Hundreds Turn Out For Pantsuit Nation Kansas City, Not-So-Secret Facebook Group

Nov 13, 2016

One of the members of Pantsuit Nation Kansas City created this art, which depicts a safety pin, worn by some after the election of Donald Trump as a symbol of standing with the minorities he singled out.
Credit Facebook

Jordan, a Kansas City psychology professor and mother of two, spent a euphoric Election Day believing the country was electing its first female president.

She voted, visited the grave of local suffragette Sarah Chandler Coates and turned on Spotify to dance with her mom to Nick Lowe’s “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass.” Then she watched the returns come in, only to see Hillary Clinton lose to Donald Trump.

“I felt like somebody had died,” she said. “Not just that someone had died. But that someone was going to just keep dying every day.”

She stayed up all night but was unable to sleep, tossing and turning, getting out of bed to check on her children. She finally got up for good at 5 a.m. Wednesday morning, logged into Facebook and created the Kansas City version of Pantsuit Nation.

“I knew that if I didn’t connect with people, somehow, that I would stay useless for weeks, useless to myself, useless to my family,” Jordan said.

Created about a month ago by Clinton supporters, the national version of Pantsuit Nation is a not-so-secret Facebook group that at the last count included 3.5 million. On Tuesday it had thousands of posts celebrating the power of sisterhood. By Wednesday, Clinton mentioned it in her concession speech.

“To the millions of volunteers, community leaders, activists and union activists who knocked on doors, talked to neighbors, posted on Facebook — even in secret, private Facebook sites — I want everybody coming out from behind that and make sure your voices are heard going forward,” she said.

On Saturday, here in an area of the country that went heavily to Trump, at least 350 people gathered in a metro-area church to attend what was billed as the first meeting of Pantsuit Nation Kansas City, which as of Sunday had 11,515 members.

“We are here not because we support one candidate but because we support love is love and Black Lives Matter and climate change is real, women’s right are human rights, because immigrants make America great and every vote counts!” Laura, one of the organizers, said to wild applause.

People filled all the pews, stood three-deep in the back, and spilled out into a hallway. There were tears, hugs, many kids in strollers and others running around. Organizers, who had planned the event at a coffee house, moved it to a church as RSVPs piled up on the Facebook page. Two other similar pages organized with Jordan’s Pantsuit page to create the crowd.

“I’m floored there’s so many women here and men and people joining together!” said one of the organizers. “I guess it was my moment where I was like, ‘OK, I can fall to pieces or I can get to work.’ And I’m so proud that all of us are here willing to roll up our sleeves and go full-on Susie B!”

Susie B. as in: Susan B. Anthony.

They passed out safety pins, which have become symbols of solidarity with groups who have felt targeted by Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign, and danced to the popular “Pantsuit Power” video.

But even as a pastor told the crowd the church was a safe space, and even though social media brought them together, they were asked to refrain from checking in to the location on Facebook.

That same anxiety is why KCUR is using Jordan’s first name only, at her request, and why we are not naming the church, at the organizers request. Many women said they are afraid of what Trump supporters have reportedly done since the election, including some violence, use of racial epithets and defacing property, and they are concerned for their friends and family.

Shannon Mullican, a social worker from Shawnee, was the only person who agreed to let KCUR use her first and last name. Yet, she fears for her friends and family, too.

“I don’t want them to not have insurance, to be afraid to go out in public, to be afraid to have their Hillary bumper sticker on their car, to have to go back into the Democratic closet,” she said. “I came out of the Democratic closet and I don’t want to go back in.”

At this first local Pantsuit Nation meeting, organizers broke the crowd up into smaller geographic groups, exchanged contact information and said they wanted to gather data on just what action to take. Jordan says she’d like to take a page from the Tea Party playbook after President Obama was elected.

“They organized, they got people elected,” she said. “So I said to our group that I kind of visualized it as the Tea Party on fairy dust.”

Organizers are still working out the many details, including how they will work with the national group and how they can keep the momentum going.

After a couple hours on Saturday, the crowd marched out of the church together, clapping to a song about changing the world, and walked out into sunshine. What comes next is uncertain. But for many of these women, they got something at their first Pantsuit Nation meeting that they hadn’t had in days: hope.

Peggy Lowe is investigations editor at KCUR and Harvest Public Media. You can find her on Twitter at @peggyllowe.