Financial loss, losing a job, not making enough money, not being accomplished enough, going to the doctor, poor health, being an inadequate lover, public speaking, being wrong, and failure.

These are some of the more common things men, most, not all men, fear. The list could be longer. There is a fear of strong women, losing power or authority, and loneliness.

One thing missing from the lists: the vagina.

Wait, what?

Yes, the vagina. Or maybe that should be the power of the vagina.

Before you utter, “How dare you,” consider that there are 27 states that require a 24 or up to 72 hour waiting period for women that want to have an abortion.

Currently, there are just ten states, plus the District of Columbia, that require a waiting period for a gun.

To say that a woman’s body is more legislated than guns is not an alternative fact. Nor is it misleading or contrived to make a point. It is a fact that can easily be confirmed with a little research.

Facts are not in short supply. They are just dismissed as ‘fake news’ in favor of ‘alternative facts.’

Enter Lady Parts Justice League. The League was co-founded in 2012 by Lizz Winstead. No stranger to hot-bottom issues, Winstead also co-founded “The Daily Show” and “Air America.”

Lady Parts Justice League is a group of writers, comedians, and producers that are trying to diffuse the stigma attached to abortion. They also are working to expose those forces that want to challenge reproductive rights.

One way Winstead and a group of comedians use to engage people is the Vagical Mystery Tour. It is a comedy and music tour that seeks to entertain and educate people on reproductive rights and how people can get involved in their local areas.

The Vagical Mystery Tour will stop at The Funhouse at Mr. Smalls on July 19.

Michael Allshouse of The Swerve Magazine spoke via phone with Winstead on July 6 as she was traversing the Midwest on the first part of the tour.

Disclaimer:
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of The Swerve Magazine.


Michael Allshouse: It is good to finally get to talk with you. Last time we tried this you were on your way through the Midwest and the service would not stick. How was the rest of that drive?

Lizz Winstead: It was good. It was long, but it was good. We had one of those Midwestern rainstorms. We had to pull over. It was a perfect drive as Midwestern drives go.

MA: Almost quintessential America?

LW: Totally. I’m from Minneapolis and living on the East Coast, I miss those rainstorms that are really intense, and then they just stop.

MA: I just had that conversation with a friend that we are getting more of those here in Pennsylvania. These intense downpours and then it stops. There is not just a rainy day anymore. It has to be global warming.

LW: It always is, because it is. We treat our planet like it is gum on our shoe.

MA: Yes. And then you have, I don’t know what to call them. The people that don’t believe in global warming.

LW: I would call them idiots.

MA: I was going to say something worse, but idiots works.

LW: But there is something probably something nicer.

MA: I don’t know how you can go against science. What is it, like, 97-percent of scientists have said that global warming is, in fact, a thing?

LW: I believe it might even be more than that.

MA: (Speaking of people that don’t believe in global warming) at least our President hasn’t done anything mind boggling yet today…

LW: No, I feel really good about that.

MA: Isn’t it sad that one of the first things you do in the morning now is to check to see that he hasn’t embarrassed himself or us?

LW: It is funny, especially today, because I was watching the morning shows and they were like, “Well, at least he didn’t threaten to blow up up NATO.” Geez, is that the bar? Is that the bar? Not threatening to blow up our allies? It is just so wild.

MA: And his speech on North Korea. It was like he was talking down to a little kid.

LW: Yeah, but not knowing what he was talking about.

MA: Yes, there is nothing presidential about him.

LW: It is a little bit mind-blowing. Watching the footage from Poland, the First Lady of Poland walks right past him to shake Melina Trump's hand. She was, “No, I want none of you.” It is amazing.

MA: I just saw that.

LW: The women of the world have collectively just said, “Nope.”

MA: That is great, someone needs to.

LW: I agree.

MA: Clearly Middle America got sucked up in his whole schtick

LW: I think it shows you a lot about people. They hated Hillary. They hated women more than they liked sanity. The fact that he did not disqualify himself with the American voters throughout this entire process. And the fact that he still has supporters, it is astounding. It is astounding.

MA: That is what I found amazing. I have lost friends over their dedication to him. I heard over and over, “Well, at least he’s not Hillary.” Yeah, but what kind of excuse is that? Or what does that justify?

LW: What does it even mean? “At least, he is not qualified” that is what it says.

MA: I heard so many people saying he has run so many successful businesses. Do some research, please. His dad bailed him out of how many businesses?

LW: Ask the people of New York about the successful businesses. All the people that never got paid. It is crazy.

MA: Yes. You are out there trying to do something with the Vagical Mystery Tour. How has the tour been going?

LW: The tour has been incredible. It is one thing to be on Twitter or Facebook and have people like your posts. It is another thing to hit the road and ask people to come to a fun comedy show. Then having them know at the end of the comedy show, they are going to have a conversation with people in their community who are going to ask them for help. To have hundreds of people show up and want to have some fun. I want to hear what my community needs. I want to sign up to do it. It has been super rewarding. We feel really excited.

MA: There are a lot of people that do a lot of talking, but there are not a lot of people that actually do anything.

LW: I think that is true. I think there are a lot of reasons why. Some people love to hear themselves talk and don’t really want to roll their sleeves up. Some people don't have the means. It takes a certain amount of privilege to take time off of work and make an effort to do that.

Then, there are some people like me. I have spent my entire career calling out truth to power in the things that people know me for the most, like “The Daily Show” or “Air America.” I didn’t have the opportunity. I could get people all riled up, but then, it wasn’t my job to tell them what to do. In fact, the network said that I was not an activist, I was a comedy writer. It became frustrating.


After I had finished my book (“Lizz Free or Die”), I was looking for what I was going to do next. Is there a way for me to add the activist component into my next iteration? I was able to do that with Lady Parts Justice League. It feels really cool to be able to use truth in a funny way to expose hypocrisy, here is some stuff that is really happening and here are some things you can do to make a difference. It is pretty cool.

MA: Not a lot of people take that next step of putting boots on the ground. You have the boots on the ground with this tour.

LW: I think the thing that makes it cool is we are boots on the ground, and I decided to entice folks who are used to having boots on the ground in a different way. When you say to a comic, “I don't have all the money you would normally make, but I have a couple of bucks, and I can pay your travel. You are still going to do a show. You know what it is like to be out on the road. But then I’m going to ask of you to go with us the next day to a clinic and help them repair a fence or help them do some gardening or help them hang some new artwork we are going to bring them as a gift.”

People are really into it, because it is a way of using your art form to raise awareness that is just not going on stage and doing a fundraiser. You are actually getting to know the people you are helping. You are going that extra mile by getting your hands dirty and rolling up your sleeves. It gives you a more complete sense of gratitude and a more complete sense of urgency when you see what the needs are, and that you, as a comic, can fulfill that with very little effort.

MA: The tour, Vaginal Mystery Tour, is coming at the right time. You also formed Lady Parts Justice League at a time of need as this, I don’t know what to call it, GOP-healthcare-plan thing, bill, bullshit or whatever you want to call it, they are hellbent on knocking back abortion rights to the stone ages.

LW: Uh-huh, 100 percent. They are hellbent on it and quite frankly what we need to do is sound the alarm loudly and hold politicians accountable, even people on our side. The people who would say, “Maybe we can find a compromise. Single-issue voter. Wedge issue.” You know what? Someone with a uterus is not a single issue. They are not a wedge issue. It takes two people to get pregnant. If somebody can’t afford to have a kid, not being able to access abortion or birth control could be, literally, the choice between being economically sound or finding yourself living in abject poverty.

To reframe that, and hold politicians who purportedly care about the issue, and have them understand why it is important is just as crucial as repealing back all these ridiculous laws that are just through the roof. They are emboldened by Trump, but they have been going on forever. Missouri is trying to pass a law right now where your boss or landlord can evict you or can fire you if they find out you are using birth control.

(Ed. Note: This is in reference to Missouri House Bill SB 5 which is seeking to overturn St. Louis Ordinance 70459. The St. Louis ordinance prohibits employers (with six or more employees) in the City of St. Louis from discriminating or taking any adverse employment action against any applicant or employee based on their pregnancy, condition related to pregnancy or the “reproductive health decisions” of that individual or that individual’s dependent(s). A “reproductive health decision” is defined by the ordinance as “any decision related to the use or intended use of a particular drug, device, or medical service related to reproductive health” and includes contraceptives, fertility treatments and initiation or termination of a pregnancy. This ordinance also prevents pre-employment inquiries based on these matters as well as any statements by employers regarding their preferences on these issues.)

MA: Wow, I did not hear about that.

LW: Yes! Yes. It is, like, wait a minute, on what level does that make any sense at all unless you are 100 percent trying to get women out of the work force. It doesn’t even make sense. It is unending. Google it; you will be like, “Lizz, I have so much more to learn.”

MA: In doing research for this interview, I did not run across that.

LW: It is brand new. It is like a two-week old thing. They held a special session just on reproduction care. The men. The men, the men, the men.

MA: I don’t get that. I guess this a question no one can answer, but why do men… feel that they have that right to control a woman’s body?

LW:
It is a $64,000 question. I think that they will never give you a straight answer. They will say it is all about the babies. But when you start saying things like firing someone for using birth control, it feels like it is really not about the babies and it is more about controlling women.

The bottom line is if there is some politician who is saying, “We want less abortions, and the way we want to do that is remove access to birth control.” That person should be taken back to the looney bin from which they escaped and locked away.

They never talk about living people. They talk about fetuses. They talk about birth control. They talk about eggs. They never really talk about what is at stake, which is the life and health care of women and making sure that everyone has every option open to them and that is what reproductive justice is all about.

MA: I don’t understand the whole abortion fixation with Planned Parenthood. Less than 3 percent of what they provide is abortion.

LW: I don’t even care about that. So what? If it was 100 percent what they do, one in three women will have an abortion in their reproductive life. It means people are having abortions and need to have abortions. We should stop putting a caveat on it at all. The fact of the matter is, it is a healthcare issue a lot of people utilize and need in their lifetime because since the history of forever, pregnancy has happened. For me, the fact that they have cut Medicaid funding for abortion is abhorrent. The fact that poor women can't access a procedure that would help them, possibly, be less poor, and that we are forcing people into parenting and motherhood. It should never be a punishment. Raising kids and having a family and growing that should be an option that you are excited about as it takes everything that is in you. People often say parenting is the hardest job in the world. And if that is true, why would you force that on someone?

People are not living in a society that has sex mostly for procreation. It is just not. Otherwise, there would be no place to stand on the earth.

MA: Exactly. And you bring up a great point of, they want to take money away from this and force women to have a baby. It may force them into worse poverty where they need help from other government agencies. It doesn’t make sense.

LW: But also, let me take that one step further for you, and say they are cutting all of those programs.

MA: That they are.

LW:
So there is not even a place for people to go. To advertise all of this crap like you are going to help people: You’re not. And people are not going to stop having sex. It is free. Having sex doesn’t cost any money. If you are broke, and the most fun you can do doesn’t cost any money, you are going to do that even more.

Get a clue, people. I think that is one of the things that we need to expose. You can’t legislate a world that doesn’t exist. There has never been a world where there are abstinence and unicorns. It just doesn’t happen. So why do you act like you can just pray the gay away or tell people to close their legs? A. Why should they? And B. See A.

MA: It is a debate I’ve had with friends, say something happens to Trump, he is impeached. Is it much better with Pence considering what he has done in Indiana?

LW: This is exactly what I say, it is a nesting doll of awful. You open up Pence and then you have Orrin Hatch. You open up Orrin Hatch, and you have Paul Ryan. Then you just keep opening up this hideous doll. Ben Carson, I’m sorry, what? What is happening?

MA: I’ve taken to turning channels when any one of them comes on as I can't stand seeing, much less hearing, the nonsense that is coming out of their mouths. I don’t get it.

Speaking of not getting it, I watched a couple of the videos on the Lady Parts Justice League’s website. The one, especially, on Plan B was mind opening for me. As I never really put those pieces of the puzzle together. Plan B was the abortion pill, and it is not. It simplified and clarified things I had not thought about.




























LW: A lot of people hadn’t.

Cleveland is using (that video) in their sex education.

MA: As they should, as it so, I don’t want to say simple, because it is not. But, it does simplify the concept to the point that it has you looking at it from a different angle.

LW: I think that is the whole point. It simplifies it in a way that is like, “Oh, I see. You have been taught something forever that isn’t true. Now, you are going to have someone lay it out. People didn’t even know what Plan B did. People don’t even know what happens when a sperm and an egg meet. To watch them learn it and use it in a format that people recognize (a satire of “School House Rocks’ ‘I’m Just a Bill’”), I think they really like it.

MA: You hear Plan B all the time as a point of contention. But it is never really explained.

LW: The bottom line is, too, when the facts are out there, you can’t have an abortion before you are pregnant. So when the science says it takes 72 hours for a fertilized egg to travel to the uterus and implant itself. There should be no reason that that situation shouldn’t be dealt with. It is birth control. The fact that they own the language on that, and they have been allowed just to spout it out, and through the Supreme Court. They let Hobby Lobby say, “We are not going to cover this in your birth control.” It is just crazy.

What is so funny is that my initial plan is that we would be like Funny or Die and make videos that would expose this stuff. That is what our role would be, then when I realized that the videos were the jumping off point instead of the end point, everything became very clear. We can make videos that expose these laws and then we can go on the road to talk to people and get them engaged. The communities are engaged.


Local politicians, who are almost 100 percent, the people who are passing these crazy laws, when they see their constituency fighting against them and see that the people’s vote is going to determine whether or not they stay in their job, that is when they will act.

Being able to grow these communities as they go down the road is the part that I feel really excited about. To help the activists have more supporters, to help the clinics have more supporters and that is how we are going to make a difference.

MA: You are teaching the science to a part of a population that doesn’t really believe in science.

LW: How can you say that science doesn't exist, but believe that you can turn a piece of bread into a person? You have to explain to me how that works. Or the simple fact that if you believe that God created all things. God created scientists for you to listen to. It is really interesting how people can pick and choose what they want their religion to say. To use religion to suppress women? Hmm, no. That is not for me. And to just deny science, I feel it is so bizarre, damaging and harmful.


You can’t argue with people. Some believe that Hilary Clinton was running a sex trafficking ring out of a basement of a pizza place. Then when someone said there was no basement in the pizza place, there were lies that they covered up the basement. I don’t know. It is absurd, and people believe the absurd, but when there is clear provability, they find another absurd reason to believe the absurdity.

MA: Alternative facts.

LW: Alternative facts. Alex Jones is saying that we are running a sex ring on Mars. NASA has to release a statement.

MA: I saw that and thought, “You have got to be kidding me.”

LW: I know. That is where we are at, releasing a statement telling people that (it isn’t true). Which just shows us everything about our education system. We are not even teaching people the basics like human beings can’t live on Mars. There is no air.

MA: It is all about denying science. So maybe there is something going on up there that none of us know about.

LW: It is so crazy.

MA: It is. At least you are out there trying to educate.

LW: I’m trying the best I can. More than getting people educated, I’m getting them motivated, I hope. I think a lot of people have what inspires them for their activism and we are trying to show them that this is somewhere where they can lay their hat. Also, you go to some smaller towns and see the people who are fighting the good fight. The people who are escorting people at clinics. They are also the people trying to unionize folks. They are the folks that are in Black Lives Matter. They are trying to fight fracking. They need more bodies.

When you hear people that need some help, you do feel inspired when it comes from the horse’s mouth. It is what I like most about this show, is that the comedy show is merely a vessel for which the local people doing the hard work can speak to their neighbors and say, “I really need your help. You’re my neighbor. I’m the person who is going to be here when you or your daughter or someone you love is going to need care. Let’s talk about what we need to stay, and make sure we all have access to that.” It is pretty powerful.