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EMILY's List 30th Anniversary Gala
Lizz Winstead attends the EMILY's List 30th Anniversary Gala on March 3, 2015 in Washington. Kris Connor—Getty Images

How Lizz Winstead Is Using Comedy to Fight for Women's Rights

Jun 12, 2015

Since 2012, The Daily Show co-founder Lizz Winstead has been mocking, satirizing and generally booing anti-choice legislation on her website, Lady Parts Justice. From parodies (see: a puppet uterus singing "Wrecking Ball") to close reads on the news (see: a video of Scott Walker shrugging off a question about rape exceptions for abortion), the site's mission is to use humor to prompt people to "get off their asses and reclaim their rights."

With the 2016 election season approaching, the organization has some serious work ahead. First up: a "Grown Ass Carnival," to be held on Sunday in New York City. The event will raise money to fund Lady Parts Justice's work by auctioning off prizes from celebrity supporters (including Sarah Silverman and Margaret Cho), and through the sales of tickets that let guests play games like dirty bingo and "Bust Their Balls," in which players throw darts at figures of popular anti-choice figures like Rush Limbaugh. The night will end with an evening of sex stories that Winstead says aims to "make everybody comfortable with the fact that sex is crazy and silly."

Winstead says that the method to Lady Parts Justice's madness is to keep Americans informed about the politicians who are trying to restrict their access to medical care. "We’ve seen the success of Amy Schumer, and with my work at The Daily Show and Air America [where she hosted a radio talk show with Rachel Maddow and Chuck D.], I have had such great success at using humor and video work to get people engaged," she says. "We’re trying to make funny videos that we can keep in pop culture spaces, drop them into spaces maybe where disengaged people are, to have them get a wake-up call to where the state of reproductive health is in this country."

The 2016 presidential election will surely provide grist for the comedy mill, especially among certain Republican candidates. Some she doesn't think are electable, but are "scary" for their positions nonetheless, like Rick Santorum. "I feel like he hates birth control so much, he won't even pull out of the race," she says. The candidate she predicts Lady Parts Justice will focus on the most is Scott Walker: "He seems rather reasonable to people," Winstead says, "but his stance on reproductive justice across all fronts is terrifying."

But in many ways, it's local politicians who are much more important to voters than national candidates—not only because state legislatures are often the bodies limiting access to women's health care, but also because those politicians can advance to more high-profile careers. Lady Parts Justice has accordingly put heavy focus on state-level laws with videos sending up problems in each of the 50 states. It's easy to wake up one day and ask yourself, "Oh my God, how did this [anti-choice] person become my Senator?" she says. But the answer is obvious: "Well, because they were on a school board, and then the city council, and then state legislature, and you never knew it." If voters paid attention to those seemingly lower-stakes politicians, she says, "you can expose who they are through your communities, and sometimes you can cut them off at the knees."

And what better way to strike down an enemy than with humor? "One of the major tenets," Winstead says, "is to try to encourage people to incorporate a little bit of activism into their social lives, and so it becomes something that you do like your yoga practice. If people would commit a couple times a month to saying, ‘Let’s get together and kind of scope out the landscape, and see how we can get the word out, I think we can make a difference.'"

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