A Pop Culture Guide to Surviving the War on Women

It’s been a depressing start to the year for those of us who care about women’s access to contraception and abortion, be it the fight over the Obama administration’s contraception coverage rule or Virginia’s attempts to require women to have transvaginal ultrasounds before they obtain abortions. And whether it’s CNN’s Dana Loesch tweeting that women have already consented to be penetrated or Rush Limbaugh declaring “what would you expect from a woman driver?” when Danica Patrick said she supported Obama’s decision, it’s been even more discouraging to see how that debate’s been amplified in the media. So if you need encouragement, here are ten pieces of pop culture that will make you laugh, think, and keep you in the fight for women’s rights at a time when the war on women makes America seem more like The Handmaid’s Tale than a modern country:

1. A stirring defense of middle-aged men’s right to comment at length about women’s health: Also, a chance to hear Nick Offerman say the word “vagina” and explain to us that: “Oral contraception is bad, plain and simple. Why? Because I don’t understand how it works and science scares me.”

2. Martha Plimpton on Personhood in Slate: She’s already the star of the best working-class sitcom currently on television, Raising Hope. She’s an awesome progressive Tweeter. And now, she’s dropping knowledge about the Affordable Care Act.

3. Annalee Newitz’s complete guide to science fiction and reproductive rights: The book that gets namechecked every time conservatives start proposing draconian measures to control women’s health is Margaret Atwood’s masterpiece The Handmaid’s Tale. While that book, a portrait of an America taken over by religious fundamentalists in the wake of a nuclear attack, is absolutely required reading, Annalee’s guide points out books that get at male anxieties at having their fertility controlled as well. Now if only we could strike a deal where we promise not to steal men’s sperm if they promise not to colonize our ovaries.

4. Sons of Anachy, Season 3, “Lochan Mor”: If you need a reminder that ever-so-occasionally, television’s capable of treating abortion like the medical procedure—and sometimes even bring a dose of humor to the occasion, watch this episode of television in which Lyla, Opie’s girlfriend, visits an abortion clinic. And watch out for the name she uses to make her appointment.

5. Sometimes, you encounter an issue that just requires a good old-fashioned flabbergast-off: Also, Amy Poehler pretty much killed me with this line: “I’ve got so many miles on Transvaginal that I always get upgraded to Ladybusiness.” Please, please let Parks & Recreation stay on the air long enough for Ron and Leslie to have some version of this conversation.

6. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 9: Bless Joss Whedon for deciding that, since about 40 percent of American women have abortions, perhaps Southern Caifornian Chosen Ones who are in no proper position to raise a child in a stable and healthy environment should be among their number. If you need someone to remind you that, conservative claims to the contrary, that liberals are more than capable of nuanced decision-making when it comes to abortion, this is the tonic you’ve been looking for.

7. The Second City on men’s sexual health: Because sometimes you need to show folks what the world would be like if you turned it upside down for a minute.

8. Salt N Pepa, “Let’s Talk About Sex”: Because if we’re really unable to move our conversation about sex, contraception, and sexually transmitted diseases from where it was 20 years ago, we might as well have the benefit of enjoying the best songs of the era.

9. The sex scene in Love & Basketball: There’s no such thing as too much Omar Epps. And given how weird our pop culture can be about depiction birth control use much less abortion, there are never too reminders that adding condom use can add to—not detract from—sex scenes.

10. The Colbert Report: At a time when a lot of conservative politicians are getting outraged on Catholics’ behalf, it’s a blessing to have Stephen Colbert back on the air. An observant (and Sunday School-teaching) Catholic, Colbert is a welcome reminder that trying to get women access to the medical care they need, preventative and otherwise, isn’t actually something that should pit Catholics and Americans of other faiths and none at all against each other.