It’s hard to imagine a feminist and reproductive rights activist thanking Rush Limbaugh, but Saturday night’s “V to Shining V” event in Madison, Wisconsin, a rally for women’s health care, indeed included a shoutout to the conservative pundit.
“Feminists used to be seen as scolds who hate sex and were no fun,” Joan Walsh, editor-at-large at Salon.com and MSNBC contributor, pointed out during her speech. “We have to thank Rush Limbaugh because suddenly we became the the fun, sexy gals who are having too much sex and everyone has to pay for our birth control.”
It’s in that spirit of humor and sarcasm that Lady Parts Justice, an organization dedicated to reproductive rights activism, hosted the first annual V to Shining V event last weekend in eight states around the country where key reproductive rights battles are being fought.
Celebrating feminism, reproductive care access, and voter registration activism, V to Shining V’s featured speakers and performers encouraged their audience to take back their communities and their government from the influence of the Religious Right. The guest list was diverse and impressive across the country; comedian Sarah Silverman joined the New Hampshire event, and trans activist Mira Krishnan spoke at the Michigan installment.
In Madison, the evening’s programming included stand-up comedy, musical performances, a speech by Wisconsin Representative Terese Berceau (77th Assembly District), and a rousing call to action by Walsh.
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin public affairs organizer Victoria Boucher noted that five Planned Parenthood clinics have closed in Wisconsin in the last two years under the Walker administration––the same administration that saw no problem with mandatory ultrasounds for patients seeking abortions (“Maybe it’s time for Scott Walker’s trans-urethral ultrasound,” Walsh joked).
During a joke about her Internet-fueled hypochondria, comedian and LGBT rights activist Sapna Kumar quipped, “Finally, I googled ‘immaculate conception.’ They probably outlawed a way for me to get rid of that, too.”
Speakers urged the packed audience to do more than just vote––they asserted that progressives must become activists and educators, especially in the face of new Wisconsin voter ID laws that keep low-income citizens, especially people of color, from exercising their constitutional rights. Event organizers distributed voter registration forms and information. “We need to get women to understand that their future and their choices are at stake,” Berceau said.
Lady Parts Justice, founded by The Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead, White House videographer Arun Chaudhary, and Revolution Messaging founder Scott Goodstein, aims to use this type of grassroots organizing combined with a hefty dose of “not safe for work” humor and outrage to fight for women’s access to health care across the country. The organization’s name is a response to conservative politicians whose obvious discomfort with terms for female anatomy fuels the treatment of women’s health as a fringe interest rather than a public health issue.
“When you look at the global picture, women aren’t a minority or a special interest,” Arun Chaudhary, who was present at the Madison event, pointed out. “To have legislation specifically enacted against them has to be disturbing to everyone, on a very visceral level.”