Currently the TN Guerilla Women consists of a small core group in Middle Tennessee, a larger group from across the state who are plugged into our virtual meeting places - the TGW blog and listserv - and hundreds of women and men across the state who are signed on to our Activist List. Members of the TGW Activist List will occasionally receive timely warnings about threats to human rights. However, most warnings/alerts will simply be posted on our blog.
Most in our core group are old enough to remember the Women's Liberation Movement, the Stonewall Inn Riots, and the wide assortment of social justice movements from the Civil Rights era. We thought our nation would have learned a little something by now about tolerance and respect for differences. We thought the lessons learned from the social justice movements of the past would be ingrained in the minds of all Americans from an early age in state-of-the-art schools. We certainly thought that by the new millennium women and other minority groups would be more fairly represented in our legislative bodies. Instead, we have legislative bodies that look and act much like the ones from yesteryear; only they have found new and creative ways to define some of us as separate and unequal under the law. Instead we must fight the same damn battles all over again. Surely, the only hope any of us have in these perilous conservative times is to join forces.
As a nation that bills itself as the world's leading democracy, the US ranks 59 - worldwide - in the number of women representatives in national legislatures. In 2004, the 84th anniversary of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment - which gave US women the right to vote - there are all of 14 women in the Senate and 60 women in the House. After 84 years with voting rights, women are a mere 14.8% of the House, 14% of the Senate, and 22.4% of state legislators. At this rate, it will be another two hundred years before women obtain equal representation, or until the US approaches a state of genuine democracy. The continuation of the American tradition of male over-representation remains an enormous obstacle to democracy.
One thing for sure, the US would not rank quite so dismally low in the world if it weren't for states such as Tennessee. The state ranks 47 in the US in the number of elected female representatives; only South Carolina (50), Kentucky (49), and Mississippi (48) fare worse. But in terms of women's overall political participation, these states do not rank worse than Tennessee. According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, Tennessee scores so low in all the key political participation indicators measured that the state ranks dead last in women's political participation. Not surprisingly, states ranking low in female political participation also score low in policies relevant to women's lives. Tennessee ranks last in women-friendly policy.
Little wonder that the feminist goal of equal pay and child care centers as free and plentiful as public parks remains a distant dream in Tennessee and in the US. No wonder so much of women's work continues to be devalued and rewarded with poverty. We aren't writing the laws. We aren't changing the rules. Equality still means fitting into a system we didn't design.
Under the current Administration there is not a hope in patriarchy of advancing the cause of women's rights, nor the rights of any other minority. Just as when the nation was founded, those who stand to gain under this Administration are propertied white men and their representatives. The only hope for justice is to fight like the devil to slow the current erosion of human rights and to evict the misleading, miscalculating, misogynist occupant of the White House. Once that's done, it will be time to fight like hell to bring forth a new progressive era by demanding that Democrats honor the memory of Paul Wellstone and represent the democratic wing of the Democratic Party, for a change!
August 26, 2004