! I am The Moonch. Many of you take me for a ‘mooch.’ But I am no mooch ladies! I am The Moonch, with an Nnnn…’
Q: Since 2003, how much money has your organization approximately raised for domestic violence prevention organizations through Yoni Ki Baat?
VM: Since all productions of YKB across the country raise funds for DV organizations, the overall total is around $12,000. I just want to thank anyone who has seen the show or even interested in the show, or submitted to the show, performed, because it’s grown just so much since when we started. It was literally like a funny idea that we had, and it amazes me every time how much people are open to it and how much positivity there is around it and I’m just confidently surprised what it has become.
This year’s Yoni Ki Baat performance — which falls in the midst of Women’s History Month — will be held at the Women’s Building in San Francisco from March 22-23. The tenth anniversary show is a “best of” version, pulling from favorite pieces over the years to celebrate the writers. Proceeds will benefit the following South Asian domestic violence support organizations: Narika and the San Francisco Women Against Rape.
Monica Luhar is a freelance journalist, web producer and social media editor in Los Angeles. You can follow her on Twitter: @monicaluhar