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Binders Full of Problems

By Matt Smigel

Moments after Mitt Romney’s now infamous “binders full of women” remark at the 2nd 2012 presidential debate, the inflammatory phrase was sweeping the Internet. Twitter was trending it, a Facebook group was created for it, and before long an entire website was dedicated to mocking Romney’s poorly chosen words. is a site featuring user submitted pictures dedicated entirely to poking fun at the presidential candidate’s less than politically correct statement. One picture taken from the movie Jaws reads, “so many women, we’re going to need a bigger binder.”

Another from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo pictures actor Daniel Craig and his costar Rooney Mara with the caption: “I want you to help me catch a binder of women.”

Romney made this unfortunate verbal slip while answering a question asked by a citizen on gender inequality in the workplace. The question was asked as part of the Wednesday night debate’s town hall meeting format, which allowed a panel of citizens to ask the presidential candidates questions on foreign and domestic issues. The candidates were then each allowed a timed response.

President Obama’s response was a personal anecdote concerning his hardworking grandmother, who raised and supported him despite the setbacks she faced due to gender inequality in the workforce. He went on to point out how this influenced him to support the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which gives women the right to sue companies on the grounds of pay discrimination.

Romney’s response was, in contrast, a defensive attempt at showing his cabinet’s efforts to find suitable women members. Romney stated:

“We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet.” He went on to say, “I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks,’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.”

Romney then cited a University of New York study which determined his state had the highest number of women in senior leadership positions in the country. The question however is whether or not Romney’s gubernatorial cabinet was actually responsible for this large number of women involved in his state’s government. Romney’s tumultuous history with women’s issues offers some insight on the matter.

Romney’s campaign has been continually unwilling to openly support equal pay legislation for women. His running mate Paul Ryan voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Act passed under Obama’s administration. Even when posed directly with the question of what he would do about gender discrimination in the job market, Romney dodged the question entirely, offering the vague answer that he would encourage strong economic growth. Even more telling was his comment that women need flexible hours in order to get home to make dinner for their kids.

Clearly giving Romney the benefit of the doubt on an accidental slip of the tongue doesn’t change his stance on women’s rights in the workplace. The real issue isn’t what Romney said about binders full of women but what he didn’t say about helping women achieve the equality they deserve. Whatever your political affiliation may be, this much is clear, presidential candidate Mitt Romney doesn’t seem to have any plans in his binders for getting women fair pay on the job.