“Binders full of women” is the latest and best example of Mitt Romney's using odd or convoluted language when he is talking about a topic with which he is uncomfortable and when he is lying. Romney wasn't telling the truth last night when he claimed he and his gubernatorial staff had made “a concerted effort” to “recruit” qualified women candidates for top jobs in his new administration.
Last week he told the Des Moines Register, “There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.” His own vice-presidential pick Paul Ryan pushed legislation to redefine rape, and there is no reason to think a Republican Congress wouldn't do the same again. He has said he favors strong prohibitions against abortion and, implicitly, against some forms of contraception. In a primary debate, he said it would be great if abortion were outlawed, period. He thinks Roe v. Wade should be overturned and has said he would appoint conservative judges and justices – the fact that he appointed Robert Bork to head his committee on the judiciary is ample evidence of that. He said he would “get rid of Planned Parenthood,” an abortion provider. The construction “no legislation … that I'm familiar with” is just a rhetorical means of lying. Romney's binder full of agenda items may not include an “Outlaw Abortion” tab, but that is his plan.
Appearing before the righty-right-wing CPAC convention in February 2012, he said, “I was a severely conservative Republican governor.” When Romney introduced the term “severely conservative” at CPAC, it was such a novel – and false – descriptor that media attention moved it into the American lexicon.
When he gets into areas where he is more comfortable, Romney is able to answer with short, declarative statements: “Corporations are people, my friend.” “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.” “Let Detroit go bankrupt.”
“Binders full of women” is not the only remark Romney made during the town-hall debate that gives us a window into his attitudes about women. Too little has been written – so far – about this part of his extended reply:
I recognized that if you're going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school. She said, I can't be here until 7 or 8 o'clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o'clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said fine. Let's have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.
What we can do to help young women and women of all ages is to have a strong economy, so strong that employers that are looking to find good employees and bringing them into their workforce and adapting to a flexible work schedule that gives women opportunities that they would otherwise not be able to afford.
So here is newly-minted Gov. Romney, realizing that working women are sort of special-needs aliens who require extraordinary accommodations. This is something he wouldn't know much about, because in the nearly two decades he was head of Bain Capital, the company never invited any women to become partners.
Romney, of course, never suggests that family flex-time should be enacted into law. Whether or not to provide this extraordinary benefit is entirely up to the employer. As an employer, Governor Mitt allowed the little lady he chose as his chief-of-staff to go home and do womanly things like helping the kids with their homework and whipping up vittles. It never occurred to him – then or now – that his male staff might have kids who need supper and help with the homework. The men have wives to do those homely chores, for Pete's sake.
Evidently only in a strong economy, “so strong” employers are desperate for workers, will employers scrape the bottom of the barrel and hire these special-needs gals. This is typical Republican pre-1970s thinking. Let the market economy decide if women's peculiar needs will be met. And never even consider that men and women share family responsibilities. That, after all, is not how the division of labor works in Republican/Romney family circles. Caring for children, for elderly or disabled relatives and loved ones – that, my friends, is women's work.
And, in an ideal world, women should be staying home and doing it. Stay-at-home parent Ann Romney said that Mitt always reminded her that what she was doing as a mother was more important than what he was doing. In his convention speech, Mitt Romney said, “I knew that her job as a mom was harder than mine. And I knew without question, that her job as a mom was a lot more important than mine.”
Matt Yglesias of Slate spoke to that issue in late August when Mitt was complaining – completely untruthfully – that President Obama wanted to “gut” the welfare-to-work program, a program that helps people – primarily mothers – get back into the workforce:
[Mitt Romney] doesn't say women should go back to the kitchen, stop working, and instead do the much harder and more important job of raising kids full time. But he doesn't want to spend any money or burden any business with any kind of rules or programs that would push us to a new more egalitarian equilibrium. Nor does his lip service to the values of full-time childrearing seem to have any content. He thinks the idea of paying poor women to stay at home and raise kids is outrageous and certainly doesn't encourage fathers to engage in the much harder and more important job of full-time homemaking. He's a guy who … doesn't want to do anything to address the challenges that parents face in an economic environment shaped around the obsolete expectation that behind every working man there's a full-time homemaker. But he's not a guy who in any way acts as if there's any content to his belief that full-time parenting is harder and more important that entrepreneurship or market labor.
At a campaign event in August 2012, Romney said,
If I am president, I will put work back in welfare. There is nothing better than a good job to help lift a family, to allow people to provide for themselves and end the spread of a culture of dependency. We must include more work in welfare. We will end a culture of dependency and restore a culture of good hard work.
“Good job”? Really? Isn't a good job usually one that requires some educational background and perhaps some special skills? Romney's campaign boasted that “as governor he vetoed a provision in a Massachusetts bill that would have allowed education and training to substitute for work while he pushed for able-bodied parents of young children to meet the work requirement.” So if you're a poor woman, trying to get off welfare and into the workplace, forget about getting a good job. You'll have to take what you can get at whatever skill level you may have. Flex-time? Ha ha ha.
If you're a middle-class woman who has been able to obtain special skills on your own, then maybe you'll find an employer who needs your particular talents so much he (and I do mean “he”) will let you go home early enough to fix dinner for the kids before bedtime. (No such luck if you're a middle-class man.)
If you're a rich woman, you can stay home and do the “hard,” “important” job of mother.
The question town-hall participant Katherine Fenton asked was this: “In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?”
Romney's answer, parsed: “None.”
Update: Somebody I know submitted the following Amazon.com customer review of the TOPS Cardinal XtraValue D-Ring Binder, 3 Inch. It seems it takes 48 hours for a review to be processed, & I have a feeling the Amazonians -- unless they are Amazon women -- may not approve the review.
"I love this binder. I used to have several. I chose red ones. They were the perfect size for my hobby, which was keeping binders full of women. The binders are very sturdy so the women didn't fall out or get wrinkled. The mechanism on the D-ring opens and closes easily, though, so when I wanted to add or discard a woman, I didn't have to exert much effort. When I left my job in Massachusetts, my staff purged all of my records, and unfortunately they discarded my binders full of women. I wish I still had them. If I get a new job that's anything like my old job, you can be sure I'll get some more of these binders and fill them full of women. And gay people. Possibly I'll purchase a 1-inch binder and fill it full of darker-complexioned people. Or any sort of people I'm not familiar with."