“Binders Full of Women,” Crowdsourced Political Cartoons, and Planned Parenthood

Image Credit: Binders Full Of Women

October 17, 2012; Source: Associated Press

Regarding the use of social media for in-the-moment organizing…

The second of the three debates between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama was a garden of sometimes-frightening anthropological delights for feminists. In answer to a question regarding gender discrimination in the workplace, Romney told a story about how he was faced with only male recommendations for his cabinet as governor and how he then bid his staff to search the kingdom (my word) to find him some qualified people of the gentler sex. In a phrase that exploded in the Twittersphere last night, Romney said women’s groups his staff reached out to came back to him with “binders full of women.” Binders…full…of…women.

Mr. Romney, all we can say is that your slip is showing. This was one of those awkward moments when you realize just how deep mental models run. Are we supposed to notice it or be polite? Lots of lady tweeters and talented satirists decided it was a gift that should keep on giving, and overnight we have been gifted with some of the funniest crowdsourced political cartoons we’ve seen in ages. See our small collection here:

Image Credit: Binders Full Of Women

Image Credit: Binders Full Of Women

Image Credit: Binders Full Of Women


Image Credit: Binders Full Of Women

But this is the kind of funny that is also deeply concerning. Why, at Romney’s seasoned stage of life, didn’t he already know a bunch of qualified women? Why were there no women partners at Bain Capital during Romney’s tenure in leadership there? We know a good man is hard to find, but we never realized that good women were in such short supply. It was worrisome and women took it up.

Binders full of women now proudly sports its own twitter account, (at) Romneys_Binder, with 14,000 followers. It is joined by many Facebook pages.

Other critics took Romney to task for his statement that “I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible…so you can have hours that work for you.” If you’re going to have women in the workforce? That provoked this response from a commentator on Plunderbund: “Because us ladies need to be home in time to make dinner. Please no one tell my husband. But really, why can’t employers just be flexible with all their employees? Isn’t that the point of the question?”

Meanwhile, President Obama fared somewhat better in that he called Romney out for his attacks of Planned Parenthood (Romney previously stated, “Planned Parenthood: we’re going to get rid of that”) although of course, like Sesame Street, it is an independent nonprofit. It’s pretty clear that Romney meant that he was going to get rid of PP’s federal funding and that he possibly just overstated his intentions, but nonprofits, watch your backs! Meanwhile, Obama pretty clearly described the breadth of Planned Parenthood’s mission and its role in providing health care to women of limited means. He further recast the importance of that organization not just to women but to their families as well.

Debate moderator Candy Crowley of CNN did a valiant job of implementing rules that everyone agreed on before the debate but these were violated within minutes. She remained forceful and dedicated to her job. She was quick on her feet and did some on-the-spot fact-checking, all of which she will now be roundly criticized for. Very unseemly. –Ruth McCambridge

  • DandyStryker

    Romney says he wants to eliminate all funding for Planned Parenthood. He supported the Blunt amendment, which allows employers to decide what medical procedures (including abortion and contraception) are covered by insurance. He supports the “personhood” amendment, which defines a fertilized egg as a “person,” and would outlaw all abortions, including the “morning after pill.”

    By any objective standard, Romney supports radical right-wing restrictions on abortion and contraception.

    What’s really interesting, though, is that several of Romney’s grandkids were conceived by artificial insemination and carried by surrogate mothers. And the legal agreement with those surrogates gave the Romney’s specific legal authority to abort the fetuses at any time, for any reason — with or without the consent of the surrogates.

  • Brandt Hardin

    Romney is a rich pariah who simply can’t identify with ANY average American through his fog of lies, binders full of women and network of havened money. Smug comments only examplify his elitism and show how out of touch he is. It’s time we tell Mitt he can’t buy this election! Read about the role of his money and his Magic Mormon Underwear are playing in the polls at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/05/mitt-romneys-magic-mormon-underwear.html

  • Carolyn

    I found your editorial completely inappropriate. I do not turn to NPQ for political commentary on the presidential election, and do not welcome it in my inbox. My guess is that I was advocating for women’t rights while you were still learning your ABCs. To even imply that Romney’s remarks might border on being misogynist is beyond absurd. And please, if you are going to get way out of your area of supposed expertise and subject us to your opinions, please attempt to at least make them opinions based something related to reality rather than perpetuating nonsense. Read the transcript, below, from the debate, and explain to me why his remark, that he sought QUALIFIED women for his staff – is offensive. I am so tired of cheap shots that don’t focus on the REAL issues. And, as I said, I don’t appreciate getting your trash in my inbox – I signed up for news about the nonprofit world – not your superficial political musings.

    ROMNEY: Thank you. And 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?”

    ROMNEY: 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.

    I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my Cabinet and my senior staff, that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states, and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.

  • ruth

    First, to clarify NPQ is not only about nonprofits but about civil society and democracy in a larger sense and so we deal with the position/voice/image of marginalized groups in all of that. I respect your opinion but many had an alternate point of view. I actually was offended by the fact that a governor in the great state of Massachusetts which I call home had to reach out specifically to “women’s groups” to find women qualified for his cabinet. We are an academic center for cripe’s sake with a rich history of social activism at every level and a love of all things political. But still it was so hard? What male only world was he inhabiting that he had missed those binders full of women in his own travels? Still the thing that I was most interested in in the whole scene was the way in which people came together with a lot of creativity to push back on a paradigm that was objectionable to them. I did watch the debate by the way and read the transcripts and all of that and still came away as wrong headed as you find me here.Sad but true. I hope you do not go away but now that you kow we are not just a nonprofit management site – stay in the conversation! I hope we are still friends!

  • Pharaoh

    What you see is what you get. “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” – Luke 6:45

  • Frances Post

    As always NPQ has such a wonderful way with words, providing a perfect snapshot of the information. I have forwarded this article all over the world (along with the request for people to subscribe).

    I agree that using humour while we engage in civil discourse is highly positive and the cartooning is priceless. It seems to avoid immediately setting up those hard barriers which prevent any of us from seeing the other points of view. Being more blatant in my opinions, I will also say that ‘off the cuff’ remarks often do portray the underlying thinking and Romney scares me (was going to say scares the pants of me, but have learned my lesson) and fills me with concern for the non-profit sector in general but also for the social justice organizations in particular.

  • Deborah

    I agree with Carolyn that this kind of criticism of Romney is really silly. As a women, I am surprised how any woman would take his words “binders of women” to be so offensive. We all know what he meant and that it wasn’t intended to be derogatory, but still it was taken that way and was used to ridicule him. I was very happy to hear him say in the debate that he actually allowed flexibility in the work place.

    I believe there fewer women in high positions not because they aren’t qualified and not because employers choose men over women, but because more and more women themselves choose not to go after those jobs, so they can enjoy greater work/family balance. Our generation can choose and not be criticitized for not being feminist enough. I’m speaking as a mother who works full time and would greatly appreciate this change in mindset. Until employers start allowing for more flexible work schedules, things aren’t going to change. I applaud Romney for saying what he did. Recently, this issue was being talked about alot in the media. Check out the article: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-cant-have-it-all/309020/

  • BMArmstrong

    So, is Mr. Akin going to call her “less ladylike”, too?