The blogosphere loves a good meme.
Who doesn't like a little Ryan "Hey Girl" Gosling (especially that feminist Ryan Gosling!) or some bad-ass Texts from Hillary. They're good fun with a grain a truth -- women's collective love for both the hunky actor and the Secretary of State many of us want to run for president in 2016 are nice diversions in a work day.
But Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has hit the meme mother lode with his debate response to questions about equal pay and opportunities for women.
In telling his story about his apparent concern for having a gender-balanced cabinet as Massachusetts governor, Romney claims to have been presented with "binders full" of women's resumes -- that he requested -- that he would consider, became more than just an amusing thing to run through the online world for a few days.
He was shocked! Quell surprise! (He did spend time in France, you know). Who knew there would be so many women in the first decade of the 21st century who were more than wives or waitresses or Wal-mart moms!?
Romney's comment about "binders full of women" summarized the nut of his attitude and world view about working women. This isn't just about the binders. This is about a man who, in 2003, was amazed and admits that he "learned a great deal" about women, the issues faced by working mothers when he became governor, and how to handle things "if" women were going to be a part of the workforce.
His comments weren't those of a southern state governor just after Ms. Magazine was launched and feminists burned their bras in the 1970s. His apparent feminist awakening didn't happen in the decade that the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade. This was 21st century Boston, home to a couple of pretty decent colleges with plenty of great women's minds, like Harvard, MIT, Boston College, and Boston University.
But even in telling of this momentary awakening, Romney didn't quite get the facts straight. According to a news report, a women's PAC, seeking more gender equity in state leadership roles, put together said binder, presenting it to their newly-elected governor. Romney was pushed to spend some time with those binders of women out of political necessity, not because he had become enlightened about affirmative action or had his eyes opened to the fact that women really can do the same jobs as men!
Want a truer picture of how Romney views the role of working women? Take a look at how many were partners at Bain Capital when he was running it.
Why does anyone care? The two candidates must care because women are the majority of voters in America, women vote in larger numbers than men, and women voters have determined the outcome of the last handful of presidential elections. If you're a candidate who wants to be president, you have to woo and win women voters. And if you have a history of ignoring women, or just paying lip-service to the idea of including women in the full array of work and leadership opportunities in America, that's not a big selling point if you want women to vote for you.
While President Obama certainly has a few women's issues of his own -- having a cabinet and group of senior advisers infamous for being something of a boys' club and a reluctance to push for actual equal pay for women (the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act only guarantees workers, both men and women, expanded periods of time to sue for wage discrimination), his outlook on the role of women is more evolved than a 1950s era Romney.
When Romney and his campaign people begin the inevitable walk back of his "shock and awe" moment about qualified women, remember that this is the same man who said in the same debate that our gun violence problem can be traced to single moms and moms who work outside the home, rather than forsaking paid work for full-time care-giving. You can imagine what he'd have to say about those women if they were in his cabinet.
As for the binders themselves, I'd really like to see if they still exist and who was available for him to choose from, and whether he would put them on a short list for a Romney White House.
Plus, I'm just a sucker for good office supplies.
Joanne Bamberger is the author of the Amazon.com bestseller (and her own "binder full of women), Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America, the first book to examine the rise of the political motherhood movement. Joanne, a Washington, D.C.-based writer and political/media analyst, is the founder of the political blog, PunditMom. You can also find her political commentary at Politico's Arena.
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