Women were the real winners in this presidential debate. We clearly recognized the real Mitt Romney -- and he's just like every domineering and sexist boss we've worked with. While Romney boasted about considering his infamous "binders of women," for a job, it was clear he and his policies are the true binders of women.
A definition of the active verb "to bind" is: "to chafe or restrict, as poorly fitting garments: This jacket binds through the shoulders."
Romney and Ryan's policies toward women are a very poor fit. On income, they bind us to unequal pay; on cutting Medicare, they bind many elder, single women to a voucher system; on immigration, they bind children who were born American back to the Old Country. On reproductive rights, Romney-Ryan bind us to a past when women died from illegal abortions. On the Supreme Court, Romney would unbind Roe vs. Wade by appointing justices -- most probably more white ultra-conservative men-- who would reverse the 40 years of legal abortions and criminalize women and doctors for making their own choices.
This debate was so heartening. It was like watching Romney as a testy, rude and overreaching Undercover Boss finally getting his comeuppance. From the audience. From firmly intelligent moderator, Candy Crowley. And from a commanding but compassionate President Obama, who at every point, spoke to women's deepest concerns: equal pay, health care for our children, contraception, education, the Dream Act and the burdens of women being the major breadwinner in a family.
Obama raised these vital issues and talked clearly about how he would champion women's rights. A very moving moment was when President Obama pointed out Romney's vow to end Planned Parenthood. "I want to make sure my daughters have the same opportunity as anybody's sons have." It was a direct reference to Romney's fathering five sons, but having little comprehension of raising daughters.
When Romney proudly claimed to consider the qualifications of his many "binders of women" for his governor's cabinet, he conjured an image of a CEO casually and arrogantly shuffling through women's resumes. As an employer, he had all the power to make all the choices. This is the very definition of patriarchy and oblivious entitlement -- he really believes it is his right to be, in George Bush's famous words, "the decider."
But this historic election is about everyone making a choice and deciding the soul and character of our country. Do women want to be bound to the past, to inequality and men controlling everything from our workplace to our bodies? Do we want to raise our children in a society that will continue to devalue and bind women?
President Obama is not a binder, he is an open door. Obama is the American Dream of equal opportunity, that's why he can so generously champion the Dream Act for others. Obama was raised by a highly educated, working mother who taught him tolerance and curiosity about all cultures. He cherishes a wife, Michelle, who was once his boss and mentor; he champions his two daughters to safeguard their future rights and hopes. Romney is the way we were. Obama is the way we want to be. Past and future. Patriarchal and privileged vs. egalitarian and inclusive. These are our choices.
According to the New York Times, recent polls show little evidence of a shift in the gender gap toward the Republican ticket. In the hotly contested state of Virginia, Obama holds a 14-point lead with women voters over Romney, which is "essentially unchanged since before the first debate." The gender gap in this presidential election needs much more coverage. When I wrote about why Romney lost the first debate with women there was a huge, positive response. Why isn't the media giving more attention to this critical gender gap? So far, Rachel Maddow at MSNBC is one of the few women often addressing this gender gap. It may be the most important and under-reported story in this election.
Romney has again lost the debate with women. Make no mistake. Now, the "binders of women" are women voters. It is we, women who are carefully looking through Romney's qualifications for the most important job in the world. It is women who are considering whether we want to hire a top-down man like Romney. Do we want a bossy CEO or a true leader of us all?
Women can handle this kind of powerful choice. We always have. Women will make the binding decision about who is our next president.
Brenda Peterson is the author of 17 books, including Duck and Cover, a New York Times "Notable book of the Year," and the recent memoir, I Want to Be Left Behind, which was named a "Top Ten Best Non-Fiction Book of the Year" by The Christian Science Monitor.
Her journalism has appeared in Oprah magazine, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and other publications. For more: www.BrendaPetersonBooks.com