Mitt’s Binders and the Missing Women
Amy Davidson’s New Yorker blog says it best: “For Mitt Romney, in the second Presidential debate, women always seemed to be elsewhere. This was not the only reason that he lost the debate—and a chance to put the election away—but it was one of them.” If you look at the figures and read the story behind the bizarrely inept binders of women image, it seems clear that Romnesia includes women as equals and colleagues, although I’m sure he’d be happy if we’d all follow Ann Romney’s call for women’s votes at the convention, and “Trust Mitt!” Now we have to ask — trust him to what end?
“One got the sense of Mitt Romney coming from a place where women were generally in the other room, waiting to be invited in only when the moment—or the visibility of the job—called for it. Romney was fifty-six when he became governor, with decades spent in business during which he could have made the sort of contacts that would have turned him into a resource for others looking for qualified women. The Boston Globe pointed out that Romney “did not have any women partners as CEO of Bain Capital during the 1980s and 1990s.” Where were the binders then? The Globe added that even today, only four of Bain’s forty-nine partners are women. This is a firm he built and a culture he controlled.
(The story, according to the Boston Phoenix, was also not quite true. An outside group put together the binder. Romney didn’t put women in the most important cabinet jobs. And he had fewer and fewer working for him as time went on.)”
Romney’s imaginary man’s world
Everyone can have a bad metaphor day, but Romney’s gaffe combines with his record to make it clear he’s a man’s man and imagines a man’s world, filled with elusive women who just don’t show up on his normal daily radar. It’s nice that he asked the question, requested the binders of women, and hired them, according to the Phoenix, for some minor cabinet jobs. But it does seem he kept women fairly invisible throughout his career, so we might just assume that women citizens and our issues – from pay equity to healthcare – might be just as invisible if he’s elected president. Scary, maybe not surprising: another conservative leader with blinders on about women’s pivotal role in our economy and communities.
Amy Davidson again: “The binders-of-women anecdote did not answer the question, which came from a woman named Katherine Fenton and was about pay. (“In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only seventy-two percent of what their male counterparts earn?”) Instead, he said that he knew women would want to leave the office earlier, to make dinner for their children, and that he thought employers could help with flexible schedules. They can, and should. But it is striking that, given an opening to talk about women in the workforce, Romney described people who either had to be dragged on to the stage or would run off of it as soon as they could. They start as a rumor and end up as an echo.”
Women followers, be the leaders you are — PAY ATTENTION! If progress for civil rights is generally three steps forward, two steps back, then we need to avoid a waltz backwards into invisibility — inside or outside of binders.