I am so thrilled that Pantsuit Nation is now available for pre-order and will be released on May 9. I worked full-time on this book from late December to mid March, and it was my honor and incredible pleasure to collaborate with the over two hundred contributors – photographers and writers – who are featured in its pages. I’ll be writing about the process of putting this book together in another blog post, but first I wanted to talk more about how sales of the book will support the work of Pantsuit Nation.
I’ve sought to provide a clear and accurate description of how proceeds from this book will be allocated, while also recognizing that book publishing and nonprofit finance are complex and it’s impractical to attempt to address every nuance in a blog post. That said, I hope the information below will offer some clarification. I’ve included some percentages and numbers that are based on industry standards and will fluctuate slightly with regards to Pantsuit Nation depending on book format (hardcover or eBook) and sales levels. I found this article to be tremendously helpful when writing this post and if you are interested in the economics of publishing, I encourage you to read it.
First, to address the next chapters for Pantsuit Nation.
Our budget goals this year and beyond
Pantsuit Nation remains, primarily, a Facebook group with a current membership of 3.9 million people. With our focus on empowering individuals and creating large-scale change through the amplification of small-scale actions, Pantsuit Nation represents a well of energy and hope. We are confident that this 5-month-old startup can be a powerful force for progressive change: in 2017, 2018, and beyond. In order to achieve this, one of the first goals of Pantsuit Nation Foundation, the nonprofit we established this year, will be to develop partnerships with established and growing organizations to harness the power of collective storytelling to drive social and political change. Pantsuit Nation does not seek to take the place of any of the other incredible groups that are working to increase civic engagement, advocate for progressive change, support women and minorities who wish to pursue office, or any of the other issues that are central to Pantsuit Nation and our members. What we can offer that is different and new is our large number of engaged members (many of whom are new to activism) and the focus on first-person storytelling that has become the hallmark of our group. With resources to cultivate partnerships with organizations we admire (and whose missions are often beautifully illustrated by posts in our group) such as Planned Parenthood, Indivisible, Anti-Defamation League, and She Should Run, we can respond – as a nearly 4-million-strong coalition – to threats of injustice and regressive policies that will impact those most vulnerable in our country under the new administration.
Our second (and related) initiative is creating a web-based digital collection of stories that have been shared in Pantsuit Nation. With permission from the authors, these posts will be available in a public, searchable, constantly evolving archive to support the work of educators, activists, advocates, and progressives. At the heart of Pantsuit Nation is the idea that change comes from the heart, and the best way to move a heart is to share a story. Our archive will be one answer to Secretary Clinton’s call to action that we make sure our voices are heard beyond “private, secret Facebook sites” going forward.
These two projects will account for approximately 40% of our nonprofit’s budget this year.
In the past five months, this group has been run by a team of volunteers, which started with just me and quickly grew to include as many as 170 people all over the world. Our current team has about 40 people, almost entirely women, who volunteer between 4 and 20 hours a week (usually in addition to their full-time jobs and family responsibilities). That’s a ratio of 1 moderator or admin for every 100,000 members. Online community managers – for companies from The New York Times to HelloGiggles to Instagram – often work with groups a fraction of our size and earn between $60,000 and $200,000 a year. Of course this is in the private, for-profit sector, and these are individuals with a high degree of training in the field who work full-time. That said, another primary goal for our nonprofit is to begin compensating and more fully supporting the team that runs Pantsuit Nation. In addition to moderating our flagship Facebook group, managing our public social media platforms, coordinating our local chapters (also run by volunteers), and putting together our weekly Story+Action series, this team helped raise over $250,000 in 2016 for Hillary Clinton’s campaign and for the Water Protectors at Standing Rock. We hope to do much more in the coming months and years.
In 2017, we plan to create 3-5 full-time, paid positions, to fund small monthly stipends for our part-time volunteers, and to provide additional training for all of our staff – paid and unpaid – to better serve the Pantsuit Nation community and to do more of what I’ve outlined above. We estimate that these costs will account for the remaining 60% of our operating budget this first year. In addition to the money generated from sales of the book (see more below), our nonprofits will also need to raise money from other sources (individual donations, grants, or revenue from merchandise, for example) in the coming months to accomplish our goals.
How the proceeds from the book will be allocated
Again, these figures are based on market standards and don’t reflect any specific arrangements for this particular book (arrangements that are proprietary and protected by law), but they are nonetheless helpful guideposts when thinking about book publishing in general.
The retail price of the hardcover edition of the book is $27.99. Of that, about 10%, or $2.80 per book, goes to Pantsuit Nation. From that amount, about 35% ($1/book) will go to the cost of creating this book and getting it published – compensating the contributing writers and photographers and our literary agent, and covering some administrative costs (legal fees, my local print shop, a few part time assistants who have helped me get this book ready to publish in a very short amount of time, etc.). The remaining 65% (or $1.80/book) will go to Pantsuit Nation Foundation and the areas I’ve described above – about $.70/book to projects including developing our online archive and building partnerships with other progressive organizations to drive social and political change and $1.10/book to staff and training.
As is the case with the vast majority of traditionally published books, an advance payment against future royalties (i.e. the ~10% of revenue allocated to Pantsuit Nation) will be paid to us by the publisher (Flatiron Books). This upfront payment means that we can both cover the initial costs of creating the book as well as have some seed money go directly to our nonprofit for the above-listed projects. An advance essentially gives us the opportunity to borrow money from our own future earnings from the sale of the book instead of taking out loans at this early stage of our development as an organization. If total income from royalties exceeds the advance (if it “earns out”), Pantsuit Nation will continue to earn about $2.80 per copy, which will be directed almost entirely to Pantsuit Nation Foundation (as most of our upfront costs are covered by the advance). The advance also means that the publisher does not start earning money from the book right away, as their initial costs are all incurred long before their allocated revenue from the sale of each book surpasses that initial investment. It’s a leap of faith (grounded in market research and a deep understanding of how books sell), and I remain incredibly grateful to our publisher for taking that leap with Pantsuit Nation.
The other 90% (or roughly $25 per book) of the revenue goes to the bookseller (45-60%) and to the publisher (30-45%). Let’s assume for the sake of this post that 50% of the money goes to the bookseller and 40% to the publisher. This is a good thing.
We need bookstores and we need books. Let’s start with bookstores and their roughly $14 of revenue for each copy of Pantsuit Nation sold at the list price. (Again this is not an exact figure but an approximate representation. Retailers are free to discount the book at their discretion, which impacts only their percentage of the proceeds.) I’m not sure I need to make the case here, but independent bookstores are pretty amazing institutions. They are small businesses. They are often centers of community, conversation, and, in the Trump era, resistance. They employ people and keep money within local economies. They host events and promote literacy and celebrate a culture of reading. They are intellectual, hopeful, soulful places. They are the brick-and-mortar, face-to-face, IRL antidote to our often screen-saturated society. We need more of that. Now more than ever.
There are also chain bookstores and online retailers that are similarly important. They put a lot of books into a lot of people’s hands. They are accessible for a broad range of readers in a huge number of places (as someone who lives in rural Maine, I can attest to their importance in my life!). They are on college campuses and in airports, they ship to servicemen and women overseas and to the very remotest corners of our country, and they can be incredibly important for those with limited mobility or less financial flexibility. I’m proud that the book will support both local independent bookstores and the larger retailers.
The remaining $11 (roughly!) per book goes to the publishing house, which in turn is responsible for paying for the book to be printed (in this case, at a printer in the US, which, again, employs people and contributes to a book-reading economy), for marketing the book, and of course for compensating all of the people who worked on this book and others – from proofreaders to designers to production managers to editors. Some books earn publishing houses a profit, some do not. The books that are profitable allow publishing houses to publish books that are less likely to be so – books by lesser-known writers or in less traditionally profitable genres (for example: poetry, women’s studies, and literary fiction). About 78% of the people who work in publishing in this country are women.
I also want to add that in addition to being businesses (which, in my opinion, contribute tremendously to a social good), individual booksellers and publishers almost always have a commitment to philanthropy. They donate money and books, provide educators and community leaders essential resources to do their work, and they are an integral part of the support network that allows artists to create art. Flatiron Books, our publisher, is no different. In addition to being available at independent bookstores, chain bookstores, online retailers, and in eBook format, you may also request a copy of Pantsuit Nation at your local library. Flatiron Books will be donating 1,000 copies of the book to libraries around the country.
While I realize I could have self-published Pantsuit Nation and potentially generated a higher percentage of revenue from sales for Pantsuit Nation Foundation, I believe that publishing houses are important institutions to support. I would also strongly argue that this book would not have turned out as engaging and powerful as it has if I had tried to do it without the expertise Flatiron has provided. It would not have been prepared for publication as quickly, nor would it have the same potential to be distributed as widely and to be read by as many people as possible, which is central to the mission of the book and Pantsuit Nation. We amplify historically marginalized voices through the power of collective storytelling, and few industries have more experience and ability to carry out that objective than traditional publishing.
The power of purchase
Buying a book, or making any purchase for that matter, is an action and therefore an opportunity to engage in activism. Whom and what you choose to support as a consumer – whether it’s a local farm, an emerging artist, a socially conscious brand, a newly-threatened publicly funded program, or any of the other thousands of worthy investments we all know and see around us each day – is one powerful way to make your voice heard and so is very much in line with the mission of Pantsuit Nation. I want readers of this book to understand where their money goes, but also to see that the book has the potential to accomplish much more than simply provide a source of revenue that is divvied up and divided. I believe, wholeheartedly, that this book has the potential to inspire conversation and reflection, to change the hearts and minds of people who may have previously lacked the sense of urgency that many of us feel about the state of our country, and to be, as one book contributor wrote, “wind in the sails” for all those who are marching, protesting, lobbying, writing letters, making phone calls, and working to create change at every level of government. We can do both. We can contribute to a bookselling economy that is aligned with progressive goals while also being mission-driven.
Thanks for reading, Pantsuiters, and stay tuned for more information about events at independent bookstores this spring.
For International Women's Day, we're excited to feature the following post and call to action from Brianna Wu. Brianna is the head of development at Giant Spacekat, and a well known figure for women in tech. She is running for Congress in Massachusetts’ 8th district in 2018.
When you’re a woman, you’re endlessly marketed products that promise to empower you. I’m often barraged with ads for candles, creams, fragrances - I was even pitched a $150 leather calendar this week that promised to make my wildest career goals come true.
To learn more and to support some amazing organizations that help women running for office:
A “Phenomenal Woman” tee-shirt campaign that's raising money for seven women’s organizations, including EMILY's List and Emerge America
“We ignite change by getting pro-choice Democratic women elected to office.”
She Should Run
“We believe that women of all backgrounds should have an equal shot at elected leadership and that our country will benefit from having a government with varied perspectives and experiences.”
“Emerge gives Democratic women who want to run for public office a unique opportunity. We are the only in-depth, seven-month, 70-hour, training program providing aspiring female leaders with cutting-edge tools and training to run for elected office and elevate themselves in our political system.
Ready to Run
“Ready to Run is a non-partisan campaign training program to encourage and train women to run for elective office, position themselves for appointive office, work on a campaign, or get involved in public life in other way.”
“Bringing young women to politics.”
For more information about Brianna Wu, please visit her campaign website.
This week, in the first of a two-part series, we are honoring Black History Month by sharing the reflections of five of Pantsuit Nation members who have written about their experience of being black in America.
LeRhonda Greats, Sheffield, MA
"Being black in America is complicated and can weigh you down. Even at my age, I am always second guessing myself and that questioning is linked to my feeling of not being free. Not free to express my own truth. Once I was asked if I were a punctuation mark what would I be? Internally, my answer has always been that I would be an exclamation mark but honestly when I think of this question in terms of being black in America, I live as a comma, which feels to me like I am not enough on my own. I cannot just be me, I have to be me but as a part of something else. I have built a personal narrative for survival that proclaims that I am proud, strong and complex and it is through my studies of Black History that I have gained strength. I am a creator, most specifically a mother, and yet my creations are targeted for destruction on a regular basis, so I live with a constant pit in my stomach, waiting for the destruction to come. When I think of “liberty and justice for all”, I often wonder when I will be included in the “all.” Free to exclaim my truth. Freedom is the ultimate goal, to express my feelings without fear. But I am not there yet."
Tay Anderson, Denver, CO
"Some may see me as a threat because of the color of my skin. I receive many dirty looks from people on public transportation because of the color of my skin. It makes me think I do not belong.
"They are wrong. Being black in America means that I have a voice and I matter. Our ancestors paved the way for people like me to stand up. Being black in America means I can vote, and although we didn't break the glass ceiling this time, we have 65 million cracks in it.
"I am a senior in high school. I have been student body president since 2014, my sophomore year. This accomplishment has given me the privilege of being the longest serving student body president in the state of Colorado, and one of the longest serving in the United States. I served on the Student Board of Education for Denver Public Schools from 2014-2016. I am the Chief Operations Officer of a national youth lobbying and advocacy organization. I am the Chairman of the High School Democrats of the entire state of Colorado.
"Being a black male made this possible because I have the honor to represent my school in a very diverse district. I follow in the steps of our first and second black mayors of Denver who both were head boys at one point in time. I, too, can be President, and I will be! I am only 18 but I am going to the White House, because being black in America has shown me that I will be anything and everything I can. I am not afraid to stand up when they say sit down. I am Tay Anderson. I will be the President of the United States. And I am a black teen in America.
"When they go LOW we go HIGH!"
Dominique Troy, Staten Island, NY
"Being black in America means that I wake up every morning and face someone else’s expectations of who I am. I rise with limited knowledge about the centuries of history that explain why those expectations exist in the first place. With only bits and pieces taught infrequently in the 16 years of schooling I’ve received. And even those bits are mostly about how people of my race have suffered from systemic violence because white people are historically uncomfortable with people who do not look like them. And that will never be enough to explain why people think I am not enough. I KNOW I am enough.
"But in that knowing, I still I struggle to figure out what is mine, what isn’t mine, and whether or not “mine” exists at all. Am I neutralizing myself to be “whiter?” Or, am I simply being myself?
"Identity. Being black here has taught me that navigating my identity will be something I do every morning when I rise. It often means I seek consolation from my mother, from my sister, from my sisters and brothers whose blood runs as black as their skin, whose hearts pound in desperation and fear for what is to come."
Ryan Isom, West Hempstead, NY
"Being black in America means living a fractured but beautiful existence. Our culture sees everything through white cisgender male lenses-- this not only affects how black people are seen by white people, but other black people. Colorism, homophobia, and gender roles plague the black community as consequences of slavery and white supremacy. I’m a gay black man who is considered "mixed" (by black people based on aesthetics), effeminate (for not being hyper-masculine), big and scary by some white people (I'm 6'3), but at the same time not-- but my pride in myself has grown immensely as I have aged. The love for my skin, growing out my hair, and figuring out that my natural self is not only tolerable or acceptable but needed and beautiful, has been revolutionary for me. It is a struggle when everyone is telling you who you are is wrong, but as I become more centered in myself, I have also become more spiritually fulfilled as black man in a white world. I’m learning to love being black, even though sometimes I don't enjoy being black in America."
Tanya Robinson, Pasadena, CA
"Being black in America is a daily adventure. Constant vigilance is needed, an awareness of which neighborhood you are in and what you are wearing. It often means waiting longer to be seated at restaurants, slower service, then paying for the meal and having the change or credit card charge slip handed to your white companion. It means an extra adrenaline rush when pulled over by law enforcement without just cause, even if you have the backstop of a righteously indignant white person in the car with you. It means you are considered by some to be either a walking risk, or a potential burden on society. But do I ever wish I wasn’t black? Not one day of my life, because being black in America is also a study in resilience, maintaining a sense of humor and self confidence, and the everyday bravery of walking with head high and shoulders squared into every room in the world."
We look forward to sharing another collection of voices with you next week.
MLK Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles…/Letter_Birmingham.html)
"Women, Race, & Class" by Angela Y. Davis (http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780394713519)
"Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates (http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780812993547)
“The Urgency of Intersectionality” TED Talk by Kimberlé Crenshaw (https://www.ted.com/…/kimberle_crenshaw_the_urgency_of_inte…)
As parents, many of us have struggled to find ways to come to terms with a Trump presidency. We live in a new, more fearful, seemingly less just world, and so do our children. As Pantsuit Nation members have shown us again and again, our children (and I mean "our" in the most general terms - we all have young people in our lives that look to us even if we're not parents) are listening and watching. What we say, how we act, where we focus our energy, and the lens through which we choose to view this new world will shape the next generation and thus the future of our country.
For this week's Story + Action, Pantsuit Nation member Sarah Smith Rainey reports on how she has approached the task (and privilege) of parenting in the age of Trump. She is an Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Bowling Green State University and the Director of Religious Education at Maumee Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation. She and her partner Mike have a wonderfully wacky, modern “Brady bunch” style blended family that involves six kids, co-parents, relatives, and friends. Together, they run a Bed and Breakfast called Eight Leafed Clover in Northwest Ohio.
I turned to my community, especially other parents at my Unitarian Universalist congregation, and found similar fears and concerns. All parents said they were worried about the sense of “normalized hatred.” Parents shared that their kids were worried too. They told me that their kids were worried about nuclear war, being, literally, grabbed by the pussy by the President, they were frightened by the possibility of deportation of family members, they were worried about “the wall” Trump wants to build, and they were confused by why good people would vote for someone who seemed to do such bad things in his personal life. All the parents I talked with were worried about their kids’ abilities to rise up and fight for justice, and they are very, very concerned about their own readiness—our own ability to keep going, to keep fighting.
What is your version of Sarah's circle, Pantsuit Nation? What can we do as a (4-million-strong!) community to bring those who may not share our values into greater understanding and tolerance? What can we do to expand our own? As Sarah suggests, starting with the smallest circles - your family and community - does make a difference. Challenge yourself this week to bring (or at least invite) someone into your circle. Have a conversation or bring a meal. Bring your children along. Better yet, step into someone else's circle, outside your comfort zone. Tell us here in the comments what you find.
[Image description: A photo of a smiling woman wearing a black pantsuit standing in front of a brick wall. She has medium length rainbow-dyed and brown hair and is holding a sign that says #PantsuitNation]
On January 28, President Trump's executive order barring citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days and suspending the admission of all refugees for 120 days was met with widespread outrage, condemnation, and resistance. While a federal judge suspended key parts of the executive order on Friday and a legal battle is ensuing, the Trump administration has made it clear that the much-hyped "Muslim ban" of his campaign is a very real threat.
This week's Story + Action illustrates both the urgency of rejecting the ban because of the powerful thread of human connection across borders that may be snapped if the United States were to close our borders to citizens of any country, as well as the ways that we all can support refugees in our communities through any means we have available. Some of us will protest. Some of us will give money to the ACLU or other nonprofits supporting refugees, immigrants, and their rights. Some of us will lend our professional experience or prepare a meal or donate items of clothing. The important thing is to make our voices heard. Pick up the phone and call your representatives and tell them #nobannowall. After you hang up, look around and see what else you can do.
Pantsuit Nation admin Lee Fearnside had the honor of interviewing Nada Odeh. Nada is an artist, activist, humanitarian, poet and immigrant from Syria. She was born and raised in Damascus and came to the US in 2013 because of the conflict in her country. Nada uses her art to tell the story of refugees and to humanize them to others. She is pursuing her MA in Museum Studies at Syracuse University in New York.
Q: What is your favorite memory of Damascus?
Although enforcement of the executive order banning travel to the US from seven Muslim-majority countries has been halted nationwide, the Trump administration will challenge the legal ruling and wishes to see the ban implemented. This executive order has a real impact on families like Nada’s and the refugee community she advocates for through her art. For our action this week please call your elected officials to let them know that we, the voters and the American people, do NOT agree with this executive order.
Call your senators and congresspeople TODAY. Find their numbers here.
Use this script:
"Hi my name is ___________, and I’m your constituent from [city and zip]. I’m calling to ask [Representative/Senator ___________] to speak out against President Trump’s executive order on immigration. This order divides families and friends separated by country, and will not make us safer. It also goes against our values as Americans. Denounce this order and do everything in your power to see that it is reversed. My name is _____________ and my address is [hometown address]. Thank you."
If you are called to do more, find a refugee assistance organization in your state and donate or volunteer. You can find contact information for assistance organizations in your state here.
[Image descriptions: A photo of a woman dark auburn brown hair smiles and leans against a tree. In the first of two painted images, a stylized young girl wears a gown and a tiara with refugee tents visible in the background. In the second painted image, a similarly stylized mother is reading a book to her two young children in the midst of refugee tents in the background.]
Tomorrow, the Senate will vote on the confirmation of Betsy DeVos, the nominee for Secretary of Education. DeVos is widely recognized as the least qualified nominee for this position in modern history. Below, nine public school teachers describe why we MUST do everything we can to encourage our Senators to vote no tomorrow.
“My school is a public school in Northern California; while part of a comprehensive school district, we are not what most people think of when they picture “school.” We serve students in grades K-12 in an Independent Study format—students come to us seeking something the traditional sites did not, or could not, provide for them. Recently, many are seeking sanctuary from bullying. One of the reasons I do what I do is that I firmly believe every child needs access to the education that will work best for them. Betsy DeVos does not. DeVos is a hazard to our educational system and to see her installed as the Secretary of Education would be disastrous, as she has clearly demonstrated that she has no understanding of the ongoing mission of education, nor of what teachers do on a daily basis. Her vision of education would gut the public school system which serves 90% of American youth by shifting taxpayer funds to private institutions. Her lack of understanding and appreciation of the federal law protecting the legal rights of students with disabilities is, in my opinion, criminally negligent.
Call your senator TODAY. Find their number here: https://www.callmycongress.com/
Use this script:
"Hello, my name is ((name)) I'm a constituent from ((town/city)). I am calling to urge the Senator to vote against Betsy DeVos' nomination to serve as Secretary of Education because her nomination is not in the best interests of the young people of America."
You can also tweet! Sample tweets:
@SenateMajLdr #dumpdevos she is not the right person to trust with our children's education #psn
@SenAlexander our children deserve better than Betsy Devos #dumpdevos #psn
Did you call or tweet? Fill out our survey to let us know: https://goo.gl/forms/v0dvFZclCmq4TqGL2
For this week's Story+Action, Pantsuit Nation is proud to feature the following story by activist and Pantsuit Nation and Pantsuit Republic (Texas) member, Ligia Pesquera, about why she will be marching this weekend.
I'm a Latina woman and an immigrant. Given the concerns about the Women’s March on Washington, from not being inclusive enough to maligning the voices of white feminists, I have been thinking about my participation. Why do I march?
As of January 19, 616 Sister Marches are planned around the world in addition to the Women's March on Washington, with an estimated 1,364,010 marchers worldwide.
To join a Sister City march, go the locator page.
Share your photos and stories with us on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook using #pantsuitsmarching and #pantsuitsmarch. Tag us @pantsuitnation
See you out there, Pantsuit Nation.
As many of you know and have been commenting on, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the millions who are insured because of it will likely come under increasing fire in our next administration, and it is already a target for the Republican-controlled House and Senate. As Pantsuit Nation member and this week’s featured writer for our Story+Action series, Janni Lehrer-Stein, writes, “the ACA presents critical support for the health care of Americans with disabilities, with its protection for those with pre-existing conditions, and many other supports and services critical to the vitality of the disability community may be at risk as well.”
Janni has been legally blind for almost 40 years because of an incurable retinal disease. Her diagnosis and disability fuel her work. She is a mother, a lawyer, and an advocate for Americans with disabilities.
We all grow up with a basic understanding that we cannot take our lives for granted, that life may send us in unexpected directions, and that all of us will face challenges. But what happens if that person is you?
As we do this work, of listening, engaging, and advocating for each other, we also encourage Pantsuit Nation members this week to call your elected senators and representatives to tell them you support the ACA. Over 29 million people stand to lose their health insurance if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. Americans with disabilities are one of the most vulnerable groups but they are certainly not the only historically marginalized community that will suffer. An estimated 9.3 million low- and moderate-income people would lose marketplace insurance subsidies and many would also lose cost-sharing assistance that lower deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs. (Source)
See how many people in your state will be affected.
Call your senators and representatives. Tell them, "I am a <name your state> voter, and I support the Affordable Care Act. I want Senator <name your Senator> (Or Congressman/woman) to vote to protect the ACA." Call them every day!
The Indivisible Guide has provided detailed steps on how to engage with your elected representatives.
Stronger Together, Pantsuit Nation.
[Image description: A woman with curly brown hair speaking at a lectern in front of a light blue backdrop with logos that say "democrats.org."]
“I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.” – Future President Barack Obama, July 27, 2004.
We woke up to a gutting reality seven weeks ago. Hillary Clinton would not be President. An unqualified demagogue would replace President Obama in the Oval Office. We knew that the progress we made over the past eight years would be undone by the new administration. Hope, which brought many of us together during the Obama Presidency, now seemed lost. How would we combat this administration? How would we stand up for what is right and good in the world?
I am member of the Pantsuit Nation admin team, and I found myself coming back to the group to read stories that morning. I wiped my tears onto my t-shirt and reminded myself that the heart of organizing is storytelling. It is about connecting the story of you to the story of us. That is what drives us to act for what is good and right in the world.
Storytelling has moved us forward throughout history. Stories force us to look at what we refuse to see, or what we cannot see because of our own lived experience. When Emmett Till was brutally lynched in 1955, his mother, Mamie, decided to bring his body back to Chicago and allowed the world to view his beaten, unrecognizable body. Those who bore witness – in Chicago and in magazines and newspapers - were changed. It sparked action. Rosa Parks said afterwards, "I thought about Emmett Till, and I could not go back. My legs and feet were not hurting, that is a stereotype. I paid the same fare as others, and I felt violated. I was not going back."
Stories spark action. 9/11 first responders repeatedly went on Jon Stewart’s show to tell their story until legislation was passed to provide lifetime health benefits. Malala Yousafzai tells her story so girls around the world can receive access to education. Planned Parenthood has been attacked by the right for decades, but has overcome efforts to delegitimize their mission through people telling their stories about the Planned Parenthood they know.
On a personal level, I came out as a lesbian by telling my story in a blog post several years ago. I was emboldened by the countless others who came before me in the LGBTQIA community who stepped forward and told their story. 20 years ago marriage equality was a dream that we did not think we would see come true in our lifetimes. But then our stories began to be told in your living rooms and movie theaters. Now marriage equality is a reality, and I will proudly marry my love next year. (Our story is here on Pantsuit Nation.)
Everyone has a story. And for some of us, especially those in marginalized groups, speaking out is action. It is not always safe to tell a story. But we need to hear them so we are prepared to stand with those who will be targeted by this administration. We need to hear these stories so we can show up for those who need us most.
A “skinny kid with a funny name” told his story at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston and launched onto the national stage. Four years later he would become our President. And eight years after that, on November 29, 2016, he posed the following question when reflecting on his plans once his presidency comes to an end: “How do we rethink our storytelling… so that we can make a persuasive case across the country? And not just in San Francisco or Manhattan but everywhere, about why climate change matters or why issues of economic inequality have to be addressed.” Let’s honor his legacy by listening to each other’s stories. That is the heart of organizing. And that is the heart of our mission.
Pantsuit Nation will continue to amplify the voices of our members and will highlight stories from our community with corresponding actions in our weekly Story + Action posts. We will stand up for what is right and good in the world. These next few years will be hard. But together we can stand up for the progress we have made. We will show up for each other. Forward together.
(President Obama quotation from 11/29/16 Rolling Stone interview.)
I have some news!
I am beyond excited to announce that I'm working on a book. A Pantsuit Nation book. A permanent, beautiful, holdable, snuggle-in-bed-able, dogear-able, shareable, tearstainable book. Your voices. Your stories. Our community. Our project. Our message of hope and change.
When Hillary Clinton implored us on November 9, 2016 to “make sure [our] voices are heard going forward,” I took that to heart. It’s the ultimate call to action. At the end of October, when I invited 30 friends to join a Facebook group, I had a vision of an army of pantsuited warriors going to the polls on Election Day. I now see that that vision was shortsighted. As I’ve said a few times, I believe Pantsuit Nation was more important on the morning of November 9 than it was on the morning of November 8. Our charge going forward - our mission - is no less than to shift the course of history. And we’ll do it through stories.
There are many ways to share stories, and we’ve seen how powerful they can be when simply scrolled through on a Facebook feed. But I also know that many of us, dare I say most of us, have had moments of profound inspiration and connection while holding a book in our hands. As many of our members have commented, the stories of Pantsuit Nation are worthy of a book. The kind of book that will inspire and connect people. I’m so proud to be starting the process of bringing that beautiful idea to life.
If you are interested in having your story be considered for inclusion in the book, please send an email to email@example.com so that I can contact you with more details. Of course the privacy and safety of our members remains the highest priority. Stories and images will only be shared 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.
I believe that collecting our stories in a book is an important step, and a very exciting one. 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.
But the book is only one of many ideas I have in mind. I am also happy to announce that this morning we filed the paperwork to establish Pantsuit Nation as 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) non-profit organizations. These organizations will support the advocacy, education, and political action efforts we have already seen grow out of Pantsuit Nation, and will continue to be a part of our work in the future.
There’s so much to do. I can often scarcely contain my energy and enthusiasm for this project, nor can I believe that it was less than two months ago that I uploaded a photo of Hillary, radiant in her white pantsuit at the third presidential debate, and clicked “Create Group.” You are a force, Pantsuit Nation. Let’s see if we can harness that force within the pages of a book and see it on nightstands and coffee tables all around the world. I think we can and I think it’s going to be AMAZING.
Thank you, Pantsuit Nation. Let’s do this!
If you are interested in hearing updates about the book, click the button below!