Pantsuit Nation, an invite-only Facebook group where Hillary Clinton supporters have gathered to share stories of inspiration and frustration in the weeks surrounding the presidential election, is becoming a book.
The group, which launched in October, quickly swelled to almost 4 million members (including me). Created by Maine-based Libby Chamberlain, 33, the page is populated with photos of young girls dressed like feminist icons, anecdotes of women taking their grandmothers to the polls to cast their first-ever ballot for a female president and stories of overcoming obstacles great and small.
Clinton shared a message to the group shortly before Election Day: “For some of you, it’s been difficult to feel like you could wear your support on your sleeve,” she wrote, “And that’s why this community has been such a special place.”
I say “mostly” because the page has taken some heat for being self-important and tone deaf — “a space for white people to pat each other on the head for acting in a manner most woke,” as Erin Gloria Ryan writes for The Daily Beast.
“For every inspiring story of a girl who faced down bullies at school, there’s a self-congratulatory post by a white person who, let’s say, helped their neighbors, who are Muslims, shovel their driveway,” Ryan writes. “For every voice-amplifying anecdote from a person who overcame disability or sickness to support Hillary Clinton and how they will continue to fight, there’s a woman bragging about, say, decorating for the holidays with a black Santa ornament.”
When such criticisms were raised by members on the page, they were frequently batted away by other members. Hence, “mostly.”
The book deal, which Chamberlain announced on the page, has further deepened the divisions.
“I believe that collecting our stories in a book is an important step, and a very exciting one,” Chamberlain posted Tuesday afternoon. “The book will further our mission and the premise that stories give meaning to action and that meaningful action leads to long-term, sustainable change.”
Her post drew tens of thousands of “likes” and “loves” and more than 4,000 comments. Many of those comments were congratulatory and celebratory. Many were not.
“I am a writer myself and I in no way agree with how this was handled,” one member wrote. “It’s capitalizing on other people’s lives and stories for personal gain and acclaim.”
“I’m waiting for the Pantsuit(TM) HBO Miniseries, Pantsuit(TM) MasterCard, Pantsuit(TM) YA franchise starring Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart and the Happy Meal Tie-ins so all the little ones can get in on the action, while getting a ‘nutritional, well-balanced meal,’ ” wrote another. “That’s when we'll know that change and justice have finally arrived.”
“And Libby Chamberlain if you take any ideas I sent you (which are copyrighted already) I will sue you,” wrote another. “I cannot believe you are trying to sell this as an ‘opportunity.’
Here is an idea: Take any and all royalties and donate them to women’s causes. Otherwise you’re just another huckster.”
In her announcement, Chamberlain said she filed the paperwork to establish Pantsuit Nation as a nonprofit (though nothing specific about donating the book’s proceeds there) and pointed out that stories and images will be shared only “with explicit permission from the author.”
“There will be a clearly defined process for members to grant that permission, and most identifying information will be excluded,” she wrote.
The book is scheduled to be released in May through Flatiron Books.
Chamberlain would be wise to carefully consider her critics and make sure the book feels more inclusive and less smug than the Facebook page. And, yes, donating the proceeds — at least a large portion of them — seems like a no-brainer.
I have to admit, though, I’m looking forward to reading Pantsuit Nation in book form.
I have loved many of the posts, even as I’ve cringed at others.
Many of us have been feeling our way toward a new normal pre- and post-election, and the page has felt like an accurate reflection of that. The book, I hope, will too.
©2016 Chicago Tribune