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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Binders, Dinner, and Hiring Women

Posted by on Wed, Oct 17, 2012 at 3:28 PM

Aside from its creepily inelegant wording, Mitt Romney's comment in last night's debate about having "binders full of women" was not nearly the most offensive part of his answer to that young woman's question about income inequality. No, that would be when he suggested that an important consideration when hiring women is that they may require more flexible schedules than men because they have to get home early to make dinner for their families. It's kind of a dream comment to hear for people like me, because it confirms the worst of who we think Romney is: an out-of-touch fuckwad with a Mad Men–style attitude toward women. So I thank him for showing that face, if only for the grim satisfaction of validation.

It is indeed a biological fact that women bear children and men do not (for now!), and when we address income inequality, that comes in to play. But not because women are required by their biology to be primary caregivers and cooks for their children and spouses. That's societal bullshit, and it's an outdated way to have this conversation. It is true that women's bodies require different health care, however. And access to adequate health care—whether it's access to contraception so they can better choose whether and when to have children or good pre- and postnatal care for themselves and their babies—benefits society as a whole, and that includes employers, who need their female employees healthy, fully recovered from the physical and emotional demands of a pregnancy, and not suffering from undesired and avoidable pregnancies. And which candidate is in favor of legislation that ensures access to comprehensive health care that includes adequate reproductive health coverage and doesn't price-discriminate against women? Hint: It's not motherfucking Mitt Romney.

Also: Romney's answer to that question was fascinating entirely aside from the goofiness of lady-binders and dinner-making.

If you haven't yet watched the debate, this was the question: "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?" And his answer:

ROMNEY: Thank you. 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. 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.

Transcript from here.

The question is what should be done to rectify the income gap, and his answer, by way of anecdote, is this: If you are hiring for a position, and all the candidates are men, you are doing something wrong and you need to rethink your recruiting strategy. Specifically, go out and recruit female candidates by the binderful, and make sure that in the end, your workforce reflects a relatively equal gender balance. Now, that is a fine answer. It's an answer I agree with. But that's because I'm completely in favor of affirmative action. Romney, on the other hand, is likely not a supporter of affirmative action. If he is, he has certainly stayed silent on it. His party is generally anti–affirmative action. (Except for that whole affirmative-action-for-Republicans plank in the party platform. Hilarious, you guys!) So it's a pretty fuckin' weird answer for him to give on this question, especially in a national debate. Did he mean to profess this? Did he even realize that he was making a case for affirmative action? That employers should work hard to recruit and hire female candidates, even if they have perfectly good male candidates already in consideration? That it reflects poorly on an employer if they have a workforce that skews too far from the gender makeup of the country? I guess, since he's out there running back and forth on all sides of every issue, flipflopping or etch-a-sketching or whatever made-up verb we're using for "making shit up on the fly," we'll never know.

One last thing: This way he told this story smells to high heaven of the obsessively-overdoing-it aspect of Romney's character that Paul pointed out in his profile of the man. It's entertaining as shit. "Women, you say? Why, they did a study, and I had the most women! Binders full of 'em!" What a creepy douchebag.


Comments (31) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
I agree with everything you said.

The problem is - you have to convince WOMEN of this.

Sickeningly 43% of women who voted in 2008 voted Republican! To me that says women don't know enough about their own rights in this country and liberal women have been so very effective at educating other women the facts.

It might even be higher this year since the last I read women voter registration was a little down over 2008. Though I hope to Christ I'm wrong about that at this point.
Posted by tkc on October 17, 2012 at 3:46 PM · Report this
It also isn't true. Romney didn't seek out women's groups; they came to him. See
Posted by Limey Rick on October 17, 2012 at 3:47 PM · Report this
Canadian Nurse 3
Wow. You need to write more often, Anna. This is awesome.
Posted by Canadian Nurse on October 17, 2012 at 3:48 PM · Report this
jp 4
People keep saying it's a 'Mad Men' thing, but it's not-- it's TOTALLY a MORMON thing. This is how the Mormon man sees the women in his life. Sure, women can 'work,' and it's a progressive Mormon man who even considers hiring women, but for the vast majority of the LDS, the woman's place is in the home, rearing children. To suggest otherwise in that community is literally unthinkable, and even most Mormon women would agree.

It's more a 'Big Love' thing, is what I'm saying. But with, you know, only a few less wives.
Posted by jp on October 17, 2012 at 3:50 PM · Report this
From the post I linked to above:
" as I have reported before, those were almost all to head departments and agencies that he didn't care about -- and in some cases, that he quite specifically wanted to not really do anything. None of the senior positions Romney cared about -- budget, business development, etc. -- went to women.

Secondly, a UMass-Boston study found that the percentage of senior-level appointed positions held by women actually declined throughout the Romney administration, from 30.0% prior to his taking office, to 29.7% in July 2004, to 27.6% near the end of his term in November 2006. (It then began rapidly rising when Deval Patrick took office.)"
Posted by Limey Rick on October 17, 2012 at 3:50 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 6
This is where I'm going to have to disagree. While I would say that it's still a sexist thing in our society that women are expected to keep the homemaker role when they have fulltime jobs, the fact of the matter is, many working women DO fulfill that role. They're still in charge of the cooking, cleaning, getting the kids to school, etc. I know this because I saw a lot of it while I worked for corporate America. Some women in my office usually stressed getting home on time more than others because they would have to get dinner ready, or go meet with the teacher for conferences, or get the kids to Tae Kwon Do, or whatever.

It's not as out of touch as you might think.
Posted by Matt from Denver on October 17, 2012 at 3:56 PM · Report this
"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."
Posted by Limey Rick on October 17, 2012 at 3:58 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 8
Regarding the affirmative action angle, someone on PBS (Mark Shields I think) made that same observation immediately following the debate. I'm surprised it hasn't made the rounds a bit more.
Posted by Matt from Denver on October 17, 2012 at 4:11 PM · Report this
I.C. Deadpeople 9
@6 The larger point is that the statement was basically his answer to the income gap.
Posted by I.C. Deadpeople on October 17, 2012 at 4:15 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 10
The larger point isn't so much larger that this point becomes minor. Anna called it a "dream comment" to hear because it confirmed that he's an "out-of-touch fuckwad." The fact is, millions of women juggle work and home responsibilities like this everywhere. It IS societal bullshit, but there it is.

Businesses used to discriminate against hiring women because they didn't want to grant that flexibility; some undoubtedly still do. Whether Romney/Bain's flexibility was pragmatic or principled, it was still a good thing.
Posted by Matt from Denver on October 17, 2012 at 4:25 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 11

Perhaps but he still hilariously looks like a Mad Men character. Romney is totally Roger Sterling. Well, a teetotaler Roger Sterling.
Posted by keshmeshi on October 17, 2012 at 4:28 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 12

When I first heard that, I didn't think that much of it, and you can't accuse me of not being a hysterical, easily offended feminist. Employment flexibility is a fantastic non-pecuniary benefit and is something women in particular would benefit from. But he said that in response to a question about equal pay for equal work. He totally dodged that part of the question as per usual.

He then followed the flextime statement up by saying that employers will want to hire women as only a last ditch effort to hire enough workers. I mean, what the fuck was that?

Romney is a sexist douchebag. Period.
Posted by keshmeshi on October 17, 2012 at 4:33 PM · Report this
He also pulled out his wishful thinking solution: that when he takes office, the economy will be SO GOOD that employers will become magically more friendly to flexible schedules, etc. He also conflated helping someone he knew personally with holding policies that would help many people. He has done this before, especially when talking about helping his fellow Mormons.
Posted by wxPDX on October 17, 2012 at 4:36 PM · Report this
@11, no! I can't imagine Mitt as relaxed and confident and funny as Roger Sterling. He's more like Duck.
Posted by Nitidiuscula on October 17, 2012 at 4:39 PM · Report this
Ok, but what no one asked him as a follow up regarding hiring these binders full of women is whether or not they were paid the same as what he would have paid the men. THAT is what I want to know... And if he didn't do so, WHY NOT!
Posted by anonymous woman in a binder on October 17, 2012 at 4:44 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 16

Ooooh, I hadn't thought of that. And I could totally imagine Romney being an asshole to Peggy. Paul Ryan is totally Pete Campbell.
Posted by keshmeshi on October 17, 2012 at 4:49 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 17

And the dog! Remember what Duck did to his dog? An Irish setter, no less.
Posted by keshmeshi on October 17, 2012 at 4:50 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 18
@ 12, no argument there. I was just addressing Anna's specific remarks.
Posted by Matt from Denver on October 17, 2012 at 4:58 PM · Report this
Romney doesn't say anything on his own. He only memorizes what his handlers tell him. He just punches a button in his brain and out comes something that's at least vaguely about the issue. They didn't give him anything to say about economic parity.
Posted by sarah70 on October 17, 2012 at 5:05 PM · Report this
I found his whole answer terrible, and didn't even care about the "binders of women" abbreviation.

What was terrible was that he did not address the core of the question, equal pay for equal work.

What was terrible was that he told that ridiculous lie about asking for referrals to qualified women when, in truth, they were sent to him unsolicited.

Yes, this endorsement of affirmative action struck me as odd, but this is Etch-a-Sketch hard at work. He also came out in favor of access to contraception that night. He's the worst sort of salesman who will assure you of anything you want to hear.

What was terrible was his thinking that he understood that employers will have to make accomodations when hiring women, like letting them go home to cook dinner for their families. Not only was that ragingly sexist, he said it with a tone that suggested it was analogous with accomodating disabled workers. Men, also, have to go home to cook dinner for their families. Cooking is not a gender-specific action - or does he think it is?

Finally, most terrible of all, was his suggestion that he was going to drive the economy to such job growth that employers would have to hire women as they scrape the bottom of the barrel. That statement, more than any other, was the one that made me scream at the TV.
Posted by Charlie Mas on October 17, 2012 at 5:10 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 21
Pretty sure women in Vermont make more than men do.

Median income, that is.

It depends where you live and what people value it at.

And who then underpays the people they view as victims or unworthy.

Now fetch my mint julep, I'm parched!
Posted by Will in Seattle on October 17, 2012 at 5:28 PM · Report this
Yeah, what Romney should have done is point out that the income gap is greatly exaggerated.
Posted by jzimbert on October 17, 2012 at 5:43 PM · Report this
@16/17, we are in complete agreement. Glad we sorted that out. UGH, Pete Campbell.
Posted by Nitidiuscula on October 17, 2012 at 6:01 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 24
Here's where I see the idiocy in his remark:

At my job (software), easily half of the married-with-kids MEN require a flexible schedule due to their familial obligations. No, they're not going home to cook dinner, but it's their role to pick the kids up from daycare. They arrange their whole work schedule around it, getting in early and blocking everything after 4:30 or 5:00 or whatever off their schedules.

I don't think they get paid any less because of it.
Posted by Free Lunch on October 17, 2012 at 6:54 PM · Report this
Romney's response didn't address any part of the question. His answer was supposed to be about the new ways that he would, as President, "rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn."

Also, his douchebaggery was loud and clear: "If you're going to have women in the workforce..." If? There is no IF! Women ARE in the workforce. The fact that he's blind to this reality and blind to women in general would explain why, after over three decades in the worlds of business and politics, he couldn't on his own come up with a few names of qualified, female candidates for his cabinet.
Posted by ignatz ratzkywatzky on October 17, 2012 at 7:28 PM · Report this
NotSean 26
@24 yeah. I see and live that too.
- - -

On the affirmative action thing...
..putting on my conservative cap for a moment...

I think Romney's response to that charge would be this: *Encouraging* employers to hire a good mix of genders, race, age, etc. is dandy.

*Requiring*them to do it, and all the reporting and litigation that goes with it, is an expensive regulation.

And then he'd say " I'm one hot taco. ".

Posted by NotSean on October 17, 2012 at 8:49 PM · Report this
@11 : you have RUINED Roger Sterling for me!
Posted by rickjamesbitch on October 17, 2012 at 9:19 PM · Report this
ams_ 28
A lot of research on why women aren't in the highest levels of academic sciences, despite being better represented in lower ranks, points directly to childbearing and home responsibilities. It's not that these women have deadbeat partners, it's that they want families and the responsibilities that go with them. So when you don't offer flexibility, and make women choose between having a demanding career and having a family, the career is going to lose out most of the time.

The answer is not to have women see their families less ( some of us enjoy seeing our families in the evening, and even *gasp* cooking), but to stop penalizing women for needing to balance commitments. This includes flexible work schedules and part-time tenure track positions.

But some women (who often have no idea what it's like to balance a big time career and a family) insist that we don't change the system to better fit the needs and realities of women. Instead they perpetuate the lie that women can have it all if we just subvert our own needs enough, and force women to choose between reaching their full career potential and having a family.

Work flexibility so women can go home and cook for their families is necessary to a more equal society! Mind warp!
Posted by ams_ on October 17, 2012 at 9:29 PM · Report this
I would like to just take a moment to express my utmost gratitude for the level of education brought forth in the comments section here. It's a shockingly refreshing diversion from most of the rest of the internet. Hats off to you dear readers, SLOG, and Anna Minard. Cheers.
Posted by Amanda R on October 18, 2012 at 1:10 AM · Report this
Free Lunch 30
As always, the Onion nails it.
Posted by Free Lunch on October 18, 2012 at 8:56 AM · Report this
Just want to point out how odd it is that Romney Victory Inc advertises on this site, couldn't believe I was reading this article right next to "I'll deliver recovery not dependency Donate Now".
Posted by pmbrown08 on October 18, 2012 at 9:20 AM · Report this

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