LIVE VIDEO: WTLV Live Video_1    Watch
 
 

'Binders full of women': Jokes, then serious discussion

6:28 AM, Oct 18, 2012   |    comments
Getty Images
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +

An odd turn of phrase has turned up the volume on issues facing women in the workplace.

Presidential contender Mitt Romney's "binders full of women" remark in his debate with President Obama on Tuesday night immediately launched thousands of jokes on Twitter and other social media, but by the next day reaction was more serious. Both campaigns are competing hard for the votes of women, who polls show are likely to decide the race.

Romney had used the phrase in response to a question about equal pay for women. He said that when he became governor of Massachusetts, he asked women's groups for potential appointees and received "whole binders full of women" who were qualified.

Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, found Romney's tone off-putting. The U.S. doesn't need the résumés of capable women gathered in a binder, but instead needs better legislation on topics such as equal pay, said O'Neill, who designates herself a "flaming lefty."

Both political parties quickly made use of the new catchphrase.

"While the president talked about women as breadwinners for American families, Mitt Romney talked about them as résumés in a binder," said an e-mail from Obama's campaign.

The Republican National Committee put out an e-mail with an image of an empty binder under a headline that said, "Obama's second-term agenda."

Running mate Paul Ryan defended Romney on CBS' This Morning. "All he simply meant was that he went out of his way to try to recruit qualified women," Ryan said. "And by the way, he has an exceptional record of hiring women in very prominent positions in his administration, and that's the point he was making."

Social media users were quick to lampoon Romney's words. One posting on the image-sharing site Tumblr had pictures of 1950s housewives and a to-do list in a binder that said "make dinner," "clean house" and "be seen, not heard."

One post said: "Help! I'm trapped in a binder and need to get home to make dinner!"

It comes with the political debate territory, said Allegra Aufderhaar, general manager at digital marketing agency Organic.

"Comments that can be interpreted as out of touch or parochial will be quickly seized upon," she said. "Sound bites are like chum in the water" for social media users.

People sometimes focus so much on one statement that a candidate's point can get lost, such as Romney's reference to the relative presence of women on his staff, she said.

On Twitter, the phrase "binders full of women" and the hashtag #bindersfullofwomen each were mentioned more than 120,000 times by Wednesday evening.

It's meaningful that the issue is trending so high on social media, said Mary Baglivo, a top executive at advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi.

"This is more than an awkward phrase," she said. "This has a lot of tension and passion and concern connected to it."

Romney's delivery was a little "tone deaf," she says, but "it's good we are shining more light on this topic."

She noted that employers have to address the compensation disparity as well as focus on the best ways to recruit and retain women.

In 2011, women earned 77 cents on average for every dollar earned by men, according to Catalyst, a research group specializing in women's issues.

"We really need to focus and to think long and hard to make it easier for high-performing women to participate at meaningful levels and meaningful ways," Baglivo said. "Let's bring on that conversation."

USA Today

Most Watched Videos