Binders Full of Women: Romney's "Oops!" Debate MomentJoanne Bamberger
The shoe is now officially on the other political foot now that the second of three presidential debates is in the history books. President Barack Obama’s first debate performance against Mitt Romney was almost universally panned, but Romney is the one who has to backtrack this time if he wants to win the all-important women’s vote.
Moderator Candy Crowley made sure the town hall debate covered a variety of substantive topics — Libya, student loans, energy prices and production. Why, birth control even got a small shout out as the President correctly mentioned that women’s access to birth control is just as much an economic issue for most women as it is a health issue.
But the meme that’s sticking today is Romney’s anecdote about his feminist awakening as Massachusetts Governor. Apparently he was shocked, SHOCKED!, when his advisers recommended mostly men for various political appointments. When he either asked for or discovered (depending on which version you believe) that there were women in 2003 who were actually qualified to serve in governmental positions, he was amazed that there were “binders full of women!”
Ladies, are you feeling a little claustrophobic in that black vinyl jacket with the three metal rings and the multi-colored tabs?
What should have been a winning moment for the Mittster with women voters — a story about how he wanted to include qualified women in his state cabinet — turned into the stuff of comedy tumblrs, Facebook pages and Pinterest boards (why yes, this one is mine!)
Romney’s remark proved again that he’s a guy who really is living in a 1950s world, not a 21st century one, which is why this meme is spreading like wild fire — it just reinforces Romney’s six-degrees-of-separation from the state of women today. In his June Cleaver-era world, women stay home, wear aprons, fix the meals, raise the kids and don’t worry about a second income. He even suggested that if more women were like that, and fewer single mothers, we’d drastically reduce gun violence!
And then, because he couldn’t help himself, he talked about how his eyes were opened to the fact that many of the women in these binders full of resumes actually had to worry about picking up kids from school, child care and getting home in time to make dinner!
Now, as much as I want to make sure women hear about these throwback comments in assessing whether Romney would really be a good advocate for the issues American women face today, I’m not going to let President Obama off the hook. His administration has become known for being something of a boys’ club, with few women in senior advisory roles. Some of the women initially included in his cabinet have left. And when he talks about the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill he signed into law as President, he hinted that it guarantees that men and women get equal pay for equal work, which it doesn’t. I think Obama is better on understanding what issues are important to women, but he’s not perfect on issues that women are concerned about by any stretch.
The “binders fill of women” meme will die down soon, as all these things do. But there is a kernel of truth in the silliness when it comes to Romney’s worldview. And that’s something definitely worth considering before November 6.
What did you think of Romney’s “binders full of women” anecdote?
Read more from me at my place PunditMom and in my Amazon best-selling book, Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America (A great pre-2012 election read!)
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