The founder of “Pantsuit Nation,” a private Facebook group for Hillary Clinton supporters, has signed a deal to turn some of the group’s top posts into a book — which has some fans asking if they were scammed.
The private Facebook group is comprised primarily of women, all of whom support the now-defeated Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The group was initially created secretly and is still private — meaning members must invite their contacts and admins must approve their request to join — but it has grown to be home to nearly 4 million members, according to the New York Times.
Libby Chamberlain, the group’s creator, said she hopes the book will counter negative memes about Clinton. “The internet is full right now of every possible combination of things being said [about Clinton] except for this,” she said an interview with Mashable, “[Pantsuit Nation] is not a place to convince anyone how great she is. It’s a place to celebrate how great she is.” Chamberlains initial goal was quite simple, to create a small group and convince three dozen or so friends to wear pantsuits on election day when they voted for Clinton. But only two weeks after the group’s launch, the page boasted a million members.
Chamberlain (pictured) is set to publish a Pantsuit Nation book on May 9th with Flatiron Books. The Times describes the project as “the collective voices of the women who shared their stories of overcoming or facing sexism, racism or xenophobia.” The book will be comprised of posts and images submitted to the Facebook page, and Chamberlain will act more as an editor rather than author, choosing what user content appears in the book.
However, this deal has already received intense blowback from Pantsuit Nation members. Harry Lewis, a student and male member of the group, published a blog at the Huffington Post titled “Pantsuit Nation Is A Sham.” The post appears to have generated 20,000 social shares at the time of this writing.
Lewis argues that Chamberlain’s book deal is a cash grab with “no transparency” regarding how, or even if, users will be compensated for the content they created:
When I first was inducted, if you will, into this group we as a nation were still riding on the assumption that Hillary Clinton would be our next President. Then, of course, she lost. Pantsuit Nation quickly turned into a collective grieving space, where people from around the world shared their thoughts and feelings.
Around that time, things started to get weird. Chamberlain filed to trademark the name and reportedly told smaller satellite groups around the country that they had to stop using the moniker… What had once been a space of solidarity started to feel like a branding machine.
And now, of course, there is a book deal, announced with no transparency as to where the profits from the book are going, whether the contributors whose posts Chamberlain is presumably selecting for this book will get paid, and without any consideration for breach of privacy laws were someone’s intellectual property and personal experience suddenly able to sit on your coffee table. Pantsuit Nation reportedly is working to become a 501(c)(3) and 501 (c)(4) charity, which raises more questions about profit allocation and distribution. Chamberlain is the only person credited on the book pre-order page, which also is troubling given that the book supposedly has no content, theme, or profit sharing structure and is already available for $17.99 on Barnes and Noble’s website.
Lewis alleges that “Chamberlain is interested in making a quick buck off of other people’s trauma, hurt, pain, and confusion.”
The New York Post reports that many women blasted Chamberlain in reaction to her book deal announcement:
“Libby, this is a betrayal of safe space,” group member Ellen Byrne wrote. “You can’t invite people to share intimate thoughts . . . then summarily, as an individual, change those terms. Something sacred has happened on this page and I don’t believe it belongs.”
Some were particularly upset that in her announcement, Chamberlain bragged the book would be on “nightstands and coffee tables all around the world.”
Member Ada Y. Sheng wrote: “Can I point out the pathetic irony that 4 million people drawn together behind the incredibly strong and smart woman that we hoped would be the leader of the free world is now . . . going to produce a coffee table book. Seriously?”
Chamberlain published a followup post for damage control on the group’s public Facebook page Wednesday. She chastises the book’s critics for “name calling” and “divisiveness,” then insists that no user content will appear in the book without express legal permission.
Chamberlain states that she formed Pantsuit Nation nonprofit organizations on the day she announced the book deal, which she assures are “are two sides of the same coin. The book will support the non-profits and the non-profits will support the book.”
Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart Tech covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan_ or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org