Reproductive rights, Women — July 5, 2017

Lady Parts Justice League’s Vagical Mystery Tour brings entertainment and engagement to Detroit July 9

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Get your tickets now to be part of all the fun and activism hosted by Lizz Winstead’s awesome repro rights organization.

It’s a great time for a great cause. Lady Parts Justice League’s Vagical Mystery Tour hits the Magic Bag in Ferndale, Mich., on July 9 for an evening of comedy and camaraderie to raise awareness of reproductive rights and support local abortion providers. It’s part of a 16-city tour this summer that’s bringing together a diverse range of comedians to spread the good word on repro rights while fighting against sexism, racism and homophobia.

Founded by Lizz Winstead, co-creator of The Daily Show, Lady Parts Justice League (LPJL) infuses humor into reproductive rights spaces while also dropping some knowledge and activism into our pop culture and social lives, inspiring people to get on board. Part of LPJL’s mission is to support and raise awareness about independent abortion providers who bear the brunt of anti-abortion legislation and harassment.

“People don’t think of Michigan as a place that’s under assault, but it’s under assault as much as any place in the South,” Winstead says. “I know this from my research and because I’ve befriended activists and people who run clinics there. There’s a lot of horrible legislation being proposed and enacted.”

In addition to a comedy show featuring Winstead, Joyelle Johnson, Maysoon Zayid, Alex English, poet Jessica Care Moore and Buzz Off, Lucille from Upright Citizen’s Brigade, the evening at the Magic Bag will include a talk-back with abortion providers and clinic escorts who will explain what activists and clinics are facing. Winstead says this aspect is especially important.

As progressives, too often people look at reproductive rights and justice as a ‘women’s issue’ but they don’t understand that it’s a lot of people’s issue because it’s really an issue to do with class, economics and race. Often times, access to reproductive healthcare is the first step on a path to your own humanity and destiny. And if we don’t force progressives to look at that then we’re saying to half the population, ‘You’re a bargaining chip and we’ll devalue you.’ If the Democratic Party is going to be a party of justice, we need to make this economic issue part of party platform, because it affects half the population. So for us, that’s a really big part of it.

Several times a year, LPJL goes on the road to perform its comedy shows in a USO format — after all, there’s a war on reproductive rights in America — and also provides elbow grease at the clinics themselves. According to Winstead, contractors often refuse to help clinics that provide abortions. So LPJL shows up and helps around the clinics, or uses their network to find pro-choice contractors to help with tasks from roof repairs to landscaping.

When I interviewed Winstead, the tour had just completed a visit in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where anti-abortion protestors were screaming right outside a treatment room. The clinic had reached out to 15 different contractors about building a fence and not one would take the job. So LPJL used its network to find a pro-choice contractor, and sent its own team of activists to the clinic to plant bushes and do other landscaping to help improve privacy and beautify the clinic. Inspired by LPJL, the clinic is also holding a contest for local artists to paint a mural on the fence.

Building this community of pro-choice supporters is part of the mission of the Vagical Mystery Tour, Winstead says.

We’ll have a fishbowl and a plumber throws a card in there, a landscaper throws their card in there and says, ‘I’m willing to help.’ It just makes it easier for clinics to exist in the world. It’s a cruel, cruel world out there. There are so many things going on and you can’t fix all the problems, but if there’s one that we can help solve we’re happy and willing to do it — and it’s incredibly rewarding.

LPJL walks through each clinic and asks what they need most. In Detroit, the clinic requested help with planting bushes to provide a protective perimeter against protesters and beautifying a break room area.

At each stop on the Vagical Mystery Tour, the comedy shows also provide an opportunity for activists to learn more about LPJL and sign up to help out the next time a local clinic needs support, whether it’s sprucing up a space or working as a clinic escort to protect patients and staff from anti-abortion protesters. When abortion providers ask for help, LPJL will be able to reach out to an approved list of activists.

“These providers walk in and out of work every day with people yelling at them and calling them names, and it’s exhausting and demoralizing,” Winstead says. “We also want to provide support for patients, whether they’re there for an abortion or routine care like a Pap smear.”

Another key aspect of the tour and hands-on activism is fighting the stigma around abortion and reframing the message, Winstead says.

When we started visiting clinics they thanked us, saying no one ever came to visit them because they were seen as a ‘necessary evil.’ It just broke my heart, because I’ve had an abortion and I realized that for some people, this is where they get all their healthcare. It’s growing increasingly problematic that people who consider themselves allies — who consider themselves pro-choice — have still centered reproductive rights is something that women should deal with. But it’s such an important economic issue.

A wide variety of voices will be heard at all the stops on the Vagical Mystery Tour, for good reason.

“The experiences of single women, single moms, black and brown women, trans people — everybody who comes through a clinic has an experience with their reproductive health,” Winstead says. “That’s why they’re coming with us on the tour. They’re not all talking about repro rights. They’re doing their funny, amazing material — and the commonality is we’re here to raise the spirit of ourselves and the clinics.”

Tickets are still available for the July 9 Vagical Mystery Tour performance at the Magic Bag in Ferndale. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30. General admission tickets are just $15 each. Buy tickets for the Michigan show and any upcoming dates, learn more and make a donation HERE.

And don’t miss the interview with Lizz Winstead in Episode 39 of The Sit and Spin Room with LOLGOP & Eclectablog, including more details on the tour plus resistance survival tips!

[Image courtesy of Lady Parts Justice League.]

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