The Tennessee Guerilla Women came together in the spring of 2004. Thanks are due to some of Tennessee's more infamous legislators for the birth of our organization. Because of their efforts, we turned our attention away from the occupant of the White House long enough to realize that the fundamentalist legislators at our doorstep required our immediate attention.
Throughout the spring of 2004, numerous Tennessee legislators were apparently inspired by the occupant of the White House to attack women and the gay community with an onslaught of discriminatory legislation. Elected officials transformed our daily lives into one tense day after another. Hardly a week went by without some new plan to deprive Tennesseans of rights. When legislators weren't scheming to deprive women of reproductive rights, they were talking incessantly about how some of us don't belong to the right kind of family and so don't deserve ANY rights. They were devising plans to outlaw civil unions and gay marriage, and they certainly succeeded in making everyday life difficult for Tennessee's immigrants.
Everywhere we went during those tense days we ran into women like us; women who were fed up. All we had to do was mention the Tennessee General Assembly and women would literally rage about the intolerance of fundamentalist legislators. On April 1st, we decided to play a joke on the TN General Assembly and get serious about organizing a resistance to the TN Taliban. Tennessee women rank last in the nation in political participation. We believe that if we can do something about this dismal fact, we can begin to improve the quality of life for all Tennesseans -by reining in and eventually ousting the state's large body of fundamentalist lawmakers.
After Tennessee's "Democratic" state senators voted in droves to remove the state guarantee of abortion rights and after numerous TN lawmakers threatened – on a weekly basis - to outlaw abortion rights, civil unions and gay marriage, we started going downtown and attending legislative hearings. Among other things, we learned that many of our lawmakers apparently limit their research to knowledge sources some 2,000 years old!
At our "Veil of No Choice" Action at the April 14, 2004 House committee hearing on SJR 127 (a proposed constitutional amendment that would remove the state constitutional guarantee of abortion rights), we wore veils across our faces in order to demonstrate that TN fundamentalist lawmakers have the same goal as Middle Eastern fundamentalists - the control of women's bodies. We carried signs that read: "Stop the TN Taliban" (they were confiscated). Later that month we held two lunchtime prochoice & pro gay marriage demonstrations at legislative plaza; we urged legislators to give it up and go home!
On May 8, 2004, we held a pro-choice rally on the steps of the Capitol in downtown Nashville (with the assistance of TN NOW). Approximately 100 pro-choice women and men attended. The rally helped energize everyone for the upcoming battles with our elected officials. On May 10th we held our "TN Guerilla Women vs. the Right-to-life" demonstration outside the Capitol. While we carried our signs, legislators were preparing to vote on whether to subvert their own rules and bring the anti-choice resolution SJR 127 back to life. Fortunately, reason prevailed on that particular night, and the measure was voted down.
We stood, with Pro-Choice signs, firmly planted in front of the Capitol facing roughly 30 Right-to-Life (RTL) demonstrators. Our numbers were small (ranging from 12 to 15) but we were nevertheless a formidable presence. The RTL had planned to form a " circle of life" around the Capitol. With TN Guerilla Women standing in their way, that plan was aborted. All the local television stations featured us; we were on the early news, the late news and the early morning news the following day. Perhaps you recall seeing our "Outlaw Viagra" sign (what might happen if the legislature were 83% female instead of 83% male). Channel 5 blew the "Outlaw Viagra" sign up to full screen size and couldn1t seem to show it enough. The print media ignored us.
In June, we helped remind legislators that Tennessee has a large and ever-growing gay community (a community comprised of tax-paying voters!) by womaning a booth at the Nashville PRIDE festival in Centennial Park. Among the crowd of some 10,000 folks, the subject of unfriendly legislators was a common conversational topic. Many registered to vote that day. We were able to add quite a few names to our activist email list.
Some of our recent actions include targeting anti-choice Democrat State
Rep. Mike Turner by writing letters of complaint to party officials. The
TN Guerilla Women believe that if Democrats are going to behave like Republicans,
they should suffer some consequences. A recent newsletter featured a call
for a letter campaign aimed at Nashville1s local daily newspaper, the
Tennessean. This was an effort to focus some righteous indignation at
the Tennessean for the paper1s habit of featuring an excess of right-wing
columns (12 anti-choice columns in 12 weeks!), while allotting precious
little space to opposing views. Nashville1s weekly paper, the Scene featured
the TGW letter campaign (along with our documentation of The Chavez Abortion
Chronicles) in its online Late Edition. More recently, we helped pack
a Nashville Metro Council meeting by alerting the progressive community
to certain council members' efforts to single out a lesbian for differential