This blog is a summary of an article originally printed in the Winter/Spring 2019 Aglaia magazine. At that time, Sarah Stewart Holland was a registered Democrat and Beth Silvers was a registered Republican. The content of the original article is especially relevant, during the current political season and their message of “sisterly” civility bears repeating.
When Delta Theta alumnae Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers launched their Pantsuit Politics podcast, their goal was to listen to each other first and talk issues second.
Beth explained how she and Sarah view nuance as a key component of listening first: “We started out believing that nuance was a noun. Finding the nuance in a discussion meant appreciating the subtleties, making room for shades of gray and being willing to recognize the strengths and weaknesses in our opinions. We have also started to see nuance as a verb; a practice of engaging in curious, open-hearted conversation, embracing paradox and participating in discussions with our feet firmly planted in our values.”
When asked how their philosophies can work when people have so many different beliefs about diversity and inclusion, Sarah said, “Unlike so many organizations, Phi Mu very clearly articulates what our values are: love, honor and truth. We have to sit in the discomfort that love, honor and truth means different things to different members.”
“Our organization, and our members, are capable of carrying that weight,” added Beth. “What that means is looking at participation differently. Phi Mu is not always going to make everyone happy, but it is so much more fulfilling, and we can grow and learn, when we know we can disagree.”
“You already have a set of values that you can use as your guide in difficult conversations: love, honor and truth.”
Sarah Stewart Holland, Delta Theta
“Phi Mu sisters are not consumers; we’re not just in or out,” continued Beth. “We are not only members if this checks every single box; that would be consuming, not joining. Our roles are to contribute to Phi Mu, not just take from it. This is a lifelong commitment. Our own values may even change over time, I know mine have!”
“Get clear about what the stakes are around any given issue,” she added. “Consider, ‘Why is this so important to me, What are the stakes, Is there a way to lower the stakes?’ then think about the other person’s perspective and where they are coming from, not projecting where you think they are coming from.”
Fraternity educational programming, no matter the topic, is interwoven with the themes of inclusivity, conflict management skills and sisterhood.
“In our Phi Mu chapters, we want to prioritize our bond as sisters first and our disagreements second.”
Beth Silvers, Delta Theta
From Phi Mu to Pantsuit Politics: How They Started
Sarah and Beth were pledge class sisters and graduated from Transylvania University in 2003. They do not remember ever sparring about politics or other topics while in college.
Sarah worked in politics on Capitol Hill before moving back to Kentucky. After starting a family, she became a parenting blogger. Beth wrote a very popular guest blog post, called #nuance, in which she encouraged people to calm down about social media controversies.
Sarah then had the idea for them to interview female politicians on a podcast. When they brainstormed together for over an hour, Sarah decreed, “We’re not going to talk any more if we aren’t recording!” Although they do have guests on Pantsuit Politics, most of the podcasts are the two of them talking to, and listening to, one another.
In 2015, the Pantsuit Politics podcast was formally launched. The name came from thinking of women in politics, wearing pantsuits, and pre-dates the well-known Facebook group “Pantsuit Nation.”
To listen to their podcast or order a copy of their book, “I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening): A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations,” go to www.pantsuitpoliticsshow.com. From their website: “Let’s be willing to disagree – with grace. All while staying connected with our people, our community and our country.”