The Facebook group pantsuit country(Opens in a new tab)Who went viral in 2016 as a haven for Hillary Clinton supporterssuddenly stops.
The news took the group’s members and moderators by surprise. But in 2019, Pantsuit Nation became part of Supermajority(Opens in a new tab), a membership-based organization that helps women advocate for themselves and their communities. It was no longer under the direct control of its founder Libby Chamberlain.
On Thursday, Taylor Salditch, acting executive director of Supermajority, announcement(Opens in a new tab) that the organization would begin “suspending” all new posts, comments and reactions beginning March 18. The move effectively closes the group of 2.9 million members.
Salditch said Supermajority would instead focus on engaging young women in key states to win upcoming elections, including the 2024 presidential race. Supermajority had paid contract moderators to run Pantsuit Nation.
“We know it will take laser focus on our core work and are prioritizing our time, talent and resources to achieve this result,” Salditch wrote.
Salditch’s post has since garnered more than 1,500 comments, many of which criticized the decision, calling it “short-sighted”, “terrible” and a “huge miscalculation”.
In response to Mashable’s request for additional information on why Supermajority decided to shut down the group, Salditch sent a version of his Facebook message but did not provide any additional information:
“Over the past few weeks and months, we have taken stock of our work, with a particular focus on our success in 2022, and have developed a strategic approach to best position the supermajority to build the political power of women. in 2024. We are focused on engaging young women voters, both white women and women of color, in key states to increase participation and win elections and policies that empower women and their families We know it will take laser focus on our core work and prioritization of our time, talent and resources to achieve this result.
“Supermajority has decided to suspend the ongoing management of the Pantsuit Nation x Supermajority Facebook page on March 18. Pantsuit Nation has always been more than a tribute to sharp pants and female leadership; this group has become a community of connection, knowledge sharing, and mobilization because of each member.
“What does this mean? We are suspending all new posts, comments and reactions on the page. Community members will continue to have access to years of shared stories to revisit, and they will continue to be an invaluable part of the Supermajority community.We like to think of this channel as a time capsule that spans a historic and tumultuous period of over 7 years in our country’s history.
“When I was working on Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016, knowing that this space had been created where people could celebrate, empathize and organize together was a shining light in an otherwise dark time. Pantsuit Nation x Supermajority created a community that has inspired strangers to share their stories and hopes for the future. These conversations have sparked friendships, trained new activists, organized community meetings and more. The group may be on hiatus, but l spirit (as well as the memories of this group) remains!”
Some of the group moderators, who were suddenly laid off effective Friday(Opens in a new tab)started a new Facebook group called Our Nation(Opens in a new tab)which has already attracted tens of thousands of followers.
Still, it will be impossible to replicate Pantsuit Nation’s unique origin story.
During the final weeks of the 2016 election, Chamberlain launched the group as a venue to express unwavering support for Clinton at a time when that seemed rare. She invited a few dozen friends to wear pantsuits when they voted for Clinton. These friends invited their friends. Within weeks, Pantsuit Nation had 1 million members.
“[Pantsuit Nation] is no place to convince anyone how awesome she is,” Chamberlain told Mashable at the time. “It’s a place to celebrate how great she is.”
Praise also gave way to storytelling and organization. Members shared heartfelt personal experiences on topics such as emigrating to the United States, seeking abortion care, telling conservative family members, and more. These stories could spark controversial or even offensive discussions about race, religion, sexuality, gender identity and disability, and some activists remained skeptical of the group.
Yet the posts also frequently sparked conversations about how to raise money for various causes, how to be a better ally, how to protest, and how to defend certain state and federal pieces of legislation. Members of conservative states have often said the group has helped them feel less politically alone.
In a post responding to the decision, Chamberlain thanked the organization for making it possible to compensate the moderators of the group, but also highlighted the efforts made to maintain Pantsuit Nation.
“I’m disappointed with this decision, but it’s not up to me to make it” she wrote(Opens in a new tab). “If you look around the community today, you’ll see that some of our passionate and loyal moderators are fighting to keep the group alive.”
Libby Chamberlain, founder of Pantsuit Nation, commented on the decision to shut down the group.
Chamberlain, who previously served as community leader for Supermajority, told Mashable in an email that she was “proud and thrilled” to see the organization’s state-based participation strategy deliver “crucial wins.” for women across the country. She added that she understands why Pantsuit Nation’s “story-based international community” might seem tangential to Supermajority’s election strategy.
Although Facebook groups can be powerful engines of connection and organization, they generally require very active moderation for a high-quality experience. A volunteer-run operation can become beset by burnout. At the same time, it can be difficult to convince funders that a Facebook group’s moderation should compete with resources for efforts like micro-targeting voters in swing states such as Wisconsin and USA. Arizona, for example. Although Pantsuit Nation can energize and mobilize groups of women-identifying voters, its reach is not granular and the effects are difficult to quantify.
But as Supermajority quickly discovered, the loyal members of Pantsuit Nation seemed to view the decision as much more than a strategic compromise. Chamberlain said in an email that she was sad no one else could share her story in Pantsuit Nation.
“I also believe that we need everyone on deck and all available resources to deal with the threats to our democracy, especially in the run-up to the 2024 elections,” she wrote. . “I strongly believe that Pantsuit Nation has a role to play, so I hope Supermajority will consider giving us a chance to make it happen.”