Women Behaving Badassly is a round up of women across the country doing things that kick ass. From starting their own businesses to creating non-profits and even making a living through unconventional careers, these ladies are all making positive contributions to the world. They deserve to be recognized and their achievements celebrated. Let's all take a few minutes to marvel at these inspiring, empowering, badass women making their mark on the universe.
I really like my job, so it's not often I meet a group of women who make me super jealous because I envy what they do for work so hard it hurts. This particular group of Women Behaving Badassly is Lorne Batman, Jenn Roman, Abby Holland, and Molly Gaebe. They are the writers, performers and community managers for The Lady Parts Justice League (LPJL for short) and they are my new feminist heroes!
I got to sit down with them and have a candid, ridiculously inspiring conversation about The League, its mission, uterus puppetry, and the personal stories that have shaped their daily experiences during their tenure as lady-heroes protecting against all Vaginal Crossing Guard evil-doers!
Introducing, Lorne Batman, Jenn Roman, Abby Holland and Molly Gaebe of The Lady Parts Justice League!
Vocally: How would you describe exactly what it is the Lady Parts Justice League does?
Lorne Batman (Online Community Manager): We are a reproductive rights messaging hub and a collection of comics and activists. We go across the country supporting independent clinics and bring people and volunteers together throughout the Midwest and South to be active and help and get to know their clinic. We also make funny, informative online content, videos, GIFS, blog posts, that inform people about what is going on in the reproductive rights scene every day
Vocally: How did you guys decide humor was going to be a part of the Lady Parts Justice League Mission?
Molly Gaebe (Writer/Performer): LPJL was founded by Lizz Winstead, co-creator of The Daily Show. She’s worked in comedy for a long time. She created LPJL to combine taking action with comedy and it ended up being a cool entry point to access a certain population and get them educated and paying attention on issues surrounding abortion. The conversation around abortion was historically dominated by conservative right wingers and comedy is a cool, subversive way to take back the narrative on reproductive rights. Comedy helps break the stigma and gives it humanity. You laugh when something makes sense — its a natural entry point into the abortion issue.
Vocally: Do you get a lot of backlash for making light of such a serious subject matter?
Lorne: On social media, for the most part, we’ve found a very niche community and they’re following us because they like our tone and sense of humor. For instance, we had one graphic that we shared last year that said "I Heart Abortion." A lot of people who’d been following us and on board with our messaging got mad. A lot of people were outwardly judging us and saying things like, “No one wants to have to have an abortion” and took control of the convo. Lizz, the founder, took it back, said, "You know what, we do love it, it’s a service people need, you should be checking your own stigma and your own judgements if this graphic makes you uncomfortable." Sometimes we’ll get backlash but it sparks the conversation. We usually ignore "baby killer" comments unless they’re super ridiculous. Of course, sometimes it can get threatening, but we’ll report and block followers if it feels necessary.
Vocally: How did each of you get involved?
Jenn Roman (Writer/Performer): We were on a sketch team together, writing comedy together for five to six years and we started by volunteering. Molly and Jenn started volunteering then we weaseled our way in and got hired to be writers.
Lorne: I had previously worked at a non-profit and in theater. I was interested in storytelling and communities and was getting more interested in doing that digitally so I started taking classes and learned about marketing. I eventually connected with Lizz; we had a good vibe after working on one project together. A few months later I started working full time.
Vocally: What does it feel like to basically be working your dream job at such a cool feminist space that's doing so much for social change?
Abby Holland (Writer/Performer): It’s the bessssssst!!! It’s awesome to come into work every day and be surrounded by passionate feminists and talk about important issues that everyone’s talking about right now. To get paid to do this... we get to focus our life on it, whereas other people can only do it in between their meetings and stuff, and it IS our meetings! It is so exciting to have a passion be full-time.
Jenn: We watched a lot of friends struggle with what to do after the [2016 presidential] election, and we were able to take immediate action afterwards. We are very lucky.
Did you guys all work for this company pre-Trump?
In your mind, was there a shift in the political climate after the 2016 presidential election?
Jenn: Yes, it's no longer just like death threats and tweets online. These people have been molded by the fact that they see Pence and Trump [who have been very outspoken about their anti-reproductive rights stance]. Violence against clinics is up; it’s way more aggressive.
Abby: Statistically, more clinics have shut down as time has gone on. Abstinence-only education funding policies have gotten more extreme as well. We're actually going to the Supreme Court next week.
When you guys go to the Supreme Court, what type of actions happen when you get there?
Abby: We are actually going to create a fake clinic interactive experience to raise awareness about what these types of fake clinics around the country do.
What are some personal experience stories that stand out at events, protests and clinics you've worked with?
Abby: When I was a clinic escort, the first time I’ve ever been in front of actual protestors was in Cleveland and there were a lot of people out there. I was really scared, I put on a clinic escort vest; you hear all these stories of doctors getting shot, patients are getting harassed, I knew about all this stuff. You could hear and see them through the trees, it felt like going to war, a really scary feeling. But you get used to it. My very first time I was just scared. And that's what people getting these health services experience every day.
Lorne: We were on tour. The scariest moment was when we were in a city where a clinic was shot at, we were very cautious, we weren’t at the clinic but I was working on a project with the clinic workers. I needed to go to the van for supplies. When I went out there, there was a car parked next to the van with someone just sitting there in the idling car. I felt uncomfortable. I tried to take a picture of the license plate. I was just waiting around because didn't wanna leave this vehicle unattended. Eventually, I texted someone else to come out and we moved the van but that was a moment that was scary.
Sometimes we’ll go to a clinic and the people who work there don’t know they can ask for bigger things. I was talking with one of the providers about fundraising and he didn’t know about crowdfunding. The clinic needed lots of repairs, but no contractor would do it because of the crime in the area. I made them a crowdfunding page, it’s still active, and it brings in 1000s of dollars for the clinic.
Vocally: What are some of the services LPJL can provide?
Jenn: Hands-on stuff — we painted a walkway to a real clinic so people would know how to get there.
Planting, gardening, beautification, planting strategic plants to block protesters.
Abby: We’ve also set up Amazon wish-lists and can push them on social media. When people are looking to donate, they like that it’s going somewhere specific so wish lists are a great way to do that.
Lorne: We provide umbrellas for escorts when it’s raining. [We provide] heating pads. A lot of clinics are terrified to open their mail so we held a postcard party [so the clinics can receive mail that they won't have to open].
Lorne: Little things — we bring the staff lunch or coffee or wine, anything to boost morale!
Vocally: Puppetry!!! What’s the deal???
Jenn: Eunice the Uterus — that puppet gets so much attention! It's always a good jump-off point. We go to a lot of random events and it gets the conversation going. If you find this puppet funny, why don’t you come talk to us?
When you hear the term “pro-life feminist,” what does that mean to you?
Lorne: We don’t use the term "pro-life"; we use “anti-choice.”
Abby: There's definitely a conversation to be had. If you look at what a feminist is and you truly do want equality, you have to look at the big picture. Things like economic quality as well, things associated with abortion and what having one means for one’s life.
Lorne: If you are a person who won’t choose to have an abortion, you do you, but I think if you are actively trying to prevent other people from having full access to these rights concerning their own body, then you can’t really be a feminist.
Have you guys heard of New-Wave Feminists? Is there room for a conversation with people who believe it is feminist to be "pro-life" or "anti-choice?"
Jenn: [Sometimes] it’s not not worth the conversation. There are people in my own life who either consider themselves anti-abortion or never had to think about it...
Abby: When I hear anti-choice/pro-life feminist, to me it seems like, I just want them to be more educated and do more research and I would love to have that chat with them.
Vocally: I know that there are many clinics in this country that purport to be real but actually do harm by delaying or restricting care to women who are seeking abortions. Is there a national database of real vs. fake clinics?
How do people get involved — what’s the simplest way to get in on the LPJL action?
If you are a person who won’t choose to have an abortion, you do you, but I think if you are actively trying to prevent other people form having full access to these rights concerning their own body then you can’t really be a feminist.
[Everyone contributes to this convo]:
LPJL Team: The tiniest thing you can do is a retweet, just spread the knowledge. Encourage people to look into clinics in their area and review
We have a lot of chapters in different cities, so please attend events.
Have a glass of wine and call your state representatives!
If you want to go above and beyond, donate to abortion funds, there’s also a Bowl-A-Thon coming up!
Lorne: Call your local clinic and ask, "How can I help out?"
Vocally: Who came up with the term "Vaginal Crossing Guards?"
LPJL: Lizz has a lot of names for different things.
Vocally: Do you have any other funny terminology you'd like to get out on the record?
Jenn: Harassholes, The Uterati, Vagilanities.
Vocally: Hilarious! What reinvigorates your passion for doing what you do?
Jenn: I remember I get to come here and work every day. I stay motivated based on the people who work at these clinics.
Molly: Misinformation about abortion in pop-culture or media. When people see something [false] on TV they think it’s true, that gets me fired up.
Lorne: I'm always inspired by our partner organizations and how hard they’re working. It makes me feel like I’m part of a great community. We have a very strong base. We can come out unified at this crazy anti-choice time in the current political administration.
Vocally: Anything else you'd like to mention?
LPJL Team: We’re going on tour for the summer — The Vaginal Mystery Tour Part 2. We travel to different cities and do comedy shows. The shows are BANANAS, every feminist in the state shows up and drinks rosé and whiskey.
Welp! Working for The Lady Parts Justice League officially sounds like the coolest, most empowering job on the planet, AND they love rosé and whiskey... where do I sign up? Oh, right HERE.
Also, if you've got a little cash money lying around and want to help out a team of rad feminists doing great work for reproductive health in our fair country, please DONATE HERE.
If you're looking to follow the LPJL team on social media, their Instagram page really captures their grassroots work, their voice, and their unique humor and activist rage.