Tue, Mar 07, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Pantsuit Nation draws liberal women, allies in US

AFP, Washington

A secret Facebook group sprung up in the final days of last year’s US presidential election, bringing together supporters of former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton who simply wanted to champion their candidate among fellow enthusiasts.

Now numbering just under 4 million members, Pantsuit Nation is a space for progressive women and their allies to share personal stories — many uplifting, others heartbreaking — in a nation divided under US President Donald Trump.

“It’s easy to get hopeless as supporters of secretary Clinton, as liberals and Democrats, [and] to feel alone,” founder Libby Chamberlain said.

“We have so many members who live in communities or families where they don’t have like-minded individuals ... they can’t go next door to commiserate with the neighbor about what’s happening at the national level, but they can go to this space online,” she said.

The 33-year-old runs Pantsuit Nation from a spare bedroom in her home in Brooklin, Maine, a coastal town of 800 people and is primarily known for boat building.

She started the Facebook group on Oct. 20 last year while working two part-time jobs at high schools. Her idea was to encourage Clinton supporters to wear pantsuits — Clinton’s go-to outfit — to the polls on Nov. 8.

Overnight, the group ballooned to 24,000 people as members added friends, who then added their friends. By Nov. 5 last year, Pantsuit Nation had grown to 1 million members, reaching 3.1 million by the end of election day.

Photographs of exuberant pantsuit wearing women at polling sites quickly gave way to posts brimming with anger and despair following Trump’s electoral win.

These days, Pantsuit Nation’s content centers around Trump’s conservative agenda, with members describing the real-life effects of his moves to restrict immigration, tear up healthcare laws and remove protections for transgender people.

“I think there is a hunger in this country for personal stories that humanize the impact of policy that is happening at the national, state and local level,” Chamberlain said. “It feels immediate and human and it allows people to hold onto something.”

Austin, Texas-based copywriter Darla Barar, 30, wrote on Pantsuit Nation about her late-term abortion and voiced opposition to a measure in Congress seeking to define human life as beginning at fertilization.

“This bill really hit us hard because the wording is such that it would essentially put a ban on IVF procedures as well as abortion,” Barar said. “It was a double whammy for us.”

She was expecting twins, conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF), when a scan at the midpoint of her pregnancy revealed one of the babies had grave issues, including a neural tube defect that was allowing brain matter to leak out of the baby’s skull.

If the baby she and her husband had already named Catherine survived delivery, she would have been severely disabled, if not a vegetable. Meanwhile, the growth of Catherine’s amniotic sac was restricting that of her twin, Olivia, putting both babies in danger.

Barar ultimately decided to abort Catherine to give Olivia a better chance of being born healthy.

“On June 22 at 3:30pm, the doctor let us see and hear Cate one last time. I remember she danced for us. And then, guided by ultrasound, the doctor injected a medication into Cate’s heart, stopping it. When they checked for a heartbeat 30 minutes later, the silence was deafening, and then they found Olivia’s strong beating heart and we cried. We cried for Olivia’s survival and for Cate’s loss, our loss, Olivia’s loss,” she wrote in Pantsuit Nation.

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