Dressed in signature Steve Jobs black shirt and blue jeans attire, comedy writer Lizz Winstead is on a stage, showing the crowd her team’s new invention: Hinder. The crowd appearing in the Apple-inspired video is wooed by Winstead’s swaying, her long pauses, and whisper voice as she describes Hinder as a combination of “the sensibility of the Daily Show,” which Winstead co-created, “the accessibility of Facebook, and the creepiness of Tinder” all in the palm of your hands.
Of course, this is all satire. Winstead’s impersonation of Steve Jobs is just that: fake. The video is merely poking fun of the way presenters reveal new technology or ideas among a large audience of curious onlookers. The crowd was edited to whoop and holler at the most opportune moments.
But the app is real.
In the video, Winstead demos Hinder by showing the Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) page. Farenthold gained national attention following allegations by a former press aide that Farenthold sexually harassed her. When his photo pops up in the app, he is wearing a light blue onesie, standing next to a woman wearing a short, black nighty, but as Winstead notes, “this creepy onesie isn’t the worst thing about this guy.”
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Farenthold’s embarrassing photo is (unfortunately for him) real, and the charges against him for sexual harassment are real. Every person and quote in the app, no matter how ridiculous their stories sound, are real, and it’s that authenticity that seeks to disgust, entertain, and us.
The app allows users to either swipe left or right, à la the dating app Tinder, depending on whether the user wants to learn more about the candidate, or sees the official as a waste of time. If users swipe left on Farenthold, for example, Hinder asks you to donate to Winstead’s organization, Lady Parts Justice, “to make up for this personal shortcoming.” Swiping right allows users to “weep for democracy” and share the fact that you rejected the individual on Facebook or Twitter.
As Winstead says in the video, “Uterus begins with you,” to which the fake crowd erupts in celebration.
The Lady Parts Justice website jokes that the app exposes “anti-choice douchebags with a swipe,” but it absolutely does more than that. Hinder keeps its thousands of users updated on the latest absurdities from politicians and anti-choice advocates, state by state.
The app is more than a Tinder parody. Beyond passing judgment with a quick swipe left or right, the app also provides articles that include additional information on a politician’s reprehensible behavior. A writer at Lady Parts Justice confirmed that the organization put a lot of time and research into making sure Hinder was just as informational as it was funny. I would agree it is indeed both.
Lady Parts Justice is the equivalent of pairing tasteless medicine with sugar, and Hinder is both the sugary substance and the medication all in one. Even the organization’s name, an homage to former Rep. Lisa Brown (D-MI), pairs humor with the utter awfulness of legislators trying to police women’s bodies. Brown was banned from speaking on the statehouse floor after saying the word “vagina” during an argument against a transvaginal ultrasound bill in 2012. According to the organization’s website, it was suggested she use the term “lady parts” instead.
In many ways, Hinder is perfect for people like me, a woman still in her 20s whose frustration is only growing the more I read articles about abortion bans or efforts to criminalize pregnant people. The app works as an introduction to anti-choice advocates, where reproductive rights newbies can learn about the long list of advocates pushing to end a woman’s access to critical health services. I see someone like Farenthold, gleeful in his onesie, and I realize this man is a representative for an entire state. He helps make decisions that affect hundreds of thousands of people. Why? To use one trendy word, the Hinder app encompasses the “lolsob,” the urge to laugh until I cry.
But the app is not just to share information. It also serves to help Lady Parts Justice garner allies who will spread awareness about the importance of knowing who makes or upholds laws hindering our reproductive health and rights. Voting allows us to have a say in who can be an elected official: If you wouldn’t swipe right on a lawmaker who believes swallowing a camera would allow doctors to see the vagina, why would you vote them into office?
Hinder is an app for those unaware of the anti-choice environment in which we live, and who want to make a change in who is allowed to make these decisions—and the gallery is ever-growing.
Lady Parts Justice is essentially taking names of any politician fighting against reproductive rights and placing them onto Hinder. Users are encouraged to email the organization any info on local politicians who should be added to the app. This move is, again, a lolsob moment, because as great as it is to have a list of anti-choice politicians to avoid conveniently in the palm of your hands, it would be better to not need a list in the first place.
“It’s unending,” Winstead told me in a phone interview. “It’s a real wake-up call to how much is going on.”
For Winstead, the opening that allowed for more discussion on these taboo topics happened back in 2012, when former congressman Todd Akin (R-MO) made the controversial (and highly inaccurate) claim during an interview that, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” His statements opened a floodgate of criticism from both political parties. Even Akin’s fellow Republicans urged him to withdraw from the senate race that he was in.
Reproductive rights have always been difficult to discuss, but as Winstead stated during our phone call, “When we saw a person say something so stupid, it gave us [the Lady Parts Justice team] an opportunity to point out people saying things and using their own words with humor for the first time.”
Akin’s comments came the same year Lady Parts Justice was founded. Since then, it has worked to “expose creeps hellbent on destroying access to birth control and abortion.” Using humor, the team is fighting to disrupt stigma about abortion and reproductive rights. To Winstead, these politicians are nothing but “Lame-O, lying losers” who simply want control of women’s bodies. Humor, via Hinder, is a way of pushing back against their false narratives and disingenuous claims about our health.
According to the organization, Hinder will continue to grow and evolve well beyond the presidential election season. Anyone willing to participate can send Lady Parts Justice information on local politicians working to stifle reproductive rights.
For its part, Winstead stated that the organization will be “hitting the ground and rallying” across the country in support of abortion providers and clinic workers who constantly face threats and violence. “At the end of the day,” said Winstead, “we have to fight to try to not have horrible anti-choice monsters get elected. But even if they do, clinics still need to be up and running.”
Hinder is a catharsis, a joke wrapped in real advocacy and education. When the laughter fades, Hinder provides information about actual people who are fighting against reproductive rights. The first mandatory action to oppose these politicians is simple: Swipe left.