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.
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“The idea that he had to go and ask where a qualified woman was, he should have just come to my house. He didn’t need a binder,” Mr. Biden said.Skip to next paragraph
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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Of course, because this is politics, others have jumped in on defense. The binders represent a concerted effort to find qualified female candidates, they say. They show that Romney cares about women.
Meanwhile, others are wondering what it would be to work in a place where people bring you binders full of useful information, and maybe even a cup of coffee now and then.
But seriously, folks, this is silly. Political institutions, from the White House to your city council, have “binders” of some form or another on just about everything. You could argue that if Romney hadn’t checked out a binder full of women then he wasn’t doing his job. (Whether the binders themselves led to equity is another issue – women’s groups have pointed out that the percentage of women serving under Romney dropped significantly throughout his time as governor.)
Rather than debate this – or Big Bird, or Michelle Obama’s and Ann Romney’s matching pink outfits, or even the extent to which Mitt Romney values a home-cooked meal – maybe we could have more public back and forth about the substantive policy questions related to women and families.
We’ve noted a few of these in past posts. But to get your policy juices flowing, consider:
Access to sick days. At the moment, 80 percent of low-wage workers and 40 percent of private-sector workers do not have access to even a single earned sick day to take care of themselves or to care for a child, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Surveys have shown this to be a big deal for moms, who are often the ones who take the workplace hit when baby (or an older kid) needs care. But is this an issue for government to resolve?
Maternity leave. Yes, we’re mentioning this again. As we’ve noted, the U.S. is one of the few countries in the world in which the federal government neither provides nor mandates paid leave after a birth of a child. This is a clear economic issue: according to the U.S. Census Bureau, some 40 percent of new moms take unpaid maternity leave, and many take on new debt or otherwise struggle financially because of it. (A small Human Rights Watch survey in 2011 found that about two-thirds of parents who went on unpaid leave took on debt.) There is some research that even connects women’s higher bankruptcy rate to maternity leave. Again, is this an issue for government to address? How?
These are just a couple of the important topics, from pay to contraception, that should be at the forefront of the political debate this year. Binders? Not so much.
I suggest, in fact, that we simply leave them behind.
Unless, of course, someone wants to work on mine.