The Feministing Five: Lizz Winstead

Lizz smiling in front of title of her tour "Planned Parenthood, I am here for you!"

Lizz Winstead, among other things, is a tireless and passionate advocate for women’s reproductive health. If you don’t recognize her name by now, you most certainly recognize her work. She co-created The Daily Show (where she also served as head writer) and Air America (home to Rachel Maddow!) and has been doing stand-up comedy for years. In a time like now where it seems like comedy is barely starting to let women into its ranks, Winstead is an inspiration to all women looking to get into similar work.

As if that wasn’t amazing enough, Winstead has been a voice and advocate for Planned Parenthood and women’s reproductive health for a long time. In fact, this year she kicked off her “Planned Parenthood, I Am Here for You” tour to raise funds for the constantly attacked provider of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services (of which Lizz has a very personal connection to and talks about in her show.)

Right now she is in a slight hiatus from the tour and is working on her memoir, a collection of essays framing significant moments of her life, until she kicks the tour off again at full speed in September. I had the pleasure of chatting with her and, suffice it to say, I can absolutely tell why she was made for comedy. (One amazing quote: “1 in 4 women use Planned Parenthood. It’s a Lens Crafters! We need to start treating it as such.”)

(Side note: Winstead has yet to secure a date in San Francisco. All of the cities she visits have raised funds through passionate volunteers and community organizations. So here is my call to San Francisco—let’s get Lizz out here! More info here.)

And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with Lizz Winstead.

Anna S.: What pushed you to get this tour started?

Lizz W.: I’ve been doing this work throughout my whole career basically. The craziness of this new Congress and one of the first things they tried to do was de-fund [Planned Parenthood] and the crazy psychotic push towards that was infuriating to me. When that didn’t work and how quickly it went to all these different state legislatures trying to get all these different state rules going, half of them were just legislation that were clearly unconstitutional and if it got passed the tax payers would have to pay even more money to repeal it in the legal system. It was crazy and so I was in Minnesota writing my book and I had to get back to New York and thought, “You know what? This is coming to a head in a profound way,” and I knew that after the media frenzy of when Congress was trying to defund it died down that it might be an issue that might be forgotten. I knew that if I started doing this tour I could raise money for them and the second maybe most important issue of all is I really wanted to bring down the demography of women who were really actively helping out Planned Parenthood because it’s skewed older.  It seems like a lot of the women have been fighting the fight for a long time coming from pre-Roe and it hadn’t been a lot of young people. And we’ve done that and that’s been really exciting.  A lot of first time donors and a lot of women under the age of 30.

AS: Who is your favorite fictional heroine, and who are your heroines in real life?

LW: Pippy Longstocking because she was a mess and full of adventure. If your life is full of adventure, you open yourself up to the possibility of who you are and what you can be. My real life heroines are Molly Ivans and Sarah Silverman for very personal reasons. She’s a good friend and she’s always been someone who’s been there on a lot of levels. All my sisters and my mom.

AS: What recent news story made you want to scream?

LW: You know what? I am in a state of screaming but the recent ongoing thing is that we have a legitimate political party that actually denies science and treated as respected. That keeps me screaming.

AS: What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge facing feminism today?

LW: Life is becoming so hard that it’s eating away at our time for activism and it’s eating at our time for bonding with each other to figure out a way to get out of the computer and back onto the streets. You have to work two jobs and you’re constantly trying to survive so carving out time for activism has been a really big struggle.

AS: You’re going to a desert island, and you’re allowed to take one food, one drink and one feminist. What do you pick?

LW: I would take sushi (that means I can have a lot of it right?). I won’t need water on my hypothetical island because they’ll have it already so if I don’t have to pick water I would pick probably pick Oban scotch. For the feminist I would take Sarah Silverman.

Join the Conversation