10/17/2012 02:39 pm ET Updated Dec 17, 2012

5 Reasons Why Romney's Binders Full of Women Are Really Important

Ladies, have you figured out where you'd fit in the binder yet? Or, men, where your girlfriends, or sisters, or mothers or daughters might get filed?

The quick-witted denizens of the ether have gone to town with Mitt's office supplies. It took, literally, the speed of light, for "Binders full of women" to become #bindersfullofwomen on Twitter, a Tumblr page and a Facebook page which, at last count, had already exceeded 270K likes.

This morning I've heard all kinds of explanations for why this is all just liberal media spin. Snarky partisans, right? We need to be focusing on more important things. But, actually, there are many reasons why this meme is legitimate and not just a silly Internet trope.

  1. Mitt Romney misspoke about asking for the binders. The binders he referred to were created and organized by a bipartisan group of women's advocates, the MASSGap Project, to address the gender imbalance in government. Romney's record on women in government in Massachusetts came about as a result of a bipartisan statewide push initiated by an independent organization.

    And, although MASSGAP says that there were record highs in hiring women as a result of their efforts, a UMASS Study seems to contradict that when it found that the actual number of women appointed to senior positions went down during this tenure.

  2. He needed binders in the first place since he didn't know enough senior working women from his extensive work experience. In more than 30 years, His rolodex was bare of qualified women. There were none, that would be zero, women partners during this tenure at Bain. A 1994 Boston Globe article referenced earlier this year by Michelle Goldberg at the Daily Beast explained, "The team [Romney] put together to manage Bain Capital is exclusively white and male, all educated at the best business schools, mostly Harvard. There are no minorities among the 95 vice presidents of Bain & Co. Only 10 percent are women, though a woman chairs the board." Not a loophole woman or anything like that. Now, this is sadly unexceptional given the lack of diversity we have in corporate management; however, 10 percent is even less than the national average which hovers between 13-17 percent. No binders at Bain, I guess.
  3. Romney is the quintessential ambivalent and "benignly paternalistic" sexist described in "Marriage Structure and Resistance to the Gender Revolution in the Workplace." This and other similar studies of men in traditional marriages, where wives do not work for compensation out of the home and whose role is as the primary and sole breadwinner, show that they are actually hostile to women in the workplace, particularly in leadership roles, are less inclined to promote women, and are disinclined to create or enforce policies that help equality in the workplace.
  4. On the immediate surface, as Emma Keller points out in the Guardian, the phrase and its context illustrate the patronizing, objectifying tone of his approach to women, especially those who -- gasp! -- work outside of the home for pay. Likewise, his turn of phrase unwittingly revealed that the need to hire women, especially "qualified women," was a bothersome issue of quotas foisted upon him. You could practically see his brain racing ahead of his mouth to figure out how to get the words out in a palatable way. "That was easy!"
  5. While admitting that women usually need "flexible work schedules" so that they can get home and make dinner he failed to make the startling leap to as to why. In this equation it might be because they have children. And, if they have children, when they have children. It's why planning parenthood is an essential part of women's financial and economic decision making. The very notion of not helping people to plan parenthood for the common good is antediluvian in the extreme.

If you are still wondering why the big #womeninbinders deal, you might consider how to organize your binders. Based on the sheer number of Binders for Romney that have surfaced, I thought it might be helpful to pre-format some tabs:

That last one is a bonus for Paul Ryan who earnestly stepped in this morning to explain that despite Romney's reduction of senior women in government in Massachusetts and the complete absence of women partners at Bain or even near average representation of women in senior management in that company that: "He has an exceptional record of hiring women in very prominent positions in his administration." If you believe that, there may be a special tab for you.

The fact is that Romney et al's "boys will be boys" worldview has serious implications for everything from the economy to state security. It's easy enough to keep pretending that these are all "just women's issues" but why would we do that when the consequences for 99 percent of people are pretty bad?