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Mitt Romney illustrates his stance on gender equality with ‘Binders full of women’
First it was Big Bird, now it’s a “binder full of women.” Mitt Romney’s comments in the presidential debate again turned viral. Merely two days between the debate and me writing this article, a dedicated Tumblr account, bindersFullOfWomen, had already collected hundreds of memes jesting about the comment, mundane binders on Amazon.com have received mountains of humorous reviews noting the inability of the binder to really hold women, and remixes and parodies of the sound bite are flooding YouTube.
Its golden comedic value aside, Romney’s comment is a clear reflection of his attitude towards gender equality. Consider, for one, the question which provoked this comment. The moderator for Tuesday night’s debate, Candy Crowley, had asked Romney for his stance on pay equality for women.
Instead of addressing the question on hand, Romney rambled about how he ostensibly tried to increase the number of women in leadership positions. Obviously, he did not have a good answer to the question. Why? Simply because pay equality is not part of Romney’s platform. Caught off guard, he had to improvise.
Still, asking for a “binder full of women” so he can put more women in office is an admirable act on Romney’s part, right? It would have been if it had actually happened. David Bernstein, a blogger from The Phoenix, a Bostonian paper, noted that it had happened the other way around.
Prior to Romney’s election to the governor of Massachusetts, a bipartisan women’s group called MassGAP had already noticed the dearth of women. MassGAP took the initiative to put together the “binder full of women,” which contained the résumés of women qualified for leadership positions. Whoever was elected received the binder. It just happened to be Romney.
Regardless of who took the initiative to make the binder, Romney did not carry through with the binder. A study by the University of Massachusetts Boston shows that the number of women in senior positions declined through Romney’s tenure as governor. In September 2002, before Romney took office, women held 30% of the state’s offices. By the time Romney left office, it had fallen to 27.6%.
President Obama, on the other hand, did not evade the question. The President stated that he is all for equal pay. Not only does he simply say so, Obama has action to show for it. He pointed to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which he signed into law, guaranteeing equal pay for women.
After his comment, Governor Romney will only encounter more trouble garnering votes from women. The “binder full of women,” which was meant to draw support, backfired. It only shows that gender equality is not on his agenda.
On the other hand, it gave President Obama an opportunity to strengthen his rapport with potential voters. This comment, coupled with his less-than-optimal performance during the second debate, may start to erode the advantage that Governor Romney had gained, giving President Obama once again the lead.