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 That's societal bullshit, and it's an outdated way to have this conversation.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.