Lady Parts Justice League isn’t taking the mounting threat of the repeal of Roe vs. Wade lying down. This group of feminist comedians claps back at attacks on reproductive rights, dispelling myths about abortion with pointedly funny videos. Lizz Winstead, cocreator of The Daily Show, cofounded the New York-based nonprofit in 2015, and today she’s its chief creative officer—a role she takes to with humor and a lot of swearing.
On Thursday night at Metro, Lady Parts Justice League (soon to be renamed Abortion Access Front) brought together a diverse group of women musicians, among them Lori Barbero of Twin Cities grunge pioneers Babes in Toyland and a raft of beloved Chicagoans—veteran blueswoman Lynne Jordan, powerhouse actor and singer Bethany Thomas, rapper K’Valentine, Claudettes front woman Berit Ulseth, Cell Phones singer Lindsey Charles, and local roots-pop institutions Kelly Hogan and Nora O’Connor, who sing together in the Flat Five and have backed Neko Case and Mavis Staples. Their task for the evening was to perform what the event’s organizers called “some of the most horribly sexist songs ever written.” LPJL doesn’t want people to get complacent about our culture’s sexism and misogyny, so they named this concert (a version of which has already been performed in New York City) Do Re #MeToo.
On Metro’s stage wall, the words “Abortion Access Front” and “Abortion AF” appeared behind a blaze of hazy blue and purple lighting. Winstead, wearing a black “Abortion AF” shirt, stood behind a table with bottles of bourbon and tequila. She offered a shot to every musician before her performance—”For courage!” Winstead took a shot of her own almost every time, but later she revealed she’d been drinking Coca-Cola all along.
Winstead and Vocalo host Jill Hopkins (who led the night’s house band, christened “the Bangers”) riffed back and forth, commenting on each number. While O’Connor sang the Police song “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” Winstead stalked her onstage, a scene reminiscent of the infamous 2016 presidential debate when Donald Trump stood close behind Hillary Clinton as she talked. Unlike the debate, this was all in good fun, and at the end Winstead and O’Connor embraced and smiled.
The venue was packed, but many fans had never heard of Lady Parts Justice League before the show—they’d come because they liked someone on the bill. But Barbara McDonough, 81, was an exception: the Illinois native drove in from the far southern suburb of Homewood to see the concert.
McDonough grew up in an Illinois that denied women many more of their reproductive rights than it does today. She remembers the Jane collective, a clandestine Chicago network of abortion providers that operated from 1969 until 1973, when abortion was illegal in the U.S. “I’m on the mailing list for Lady Parts Justice League,” McDonough said, “and I was so happy to see that they were having something in Chicago that I could get to!”
Throughout the show, Winstead and the crew roasted famous and not-so-famous men. Sting was a favorite target, as was Joe Biden. Ordinary baseball fans weren’t safe either. “I do have to say something in this town of Cubsville,” Winstead said. “If you see a dude wearing more than one piece of sports memorabilia at the same time, like, they won’t go down on you.”
And then there was Don.
Hogan chose to sing the 1972 Mac Davis hit “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me.” She introduced it with a story from her childhood, when her mother was newly divorced and dating a new boyfriend named Don.
“He pulled up in this bright yellow convertible Corvette Stingray. . . . Me and my brother were like, ‘Yes! That’s the guy, mom, that’s the guy!'” Hogan said.
“Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me” started playing on the radio while Don was driving. In Hogan’s retelling, he exclaimed, “This is my favorite song in all of the world!”
“And after that, my mom was like, ‘What did you think of Don?’ And we were like, ‘Nah, try again,'” Hogan said.
Winstead added, “I feel like Mac Davis . . . is the person that you should envision every time you hear the phrase ‘Walk with the confidence of a mediocre white dude.'”
But Do Re #MeToo wasn’t all making fun of sexist songs (and sexist men). Winstead said it best in the lobby of Metro after the concert: “Lure ’em in with fun, and then hit them with some info and inspire them to take action.”
And that they did. At the end of the show, Winstead pulled two important women onstage: Diana Parker, clinic coordinator and director of community relations for the Midwest Access Coalition, and Allison Cowett, associate medical director of Family Planning Associates Chicago. (Full disclosure: I’m not just a freelance writer but also director of communications for the Midwest Access Coalition.)
Both spoke about triumphs and challenges in the reproductive health sphere. Cowett addressed a bureaucratic fight her group has undertaken on behalf of Illinoisans seeking abortions. “We are able to provide them abortion care using their Medicaid card,” she said. “It would be wonderful if we could increase the reimbursement rates for Medicaid so this actually provided a living wage for the abortion doctor.”
Parker urged the audience to call their representatives to support HB 2495, the Illinois Reproductive Health Act, which would safeguard reproductive rights, including abortion access, even if Roe vs. Wade were overturned.
Winstead underscored these sentiments. “We are at a precipice right now, that’s super important—and it takes your money, but it also takes you and your presence and your voice and your body to stand before elected officials and to stand up for people at clinics to say this issue matters to me,” she said. “Because it’s not a wedge issue. It’s literally saying, I cannot live in a democracy that does not support the full autonomy and the full self-determination of every single person that can get pregnant.” v