Lizz Winstead | Seeking Justice

LPJ sqPeople are like “you can’t say the word abortion. It’s toxic.” It’s only toxic because for so long we have allowed other people to define the conversation.

 

 

LW

When I was a kid it was the time of burning bras (which came right after the time of burning draft cards and burning cities). The ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) was in circulation and Roe v. Wade had been decided by the Supreme Court. These causes had support in Congress and in the public (35 states ratified the amendment). Fast forward 40-plus years: The ERA exists only as failed legislation and abortion clinics are becoming an endangered species through state laws and political shenanigans. In 2013 alone, more than 624 bills were proposed regulating women’s bodies, while zero bills have ever been proposed regulating men’s bodies. In the first three months of 2014, 733 pieces of anti-choice legislation were introduced in state legislatures. It was as if we had jetted back decades. 

Enter Lizz Winstead. She is a co-creator of The Daily Show, co-founder of Air America, comedian, author, and activist on women’s issues and the freak show that sometimes passes for American politics these days. Winstead sat down to talk with me about Lady Parts Justice, which, at its base, is a website created by “a collaborative team of comedians, cultural influencers, technologists and activists who are using humor and outrage to expose, remove and replace anti-choice zealots with pro-choice, pro-women politicians.” But it is much more than that, and the tip of the iceberg for what it wants to accomplish. 

What brought about Lady Parts Justice…other than the fact that it often feels like the 1890s lately?

I’ve always been sort of an activist. I live in Brooklyn now but I’m from Minnesota originally. I was writing a book [Lizz Free or Die] and I couldn’t finish it. So I packed up my two dogs and I drove back to Minnesota in the dead of winter to see if I could hunker down and get it done. It was right when the conservative Congress took over, and the first thing they did instead of try to find people jobs or fix the mortgage crisis was try to defund Planned Parenthood. And I was like, you gotta be kidding me. And when that initial effort failed, I started watching when all these state legislators starting taking little bites out of access, and that went from a whisper to a dull roar everywhere. When I finished writing the book I had to drive back in another van with the dogs and said thought, “Hey, what if I drove across country and did some benefits along the way?”

So I started doing that, and realized that I was bringing in my usual comedy crowd and they were also secondarily learning about the crazy draconian laws being passed in their states and they had no idea. So what started out as those 6 fundraisers has turned in to 43 to this point for health clinics, NARAL, and such. I found that I was hitting people with information that they didn’t even know was going on. I called up two friends in D.C. who were also doing like-minded stuff called Revolution Messaging and said, “Why don’t we do some videos together?” And that idea turned into “Why don’t we go full on and make a website with an interactive map that covers the state laws and events, and have it be fun and make it be accessible to people with their favorite comedians and learn a little bit in the process?” That is sort of where we are right now. This is the site that will re-launch on [July] 15 with this big interactive map that highlights the nuttiness in all of our states. 

What can we expect from the newly relaunched ladypartsjustice.com website?Lady-Justice HI-RES-TRANSPARENT

You can expect to see this subject matter talked about in a way you’ve never seen before. There are touching videos, funny videos, really nice testimonials; it runs the gamut of people’s stories about access to birth control, abortion, and crazy politicians who decide that the bible outweighs science. You can watch a video, see five really scary things about your state, get information about gatherings to fight some particular piece of legislation that’s bad, or to learn a little bit more about some anti-choice politicians in your state. Then we’ll be encouraging you to take the next step: celebrating with the entire nation on September 27 with a celebration we are calling “V to Shining V.” This is basically a nationwide house party where you get together with all of your pals wherever you live and you have some drinks, put on some dancing music, look at the website, talk about some of the facts that are listed on the site, [and then] go further and make a commitment to getting your friends to vote and pay attention, because it seems like women are on the ballot this year, and not in a good way. 

People in some state capitals have taken it a upon themselves to do a bigger event. Sarah Silverman is throwing her own party in New Hampshire where she’s from at this cool aerospace museum. Lea Delaria from Orange is the New Black and Sally Kohn, a CNN contributor, are going back to Pennsylvania to do an open-air party at a park in Harrisburg. Texas is doing a large party in Austin, and Joan Walsh of Salon.com is doing a party in Madison. I’m going back to St. Paul, Minnesota, where I am from. So it’s fun—it can be the smallest of house parties, a block party, or if people are so inclined, rent out a bar and start a public party.

Why do you think women, a majority of the population, seem to be taken for granted and man-handled (pun intended)? Why have we gotten to this point?

Sometimes the answer can be simple. Look at the disparity of who is elected to office. If you are not represented in numbers to stop this crazy legislation, you will just constantly be on the chopping block. Elizabeth Warren often refers to the quote, “if you are not at the table, you are on the menu.” Look at the situation: Women are asking to share the power, and that feels very threatening to those who have the power; when they see the power dwindling, they think it is very important to tamp down anybody who is biting at their ankles. That’s a big part of it. When you start going backwards—abortion, birth control, pay laws, and then into everything else—it’s like there is really an agenda in place with people who want to keep this monolithic way of governing in place. Your world is ever changing, and people who are a part of that structure [women] would like to be part of the decision-making. And I guess that is terrifying and they feel it is necessary to start planning the weird legislation. 

I feel we are such a schizophrenic country, and I am sure this happens in other countries, but we seem to be moving forward with one foot and stepping back with the other. It is half amusing and half terrifying. 

You know, it is funny. I was doing a gig in Mill Valley, California, last year and I found that my political material is now more dirty than my comedy material. There is so much emphasis on people’s sexuality. You watch TV, you watch the news, you hear the word “vagina” all the time on the news because it dominates what all the people are thinking about. The Supreme Court, legislators…it’s crazy. I don’t know other countries talk about other people’s sex lives the way we do. It says a lot about our sex lives. 

In many countries, when they approach abortion or women’s health issues, it is dealt with as a medical issue. Here, we treat it as a political issue, which really seems ridiculous.    

And the religious standpoint, which is also really ridiculous. So then you start lobbing on shame and a lot of language that shouldn’t enter in to the conversation at all. It is the only medical procedure that the government has really intervened in whatsoever. Are Hobby Lobby regulating any procedures for men? I don’t think so. It does feel like this issue came out of something totally different. We are not using science anymore or listening to medical experts to legislate and let people decide simple health care needs that they really need. It’s very bizarre. People are like, “You can’t say the word ‘abortion.’ It’s toxic.” It’s only toxic because for so long we have allowed other people to define the conversation. It is a procedure that one in three women have and it’s what it’s called. It’s existed since people started having sex. There was never an age of abstinence; there was never an age when people didn’t terminate pregnancy.  

One more question: How excicted are you that Todd Akin is talking about getting back into national politics? 

Honey! Oh my god. I really want to do a fundraiser for Lady Parts Justice where we read excerpts from his book. Not only is he back, but he is doubling down on that whole “women can shut that thing down” comment. People often ask me, “Do you have to write any material anymore?” Sometimes I feel that all I have to do is take notes and play soundclips. It’s utterly amusing. So I personally am very excited that Todd Akin is back from a comedic standpoint. From a civic minded standpoint—not so much. | Jim Dunn

 

For more information about Lady Parts Justice and V To Shining V, visit:

www.ladypartsjustice.com

https://www.facebook.com/ladypartsjustice

https://twitter.com/ladyPjustice

About Jim Dunn 126 Articles
Jim Dunn grew up in NY in the 70s and 80s. Even though that time in music really shapes his appreciation it does not define it. Music, like his beloved history is a long intermingled path that grows, builds and steals from its past. He lives in Colorado with his lovely wife and a wild bunch of animals.

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