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Lizz Winstead on Voting and Vaginas

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In 2012, Lizz Winstead got fed up with politicians attacking women's reproductive rights. She formed Lady Parts Justice, a group that uses humor and outrage to galvanize women to take political action. This Saturday, they will be throwing a big bash, V to Shining V, at Amsterdam Bar and Hall in St. Paul. The evening will be hosted by Winstead, and features local comedians Kate Conner and Jenn Schaal, and musicians Maria Isa, Mayda, Lucy Michelle, and the Jayhawks. There will also be poets, burlesque dancers, and roller girls, plus lots of games and shenanigans.

We chatted with Winstead about the event and her hopes for empowering women to vote for their vaginas.

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Had you ever done political organizing before you started Lady Parts Justice? 

Before Lady Parts Justice I was really involved in traveling around the country raising money for Planned Parenthood. That's kind of what started it all. I realized that when I went and did shows, half the people would come for the comedy show, and half the people would come for the politics part. The people who came for the comedy part were like, "Oh my god! That is just crazy. What can I do?" And I was like, "Oh, well volunteer, make sure you register to vote, blah blah blah."

I realized that I can't just go to every town and do a comedy show. I needed a bigger platform. So I called up some comedian friends of mine and I was like, "What if we do a Funny or Die kind of website that's really edgy and funny and sex positive and engages people who maybe don't identify as political but do identify as people who think their government or their boss should have nothing to do with the way they live their life -- especially their private lives -- and we tell them what's going on in a really funny, edgy way?"

What other events has Lady Parts Justice put on? 

We did a giant web telethon for the women of Texas when the laws went down. Sarah Silverman and I hosted it, and we did it in a secret location in New York at a poetry club. There were only like 70 people in the audience, but we live streamed it. It was Sarah Silverman and I and Amy Schumer and the cast of Orange Is the New Black. We raised like $60,000 at the end of it. We thought, "Why not try to do these kind of music comedy fun things and really create pride for women? Why aren't we having a parade and a party for ourselves to remind people that A: We're awesome, but B: There's a lot of stuff at stake always for every election, and there's an election every year?"

So we thought, "Let's kick it off. Let's have a Vote for Your Vagina." Hopefully, it will grow every year to a point where there are big annual events in more cities every year. We're encouraging people to have house parties if they're not in a city that's having an actual live public concert. We didn't really have a marketing strategy. We just kind of did Twitter and Facebook, put it out there and reached out to our friends. Then, all of a sudden, we have 50 house parties posted on our website.

I know I'm probably sounding like I'm completely insane. But we're just so excited, and people have just seen the insanity that surrounds this issue and have realized that if we don't step up and we don't start thinking about who the people are that are in control legislatively and what they're trying to do to with women in terms of them getting basic health care, then it's all just going to go away. I think people just don't understand the profound assault that's happening in state legislatures across the country. It's really insane. Oregon's the only state that hasn't curbed any laws since Roe vs. Wade. 

Do you think feminism is making a comeback? 

I think that feminism is finally being as inclusive as it needs to be. It's not just a default white woman's experience, it's everyone's experience. Once you start making sure that when you talk about feminist issues that you are talking about how women of color come to feminism very differently because of their experiences, or how trans women and men come to feminism differently because of their experiences, then we need to celebrate all of that. There's no one way to be a feminist. If there is one way, it's that we live in a world that creates an opportunity for you to have every path cleared to explore your best self, which probably sounds hokey, but that's how it needs to be. 

Do you advocate for boycotts of places like Hobby Lobby and Eden Foods? 

It's all part of it: to be aware of who is actively not supporting an agenda. If a corporation A: actually thinks it's a person, B: thinks it's a person with religious values, and C: thinks it should be able to legislate the healthcare of its employees, I would absolutely say do not support those corporations. I really feel that is a slippery slope, and it makes a lot of assumptions about physiology. Who are you to tell somebody what they can or cannot use? Who are you to decide personal decisions about a medical product that aren't true? Medicine says that Plan B is not an abortion. If your religion says it is, then I don't know that that has any place in the public sphere of a workplace, especially a craft store. You make samples. Keep doing it. 

How do you take on these serious topics and find things to laugh at? 

Part of it is you can take the hypocrisy of those who are legislating and hold them up to a hypocritical pedestal. I think that's one way. Looking at the landscape of what they're trying to do is really where you can get the most bang for your buck. I mean, anybody that says, "I want to reduce the number of abortions, and the way I'm going to do that is to remove access to affordable birth control" is a dumb shit that needs to be ridiculed.

IF YOU GO:

V to Shining V

7 p.m. Saturday, September 27

Amsterdam Bar and Hall

21+

Free