rePRODUCTION! goes a second round.
Just a few nights away from rePRODUCTION: A Burlesque Benefit for NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, Madeline and Jessica of BSP questioned two of the event’s producers on the method and meaning behind the show’s second installment. No one can explain the show’s urgency and importance better than the ladies themselves. What follows is our Q&A with Heidi Von Haught and Wiggy Stardust:
BSP: How do you perceive that the climate regarding women’s rights has changed between now and the last rePRODUCTION?
Heidi: With the upcoming election, the political discussion about reproductive rights has taken a really serious turn since our last show. The Republican primaries have led to a lot of right wing people discussing their opinions in public forums, so I think the reality of the right wing position on these issues is more visible right now. In the last several months there have been numerous legislative changes or proposals across the country that effect everyone who wants to have sex, not just women. That is part of what has been so frustrating about this discussion. People continue to think of birth control and abortion as women’s issues and women’s right. Takes two to tango.
Wiggy: As Heidi said, since it is an election year, reproductive rights have really been center stage politically; I think because they are such divisive issues and motivate people to side with one candidate or another. All of the legislation that has been proposed and passed in the past 9 months since our last show (good timing, eh ladies?) has been really upsetting, from withdrawing federal funding for organizations like Planned Parenthood, which provide full-spectrum healthcare and education (not just reproductive healthcare or abortions, as is the common misconception), particularly to low income men and women; to requiring trans-vaginal ultrasounds before one can have an abortion; to allowing pharmacists, doctors, and other medical providers to deny women access to contraceptives based on their personal/religious beliefs or to make medical decisions based on what is best for a fetus rather than what might save a woman’s life (I’m thinking about doctors that will refuse cancer treatment for pregnant women, even if it means the woman and the baby may die if she is left untreated). As with the last show, and even more so over the past few months since the last installation of rePRODUCTION, I feel very much that women’s rights and ability to choose for ourselves is under fire, and I am outraged.
BSP: How did you arrive at your cast for this show, and the particular acts that will be featured this time around?
Heidi: For this show, we wanted to include more men because we want to emphasize that these are not “women’s issues.” So we have included Man Johnson, Billy Corazon, Sir Eddie Van Glam and Ernie Von Schmaltz. We also invited Velvet Ice, one of our local legends! Velvet was a burlesque performer in San Francisco in the 60s and is a phenomenal performer. We wanted her to be involved in the show because she is older than us and can add a unique perspective on the issue. She will be tantalizing us with a number on the power of menopause.
Wiggy: We actually set the date partially based on when Nasty Canasta was planning to visit Seattle, and since Paula the Swedish Housewife and I have been having many discussions around the dinner table about the “War on Women” and following many feminist activists from around the world on twitter, when I told her we would be producing a second show, she asked if we still needed someone to host the show. I’m really excited to have her on the bill since I admire her so, both as a performer/producer and as a politically active individual. I feel really honored that she will be joining us.
BSP: How has the political landscape either emphasized or de-emphasized the war on women?
Heidi: It’s shocking and frightening to me that we are having a conversation about our rights to birth control or the morality of it. I never thought in a million years this would be a discussion in my lifetime. It’s bad enough that the condoms in drug stores are kept behind lock and key. But again, this isn’t really a war on women. The media just frames it that way. Men have a very vested interest in a woman’s ability to access birth control or get an abortion.
Wiggy: I think it is a trend in politics to bring up divisive social issues in election years, such as abortion/reproductive rights and gay marriage. These are issues that affect everyone, but what one decides to do about who you have intercourse with and whether or not you are doing it for procreation or recreation are none of anybody else’s business. Why have all the anti-freedom of assembly and anti-freedom of speech bits of legislation that were being proposed and passed this winter been de-emphasized?
Unlike Heidi, I do think there is a veritable war on women going on. Yes, men also suffer, and have a vested interest in birth control/contraceptives, but we are disproportionately affected by legislation affecting not only reproductive rights, but bills related to cutting funding for programs such as unemployment, food stamps, welfare, etc. We make less money even though we go to university. We are made to feel shame for being female, for being sexually active and educated about it.
BSP: What does progress look like? Do you feel that progress is being made?
Heidi: I’m not sure. I talked to my mother the other day, who is a middle of the road Democrat married to a Republican. She said that, in her opinion, Roe V Wade was safe and that it is only a small but vocal minority of people who are interested in outlawing abortion. Honestly, I still don’t know. I hope she’s right. To me though, we have a long way to go before I feel real progress is being made. We live in a country where everything about sex and reproductive rights is back-asswards. I want comprehensive, medically accurate sex education in school for everyone; simple, inexpensive access to birth control without shaming tactics; and safe access to abortion and information about it. Adults should be given the education and opportunity to make their own decisions about whether they have children and why they have sex. And man, I haven’t even begun talking about the slut-shaming or the way our culture responds to sexual assault. Ugh.
Wiggy: Le sigh. I think progress is people being informed, enraged, and actively working to protect their rights. The one good thing about all of the horrifying laws being proposed and passed, and all of the highly offensive things being said by members of the Religious Right/Moral Majority is that it has resulted in an outcry from women all across the country. I hope that women are motivated to vote, protest, and take matters into their own hands should anyone take away our ability to choose. I feel horrible that I grew up taking it all for granted and thinking that the work women did in the 70s was unshakeable. The more I learn about what is going on across the country, the more I realize that there is a long way to go towards equality.
BSP: Can you tell us a little about the discussion panel that will be a part of rePRODUCTION?
Heidi: This is a new feature! We decided we wanted to add this panel because we wanted to give people information about resources available in the community and concrete actions people can take to protect their rights. Our panel includes representatives from Legal Voice, The CAIR Project, Babeland, SexTalk Radio, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and Seattle Clinic Defense. These organizations protect our rights in a number of ways, through grassroots activism, financial assistance, education, lobbying and more. We are really excited to see how it goes!
Wggy: I am so excited about the panel! We definitely wanted to have a more educational/informative aspect to the show, since it is an election year and there have also been a variety of activist movements going on globally, namely with decolonize/Occupy in the States. When we did the show in August, some of the feedback I heard from audience members was that they had no idea some of the things NARAL was working on, such as fighting Crisis Pregnancy Centers, werehappening, so it seemed like a good idea to create a space to allow people to learn more about what the current political landscape looks like and to give themthe chance to speak with activists who are approaching the legislation and climate surrounding reproductive rights in a variety of ways, from direct action/protest (Seattle Clinic Defense, which has ties to Occupy Seattle’s Gender Equality Caucus), to lawsuits that protect women’s rights (Legal Voice), to abortion resource hotlines (The CAIR Project), and of course, NARAL itself, which does education and lobbying, and works through the political system to reform it. We wanted to make the space for discussion and for our audience members to find out how to get involved, and to use the burlesque show as a fundraiser and opportunity to generate dialogue through art, humor, and glamour. All of the numbers are politically charged and will tie in nicely to the post-show discussion.