Admit it – you knew it was coming, right? Let’s talk about this meme that’s stormed the internet ever since Mitt Romney announced obliquely, in response to how he felt about equal pay laws, that in filling his Massachusetts cabinet he sought out women candidates and compiled “binders full of women.” Since then, that phrase has haunted him just like the 47% remarks and his insults to London right before they threw a big party in his honor. (Undecided voters, please consider that this man is not polished enough to go more than two months without insulting an entire smallish nation and/or half of a large nation. Do we really want global thermonuclear war because Romney has the diplomacy of a first grader?) You may enjoy this Tumblr about the meme. It’s not uniformly hilarious, but the level of participation warms my heart.
The first and most important problem with what ol’ Mittens said (as soon as he acts like someone capable of respecting others, I’ll speak of him respectfully) is that it was a significant misdirect:
Mermell, a Democrat and town official in Brookline, Mass., said Romney did not request any names after his 2002 election. Instead, she said MassGAP approached Romney’s team as part of its effort, begun before the election, to make sure that more women were appointed to senior positions in the new administration.
…Romney’s campaign declined to respond to Mermell and referred questions to Kerry Healey, who was Romney’s lieutenant governor. Healey said Romney went beyond the initial contact with MassGAP by reaching out to acquaintances in the business world and others to help meet his pledge to fill more administration posts with women.
“Governor Romney was a tremendous proponent of bringing women into the state. There’s no doubt about it,” Bramson said. “But the impetus for this was not Governor Romney, but this other organization, MassGAP.”
Kudos for Romney hiring a lot of women into these positions, even if he he had to be told. It’s too bad he felt the need to make it sound like his own idea when he wasn’t. He could’ve spoken of it as a teachable moment he’d experienced.
But that leads to the second problem, which is that his response doesn’t address the question. He was asked what he would do to promote income equality between the genders. In the best light, his response could be interpreted as saying that he personally would make sure some of the people he’s in a position to hire were women. Given the power a president has to improve stuff like this (Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act), “Well, I went out of my way to hire some women one time in my long career!” is a non-answer.
And then there’s just the Freudian aspect of it, isn’t there? “Binders.” Some of the Tumblr images invoke serial killers and historical gender oppression: the Criminal Minds team reassures itself they’ll get that “sick fuck” who’s “putting women in binders.” The serial killer fromSilence of the Lambs looks down into his victim pit and is unimpressed by Mitt’s claims. There are a lot of “Trap her, keep her” images based on the Trapper Keeper line of notebooks and folders. And then there’s the one of Mitt saying he has binders full of women, followed by a smug-looking Hugh Heffner in his smoking jacket saying, “Bitch, please.”
When you’re repping a political party that wants to set women’s rights back 50 years or more, maybe binders isn’t a word you should use ever in reference to women. But I’m sure Mitt didn’t think of that. Why would he? It’s not his problem.
And that says a lot about what sort of president he would be.