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.
“Ours is the story of late-term abortion. We are the issue that pro-birthers debate without knowing, without having been there,” she said.
Olivia was born healthy and is now five months old.
Chamberlain, who said she has not profited from Pantsuit Nation, is in the process of establishing it as a non-profit group, giving it a structure to grow outside of Facebook.
She hopes to hire three or four people to replace some of her 65 volunteers, who in addition to running the Facebook page and other social media platforms also support 20 local Pantsuit Nation chapters that formed organically post-election.
Chamberlain is also editing a Pantsuit Nation book, due out in May, which has drawn criticism by some who allege that she is selling the stories of others.
She defends herself, saying the people featured are enthusiastic about being included and that her ultimate goal, which she says might be “naive and impossible,” is for the book to find its way to people who might never be part of the Facebook group.
“I want to create change and facilitate dialogue and push Pantsuit Nation as far as I can in terms of changing future elections,” she said.
It is a crucial time for Pantsuit Nation, as keeping grassroots organizations going can be very challenging, an academic said.
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”
A Malaysian student whose cellphone was stolen while he was sleeping has tracked down the culprit: a monkey who took photo and video selfies with the device before abandoning it. Zackrydz Rodzi, 20, on Wednesday said that his mobile phone was missing from his bedroom when he woke up on Saturday. He found the phone’s casing under his bed, but there was no sign of robbery in his house in Johor state. JUNGLE When his father saw a monkey the next day, he searched in the jungle behind his house. Using his brother’s cellphone to call his own device, he found it covered
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after