“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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
It’s a storytelling time of year. Children and grandchildren snuggle in laps, looking at illustrations and listening to their favorite books read aloud. Families gather together on couches in living rooms all over the world to watch movies and TV, listen to music, and be in each other’s company. Bedtime stories. Movie nights. Classics. Traditions.
For this week’s Story + Action, we're asking you to examine the choices you make in your home about the stories you consume. Implicit bias isn’t something that can be fought only by marching, protesting, and signing petitions, important as those are. It’s also not going to change simply by following a Facebook group (as inspiring as it is). Change starts at home. It starts with the decisions we make in our most personal moments, the moments that we’re not sharing as status updates or tweets or even talking about with friends over coffee. The book on our nightstands. The movie we watch with a loved one to relax and unwind. These everyday, personal decisions are often the hardest to unpack from bias and to commit to changing. They are deeply embedded in our culture of comfort, familiarity, and entertainment. This makes them more important, in terms of individual action, than almost anything else we can do. We can continue to push ourselves to change the way conversations in our homes confront racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, xenophobia, and ableism, and there is often no better way to do that than by sharing a story. A book, a movie, a TV or radio show. Pay attention, pantsuiters. What stories are being shared in your home? What stories aren’t?
Pantsuit Nation is proud to feature the following piece by Talamieka Brice, an award winning artist and the CEO of Brice Media:
While holding my son, I finally found the words to voice for the election.
When I asked Talamieka about sharing her hugely popular Pantsuit Nation post with an even wider audience, she graciously agreed and had the following to add: “I think about the school to prison pipeline often and am glad my son's daycare is predominantly black so I don't have to think about his behavior being scolded harsher than others or, how his life will be in public school as opposed to private or, how to teach him how to walk through this life. Thank God he has an awesome dad who's also a veteran to help him… I move through day to day and [try to] come to grips with bringing another child into a looming Trump presidency. I never thought my words would impact people the way they did. I'm trying to process it all myself being a black creative with purple hair living in Mississippi of all places, lol.”
If Talamieka's story moved you, we hope you’ll consider bringing another story into your home this week to share with loved ones.
Suggested viewing for this week: 13TH. Filmmaker Ava DuVernay uses powerful imagery and commentary from scholars, activists, and politicians to show us that slavery, instead of being abolished by the 13th Amendment, has evolved into a system of mass incarceration through a loophole in its language.
Suggested reading (for children) for this week: Daddy, There’s A Noise Outside. Kenneth Braswell takes the complex issue of protesting and breaks the conversation down so that a 1st grader can understand. The text is thought provoking for all ages and especially relevant as we confront confront racism head-on in our daily lives.
What suggestions to do you have for reading or viewing? Leave a comment, and we’ll work on a list to share here on our website.
Posted by: Libby
Less than seven weeks ago, I started this group with a simple premise: Wear a pantsuit on November 8 (you know why).
On Election Night, while many of us (myself included) were hanging up our newly purchased or recently unearthed pantsuits to watch the returns come in, an estimated 500,000 people in America were homeless - spending the night in emergency shelters, transitional housing programs, or unsheltered. A harder to quantify but much larger number were also facing immediate and frightening questions of how to provide food for their families, stay warm through the upcoming winter, and simply make ends meet.
For our second Story + Action, Pantsuit Nation is proud to share the story of member Tanene Allison, a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School, former communications director for Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, and present communications and strategy consultant:
When I was 20, I was homeless and living in a youth shelter in San Francisco. To transition from the shelter to stable housing, I needed a job. But getting a job when you’re homeless or in poverty presents its own set of challenges. I was lucky enough to get an interview, but still couldn’t afford bus fare to the office, let alone any decent clothing. Job interviews can be hard enough, but they’re outright terrifying when you’re afraid you’ll walk in looking like you live in a homeless shelter.
As Pantsuiter Meena Harris wrote in a recent piece for Lenny, “In 2016, too many women still struggle to raise their families. They are disproportionately minimum-wage workers who juggle multiple jobs to make ends meet, and they still don't earn equal pay. The pay gap for women of color isn't just a gap, it's a canyon.”
This week, we are asking Pantsuit Nation members to donate clothing, especially those pantsuits that may still be hanging in your closet, but also any professional attire or winter clothing you are no longer using. You may wish to participate in Meena’s Pantsuit Drive, which she envisioned “as a way of honoring Hillary's public service — while recognizing the roads we still must travel, as well as the great service Pantsuit Nation has provided me in affirming the goodness, optimism, and generosity in all of us when we unite in common cause.”
If you would like to donate a pantsuit, please use the following mailing address:
P.O. BOX 170326
SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94117-0326
You may also wish to donate to a local affiliate of Dress for Success, whose mission is “to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.” Find an affiliate near you.
We also encourage you to donate locally to a clothing donation center. Regional Pantsuit Nation groups or Pantsuit Nation inspired groups may have resources in your area.
If you make a donation of clothing, please complete this brief survey. This helps us track our collective impact, and we’re excited to share the results of this drive with you in the coming days and weeks.
Please share this post and tag us @pantsuitnation with a photo of your donation on Instagram and Twitter.
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