May 18, 2022
Photos: Courtesy of Lizz Winstead and Karla Welch
Transcript: Zoe Adlersberg
Video Intro and Edit: Emily Spiegelman-Noel
Music: Jesse Kennedy
Karla Welch and Lizz Winstead smash the patriarchy, talk cancel culture and get raw about periods and abortions.
LIZZ WINSTEAD: So, Karla. Why do you think they paired us up?
KARLA WELCH: Well, I don't know! I think because we're vocal people supporting women. I think our commonalities are in that perhaps. Why do you? I feel like you're far too smart for me to be talking to, but I'm going to try my best to keep up.
LIZZ WINSTEAD: I often refer to myself as a feminist buzzkill. Because it's the easy way for cis men to marginalize when you ask for decency and equality. And also because I'm a professional comedian. And so whenever it's like, “You can’t take a joke” and it's like, “No, you're just impossibly dreadful.”
KARLA WELCH: That is actually the greatest. I was having a conversation with Megan Rapinoe, and I was like, “Aren't we just so fucking tired? Aren't we so tired of always actually having to have these conversations?” She's like, “Do you think I want to go on every podcast and be so educated on every single issue and make sure I have the right things to say and the right people to fight for, to still not even get anything done? I'm actually really tired of it all, too.”
I mean, and it's very privileged to say, I'm tired, I understand that as well. But it's like, fuck, we just keep fighting and fighting and fighting against these fucking monsters. And I love men too, but I'll throw my husband in the monster pit as well. This whole system is not supporting us. Why are we continually trying to fit into it?
LIZZ WINSTEAD: Well, I think that that's the whole thing. It's like when people say, “We need a seat at the table.” I'm like, “No, we need to smash the table. We didn't build that table, no one asked us how to put a leg on that table, that table needs to be done.”
"Well, I think that that's the whole thing. It's like when people say, 'We need a seat at the table.' I'm like, 'No, we need to smash the table. We didn't build that table, no one asked us how to put a leg on that table, that table needs to be done.'” - Lizz Winstead
KARLA WELCH: We do not need to bring any dinner that we make to that table, or breakfast or lunch. They'll starve, by the way, at that table if we're not at that table. So, let's let them.
LIZZ WINSTEAD: I heard somebody say once, “If you're not at the table, you're on the menu.” And I think that that is very real. I feel that so much when I'm just constantly hearing about cancel culture -- and by the way, it's every guy behind the microphone, who's got a shit ton of power, screaming about cancel culture. I'm sorry. We are in the marketplace of ideas. Even though I've had success in my career, I still have to earn it when I step out on stage. I don't expect a handout from an audience because I’ve had success.
If I verbally step in it, or I make a mistake, hopefully they'll call me in, instead of calling me out to say “You seem like a nice person, I think this is a mess.” And I'll say if I don't think it's a mess, “I don't think it's a mess.” And I'll take my lumps. But, I'm the abortion comedian, you're going to talk to me about cancel culture? When you're a woman who stands on stage and decides that your opinion matters, they'll come gunning for you no matter what your opinion is. It could literally be like, “I like navy more than I like maroon.”
KARLA WELCH: How dare you? (laughter) Navy is very, very important. Maroon? Not so much. I'm sorry, maroon. Yeah, it's so true. Do you read any Adrienne Maree Brown? Do you know that author?
LIZZ WINSTEAD: I wish that I could say I was better read, but I'm so busy reading legislation and Supreme Court cases.
KARLA WELCH: I read one book a year and I'm okay with that. But I'm going to send you her book actually. She wrote this book called Emergent Strategy, where she operates from a world where it's a new table. It's actually a new planet. She's a facilitator for Black activism. It's so incredible, it's all related to the planet, and no men in any sort of system are thinking this way. But she just wrote a follow-up book called We Will Not Cancel Us. So for you to talk about cancel culture, it's so easy just to cancel someone, especially in this age of social media.
LIZZ WINSTEAD: Yeah, I love that and I think that's right. I also think there's a piece to it that I find so interesting. You're learning and you're trying to live this pro-feminist, anti-racist sort of way of being, you're inevitably going to do something wrong because you're trying, right? Nobody ever does it perfect.
KARLA WELCH: Oh my god. Exactly.
LIZZ WINSTEAD: I would say I get mad when somebody I know hasn’t contacted me [directly], and they’ve decided to drag me publicly instead. Having access to me, knowing where I'm from. I'm not asking for forgiveness if I did a bullshit thing. But to try to get ally cookies, dragging someone, instead of saying, “You might want to rethink that, because how you think that may have come off didn't.” And there's no protective mechanism for those who are actually willing to learn first, versus the Joe Rogan douchebags of the world who don't give a rats.
KARLA WELCH: To be able to give someone the space for growth and opportunity to change in a way that's healing, rather than just putting someone on blast. I agree with you. I think that it's just a terrible way to operate. I understand the way the pendulum swings and how much it needs to swing. I hope we land as far left as humanly possible. There is residual damage. There's been thousands of years of damage done.
LIZZ WINSTEAD: I mean, it's been a really interesting space. I live part of the time in Minneapolis, I grew up in Minneapolis, and part of the time in Brooklyn, and I'm in Minneapolis right now. I've been here since right after the George Floyd murder. And so being a person in this space, that is an activist and a white person with privilege, in a space where I'm watching friends who I adore talking a little bit too much about the books they're reading on anti-racism instead of creating lived experiences, where they can interact with people, and understand how to be. I just find that interesting.
KARLA WELCH: Well, everyone's looking for a quick dose of medicine, right?
I agree and I disagree. I think it's easy to be performative. But I think it is important to read. We have learned the term unlearning in the last year. You just take a real look at things and think about things that you've never thought about before. I just think of my own family in Canada, and they just say, "We can't believe what's going on.” I'm like, “What do you mean, you can't believe what's going on? It's been going on forever, and we just have never, ever had to look at it.” And so if this little article, or this little blip on social media can get you there, then I am for it.
LIZZ WINSTEAD: I guess I want there to be not just “now you have knowledge that you can say the right words at a dinner party,” but [knowledge that] implores you to literally change the way that you live your life and open who you are to a fuller, more diverse and intersectional life. You know, that's what I want from it. And that that requires taking the information and to want to make that step, and it's hard. Shedding your privilege is hard.
KARLA WELCH: Yeah. Big time, huh? I like this table. I like this day.
LIZZ WINSTEAD: Yeah. Watching all the systems at work this year that I like to call this sort of situation that we're in around this racial reckoning "COVID 1619". Because it's a pandemic of epic proportions that we are living.
But I think to the thing that's been very frustrating is working in this field of reproductive health rights and justice. To watch it go almost unnoticed. Horrifying things are happening in 2021 alone - 500 bills to destroy access to abortion have been proposed or passed. 150 In Arizona alone since January. The Supreme Court has decided to take a case that's probably going to overturn Roe v. Wade. And there's been three pieces of news coverage on it on mainstream news.
KARLA WELCH: I hate using the word crazy, I need to come up with a better word.
LIZZ WINSTEAD: Batshit is fun...
KARLA WELCH: It's batshit, the lack of press on this. Let's go there in this conversation right now, and give some tactical things that we can do in our own lives. Like, who do we need to call? People just say, “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris got in, everything's okay.” But it's the farthest thing from the truth, people. So tell us what is happening and what we can do.
LIZZ WINSTEAD: So I think the biggest mistake that people have made always is thinking that access to abortion and reproductive care is happening on the federal level. That's never where it's been, it's been state legislators who've been passing these laws. And democrats and progressives and liberals, up until recently, have been terrible in midterm election policy stuff, right? And that's where the right has been really, really good. So they have built up these spaces in local legislatures where they have passed these horrible laws. That's one thing, really paying attention to local politics and caring.
I also think that people like to silo abortion -- because it's one of the hardest things to talk about -- and just not talk about. People don't even want to say it. You know if we believe that there's something morally wrong with legalized abortion, how do we fight for it? You know, female sexuality, empowerment, sex with pleasure, when it comes to women. If the result of sex with pleasure, if unintended pregnancies is one of them, if we don't accept sexual pleasure, how do we accept, “I need to have an abortion because I was having sexual pleasure, right?" It's wild to me.
And I think that we caveat this idea of good and bad abortions, right? Well, we at least have abortion for rape and incest. That makes other people who've had abortions feel terrible if they’ve had one, because kids weren't in the cards, right? I think that we don't have these hard conversations a lot. And a lot of it is men. Men drive media cycles and are still running networks and running newspapers.
And, and no one's looking at bodily autonomy as a human rights issue. I mean, to break it down, when and if somebody wants to have kids is the very first decision they make on a path to their own destiny. And if you don't honor that, then you're selling those people as chattel, and you're saying, “There are some cases where I can sell your rights down the river.”
"I often refer to myself as a feminist buzzkill. Because it's the easy way for cis men to marginalize when you ask for decency and equality." - Lizz Winstead
KARLA WELCH: We want equal rights, and we're going to be fighting for them for the rest of our lives. But it's just really tiring. It's tiring when you see these people in power who aren’t willing to do what they said they were going to do.
LIZZ WINSTEAD: They think, “Wow, if we actually admit what we did, we're fucked because they'll retaliate.” And it's like, “No, we haven't retaliated yet. We just want equality.“
KARLA WELCH: Exactly. Just give us that.
LIZZ WINSTEAD: Yeah, we don't have time! We're busy. All [male politicians] want to do is retaliate, their whole life is scheming ways to retaliate. All we want to do is build a system that works for everybody so that eventually we can enjoy that glass of wine for real and soak our feet.
When you asked me earlier, like, what can people do? It sounds like a little thing to talk about abortion, and normalize abortion, and say abortion, but until we have abortion as am absolutely protected right, and we normalize it, from a humanity standpoint, we're gonna lose this fight.
We're not going to be able to stop people from proposing these laws. And we're not going to stop these people from getting elected who proposed these laws. So, talking about it. And having hard conversations is something we can all do.
KARLA WELCH: One hundred percent. And normalizing something, it’s behavior change, right? It's like smoking. Everybody smoked. Then one day, we're like, “Hey, actually, smoking is terrible. Why would you ever?” The more we just say, “Yeah, abortions are totally normal. It's your decision. There's nothing the matter with it. There's no punitive God to do something to you because of ideas your parents had, or your teachers had, or your pastor had. There's nothing to it.” The more we get to that place in the in the world, then you're right. That's how change happens. It can be done faster than most people think.
LIZZ WINSTEAD: I love the smoking analogy because we find out smoking’s bad, even when you all of a sudden realize you're the only one smoking. And then that's when you start smelling your clothes. And that's when you start smelling your home. And you're like, “This stench. I'm bringing this into my life. When I was surrounded by it, and we were all smelling terrible it didn't occur to us it was bad.” So just the layers of the smoking analogy. It's a good one.
KARLA WELCH: It’s yours. Take it.
LIZZ WINSTEAD: So, how do you balance your activism and your work?
KARLA WELCH: Me? Well, it's all related. As you might know, I started this period company. It's not that it's activism, but I guess it is.
LIZZ WINSTEAD: Totally, are you kidding?
KARLA WELCH: Yeah, yeah, it is. We're going to change the way the world periods. So, you know, it's all in a day's work. I've probably been what a man would call me, a bit of a loud mouth. Obviously, I'm very vocal on social media. Period is a mission driven company. And it's a big daunting task. We're here to kind of change how we talk about periods in a way very similar to the way that you want to change how people talk about their abortions. If you could educate a boy, globally, on what a period is, and what it actually does, and how profound a period is, you'll change, in less than a generation, how people think about women, or people who period.
LIZZ WINSTEAD: I agree. I love that.
Educating around periods and menstruation and birth control. At Abortion Access Front, my team was like, let's start a TikTok. We're really leading the way on these conversations on TikTok. One of the videos that we did was a man talking about all the ways that he benefited from birth control - “my girlfriend paid for it and she didn't get pregnant and I got to go on from college.” All the burdens that people with uteruses take on, people who need birth control take on, that everyone benefits from the process is really astounding. And thinking about those things, I just love normalizing all of it. Because this stigma around it wasn't set up by us. It was set up by others...
KARLA WELCH: It was set up by religion really.
LIZZ WINSTEAD: Truly. And the prevalence and the prioritizing of the male gaze is so gross and just happening constantly. And barfy. And I'm just tired of it. And I don't care.
I heard a politician yesterday say, and I'm going to start saying it constantly -- he was advocating for something around reproductive health on the floor of in Pennsylvania, I think, and somebody screamed at him and called him a baby killer -- he said, “I am immune to your insults, because I've heard what you defend.” And I was like, I want that on my shirt. I want that tattooed on myself. I want to remember that always. Always.
KARLA WELCH: Yeah. Let's also have a system where that person isn't yelling that. There will always be extremes...
"We're going to change the way the world periods. So, you know, it's all in a day's work." - Karla Welch
LIZZ WINSTEAD: Whenever people talk about left extremes, I feel like they're always talking about people who just want to spend a lot of money to make things better. And then the right extremes are people who believe that Hillary Clinton was running a child prostitution ring in the basement of a pizza parlor.
KARLA WELCH: My mom will be devil's advocate, “Well, you know, there's people on both sides.” Oh, yeah? Not anymore. Not in this case. How long is it going to take them to completely die off? I don't know. I'm worried about the midterms.
LIZZ WINSTEAD: I'm worried about the midterms, too. I'm hoping that Biden understands that any way he can get shit through, he has to. People need to realize this election got us to the starting line. The vigilance of humanity, we're gonna see a lot in 2022. It's going to lay out who learned, who's in it, have we decided that we get the nation that we participate in? That's going to be revealed. And sadly, a lot of people are going to fall victim if people don't understand that we are all in this together, we all have our garden -- we all have to pull the weeds; you can't just stop.
KARLA WELCH: I vacillate between having great faith, and then just also being like, “Oh, we're doomed.” I'm sure you feel the same. I think most people feel the same. I questioned if government is where the answers are. When are any major corporations going to take on a take on abortion support, what demands that?
LIZZ WINSTEAD: That's the biggest problem with us, when we try to raise money we can never get any corporate sponsorship, we never get any help in any way, shape or form. And it's like, I'm a nonprofit, working tirelessly, just to try to protect this. If they can make laws that destroy us, having control of our bodily autonomy, that is such a terrifying thing. It's not like, “Oh, business can fix it.” You know?
Government trying to do this weird regulating thing, and that's the part that feels the scariest to me. The bad news is the media has not given a shit. In the past three years, .3% of media coverage was done on access to abortion, when it's the number one and number two thing that they're legislating along with guns and voting in in America.
I'm excited because we're launching a YouTube show called “Feminist Buzzkills Live!” which goes live in the fall, that's going to try to be really edgy, funny place where you can get information and calls to action. So if I can write hilarious things and do great commentary, and then say, “Guess what? Here's what you can do about it.” Being able to help explain that for people, which is one of the things that we do, is really great. We help get people to understand that the Yellow Hammer fund in Alabama was where you needed to go when the Alabama things were happening, awareness raising.
KARLA WELCH: Calls to action are kind of the key, especially in in the language we speak now, right, which is the language of social media. Love it or hate it people, that's where we exist. That's how we get words out. Not everybody wants to read the Supreme Court papers, but if you can break it down and give it to people, it's a recipe for success.
"Calls to action are kind of the key, especially in in the language we speak now, right, which is the language of social media. Love it or hate it people, that's where we exist. That's how we get words out. Not everybody wants to read the Supreme Court papers, but if you can break it down and give it to people, it's a recipe for success." - Karla Welch
LIZZ WINSTEAD: The hardest thing is having the knowledge and to break it down, and people don't care. Texas just passed a law, it's literally the most shocking abortion law that I've heard. Any person on the planet, any rando human can sue a person in Texas who is pregnant if they heard they're going to have an abortion.
KARLA WELCH: That is the most fucked up thing I've ever heard in my life. That is like something dystopian on a level like I've never even heard that. It's crazy. That's batshit. It's wild. You're doing the good work, Lizz.
LIZZ WINSTEAD: You're doing the good work, you know. I have to say something about the period too, we have a mutual aid program where we hook up clinics with companies, because clinics need a lot of stuff that like aftercare packages, pads for people.
KARLA WELCH: Do you need period underwear?
LIZZ WINSTEAD: Yes!
KARLA WELCH: Done.
LIZZ WINSTEAD: Good. Okay, great. It's so great to have donated pads. If you're a low-income person, you probably saved your last penny to terminate a pregnancy. And sometimes you don't have extra underwear or Advil to take home.
KARLA WELCH: We can help with that.
LIZZ WINSTEAD: Dope. I love it. Yay.
KARLA WELCH: Yay. Well, Liz, I loved chatting with you. This has been so great.
LIZZ WINSTEAD: Karla, and hopefully I will see you in real life person.
KARLA WELCH: When you come to my neck of the woods, please get in touch I'll be here. And thank you so much, I feel like I've been educated for the last hour, as I knew I would be, so thank you.
LIZZ WINSTEAD: Well, I feel like I've been educated by you too. And thank you so much for taking the things that we go through in our lives and taking the shame out of it. I think that it's great work and I really appreciate it.
KARLA WELCH: Back at you.