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Binders full of women: Inane office supply focus misses the point

Binders full of women: Of course politicians have them, along with binders full of any kind of potential appointees. Wouldn't we crucify Romney – or Obama, for that matter – if he didn't have lists of women? The important thing is what's done with the lists of women – let's focus on that.

By Correspdondent / October 19, 2012

Binders full of ....appointees. This is the binder produced in 2002 by the Massachusetts Government Appointments Project, listing names of potential female candidates for high-level positions. During the second presidential debate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, referred to the MassGAP notebook in saying that he was sent "binders full of women," a comment which touched off a wave of social media parodies.

Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus/AP

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It’s not just Mitt Romney. I, too, have binders full of women.

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Correspondent

is a longtime Monitor correspondent. She lives in Andover, Mass. with her husband, her two young daughters, a South African Labrador retriever and an imperialist cat..

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OK, not binders. But lists, certainly. They are scattered on different word-processing documents and live in the far corners of my computer, generally connected with the strange variety of story topics I’ve covered over the past few years. They tend to include names and phone numbers and reasons why the women in question might be helpful for me to interview. And, for the most part, they remain out of sight, not even on my desktop.

Parenting-style quiz: Are you a helicopter parent?

But if I had a campaign staff – or, perhaps more accurately, the bipartisan Massachusetts Government Appointments Project (MassGAP), which actually did the hard work of putting together the now-famous Romney binders – you can be sure I’d have those lists in hard copy form. My binders would even be color coded. Container Store style. With a nice, pleasing Fall palate, of course.

Which makes me wonder: Do we have any info on whether Mr. Romney’s binders full of women looked like?  Maybe that could be the next hot campaign topic.

Because, if the past few weeks are any indication, when it comes to politics about women and kids – demographics both sides swear up and down are super duper important – the more inane the subject matter, the more buzz it gets.

The binders, of course, are the latest example. These notorious paper products (or were they plastic?) came up during the second presidential debate when presidential hopeful Romney answered (ish) a question about pay equity for women. He said that as governor of Massachusetts, he noticed that none of the applicants for his Cabinet were women, and that he asked women’s group to find qualified people. They, then, “brought us whole binders full of women,” Romney said.

(The way this actually went down is a bit contested, with some saying that the women’s groups – notably MassGAP – were the proactive ones in promoting gender equity in the State House.)

The Twitterverse responded immediately, with snarky comments and memes reminiscent only of... Big Bird. (Remember that Romney comment? The one about how he liked Big Bird but would still pull funding for public television? The spin after that was equally empty. Forget substantive talk about early childhood education or educational programming for underprivileged kids; let’s pit Big Bird against Oscar The Grouch.)

Democratic pundits are still criticizing Romney for the binders comment, with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden taking their own shots on the campaign trail this week.

“We don’t have to collect a bunch of binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women,” Mr. Obama said.

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