Mitt’s Binder Full of Women


During the presidential debate on Tuesday night, Mitt Romney tried to deflect a question about the Lily Ledbetter Act by talking up his grand record of hiring women while governor of Massachusetts. He said that he had asked women’s rights groups to give him a “binder full of women” he could hire to run agencies in the state, prompting about 10 different memes on Twitter and Facebook within minutes.

An important topic, and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men.

And I — and I went to my staff, and I said, “How come all the people for these jobs are — are all men.” They said, “Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.” And I said, “Well, gosh, can’t we — can’t we find some — some women that are also qualified?”

And — and so we — we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet.

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.

It’s a good story, but it appears to be mostly false.

What actually happened was that in 2002 — prior to the election, not even knowing yet whether it would be a Republican or Democratic administration — a bipartisan group of women in Massachusetts formed MassGAP to address the problem of few women in senior leadership positions in state government. There were more than 40 organizations involved with the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus (also bipartisan) as the lead sponsor.

They did the research and put together the binder full of women qualified for all the different cabinet positions, agency heads, and authorities and commissions. They presented this binder to Governor Romney when he was elected.

I have written about this before, in various contexts; tonight I’ve checked with several people directly involved in the MassGAP effort who confirm that this history as I’ve just presented it is correct — and that Romney’s claim tonight, that he asked for such a study, is false.

Time to shake that etch-a-sketch again.

Comments

  1. Quodlibet says

    I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men.

    I wonder if it ever occurred to him that there might have been reasons why “all the applicants seemed to be men”? Perhaps qualified women didn’t consider working for him to be an appealing prospect and/or they saw little likelhood of their being hired by someone with well-known patriarchal views, so didn’t bother applying.

  2. Jordan Genso says

    To be honest, I think this meme has gone over my head. While the choice of words was a little strange, if he instead said that they had brought him “files on different women” rather than “binders full of women”, I don’t think it would be notable (other than that it seems to be a false story, which again, wouldn’t make it that notable since most of what he says is false).

    Can someone clarify it for me? Is it simply that the literal interpretation of his statement is funny, and therefore it doesn’t matter that his point was rather bland.

    I didn’t see the debate, so maybe the delivery had something to do with it, but I feel like I’m the only one not getting the joke.

  3. uncephalized says

    To anyone familiar with the HBO series “Big Love”, the words “binders full of women”, especially when said by a Mormon, should send serious shivers up your spine. Just saying.

  4. says

    To be honest, I think this meme has gone over my head. While the choice of words was a little strange, if he instead said that they had brought him “files on different women” rather than “binders full of women”, I don’t think it would be notable (other than that it seems to be a false story, which again, wouldn’t make it that notable since most of what he says is false).

    Correct. Some people just find it rip-roaringly hilarious that his phrasing suggested that the binders contain actual women rather than files about women, and I wonder whether they’re really that hard up for something to laugh at. It’s not any kind of defense of Romney to find that a rather bizarre thing to seize on.

  5. cptdoom says

    I think uncephalized has the right idea – the use of binders full of pictures of teenage girls among LDS polygamous sects to allow men to select their next wife/wives as depicted in Big Love was the first thing I thought of. Whether Willard made a Freudian slip and was thinking about his grandfather’s and great-grandfather’s harems is unclear, but it was an inadvertant joke on his part.

  6. Jordan Genso says

    cptdoom & uncephalized-

    So if it was President Obama (or Paul Ryan) that had made the statement, it wouldn’t have become a meme? But because Romney is Mormon, that’s what makes the statement notable?

    I’m starting to think that I’m glad it went over my head.

  7. Rip Steakface says

    @10

    No. I’m pretty sure most people are taking it in the literal context of Mitt Romney being brought binders literally filled with women, as in people. It’s a funny sort of context if you don’t think too hard, really. Just look at the Binders Full of Women Tumblr.

  8. dingojack says

    Really? When I heard ‘binders’ I thought of ‘that which binds, a constraint’ or ‘one who binds or constrains’ etc.
    Maybe it’s just my reaction to Rmoney’s attitude toward women.
    Dingo

  9. zmidponk says

    I could be wrong, but I also think some people find it slightly bizarre and laughable that, in order to fill certain roles with women, Romney has to take special measures in order to actually find some – after all, women aren’t some semi-mythical, strange, seldom seen creature.

  10. dingojack says

    OT ALERT… OT ALERT… OT ALERT…

    This is the most recent ‘political’ post for my weekly update…

    Intrade today
    Winner of the 2012 Presidential Election.
    (Figures in parentheses are movement, in percent, over the last week).

    By party
    Democratic: 61.039% (down 1.4859) [Lead 22.178]
    Republican: 38.861% (up 1.5848%)
    other: 0.100% (down 0.0989)

    Head to Head
    Obama: 61% (down 0.762) [Lead 22]
    Romney: 39% (up 0.762)

    With two weeks to go:
    Republicans need a weekly swing toward them of 11.08891109%; Romney needs a weekly swing to him of 11% – to draw equal.

    At present rates likely outcome on 6 Nov:
    (two party preferred)
    Democratic Party: 58%
    Republican Party: 42%

    Obama: 58.66%
    Romney: 41.34%

    Dingo

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