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Think 'Binders Full of Women' is a Media Thing? It's a Sign of Something Much More Profound

By October 18, 2012

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Like many online shoppers, I turn to Amazon.com for reviews of products I'm thinking of purchasing.

Now, thanks to Mitt Romney's oddly phrased "binders full of women" comment during Tuesday night's presidential debate, Amazon's reviews of binders have gone in an unexpected direction -- tongue-in-cheek and very political.

A friend on Facebook first alerted me to this trend this morning. (Hat tip to Richard Moseson for spotting this.) Now media outlets like Salon and Gawker are commenting on it.

Sure, it's funny, but it speaks to a larger issue that much of the mainstream media initially missed. On Wednesday morning I heard a discussion of the debate on NPR in which journalists Linda Killian and Ron Elving were dismissive of the buzz over "binders." From a transcript of the Diane Rehn Show:


You know, I think -- I personally think this is a media creation, and I don't think swing voters care about that little remark.


Awful lot of tweets about it.


You know -- yeah. But that's a media thing, you know?


Right here is a tweet from a woman, who says, "I'm still offended by all of the implications of the binders-full-of-women comment."


Well, one thing you can say is that the kind of tropes that come out of these debates are largely chosen by partisans and then sort of get into the media and get to be a portrayal of a spontaneous combustion sort of thing, whereas, in fact, they're coming from people whose job it is to do that. In this case, it's an unfortunate choice of phrase.

The show's host got it while the guests didn't. This wasn't just a trope and anyone who sees it as nothing more is willfully ignoring a powerful sentiment that's been building over the past weeks and months.

This "unfortunate choice of phrase" resonated with viewers because it was so oddly out of touch and so indicative of Romney's views on women. He had no nodding acquaintance with competent, capable, qualified women so he had to go elsewhere to find them. He wasn't seeing women as people but as commodities.

Apparently others saw this as well, and that's why the Amazon reviews have taken off.

What needs to be acknowledged is that most of Amazon's reviews are anonymous -- you can't identify the real names of these commenters. So individuals who may have been hesitant to air their political views on Facebook or other forms of social media to which their names are attached are apparently coming here because they have something to say.

There were disturbing echoes here of other ways in which women are commodified, such as those online dating sites that offer the cyber equivalent of "binders full of women" from countries overseas. The common perception is that losers frequent these sites because they "can't get a woman" otherwise. If you follow this train of thought to its logical conclusion, what does this say about Romney?

"Binders full of women" may have gone viral thanks to social media sites, but it's spreading beyond Facebook and Twitter and memes. And to ignore it is to ignore an essential fact about this upcoming election. It's not a media thing. It's a symptom of the deep dissatisfaction we're feeling about how women have been treated throughout this election cycle.

Spin and rationalize all you want. But the more you put us in a box or a binder, the angrier women are getting. And if we get angry enough to vote on Election Day in record numbers, we will own this election. We will make our voices heard. We will be unbound.

Photo Yamada Taro/Photodisc/Getty Images


October 18, 2012 at 10:41 pm
(1) Pat says:

It seems as though you may have completely misunderstood Romney’s comment. He said that women hadn’t applied for positions in his administration. He wanted women to be a part of his administration, so he asked aides to find qualified women candidates. Having women in his administration was so important to him that he sought them out. He could have easily hired one of the men that applied, but he didn’t. He looked for women to fill the positions. Please watch the debate again, and listen to Romney’s answer with an open mind, and not an Obama mind.

October 19, 2012 at 5:41 am
(2) womensissues says:

Pat, then in that same spirit please follow this link to a Boston Globe article which echoes other media reports already out there — Romney did NOT seek out women candidates but literally had binders of qualified women handed to him in advance, compiled by a bipartisan coalition called MassGAP which had been created well in advance of his election to ensure that more women were put in leadership positions. He did NOT seek out women on his own despite his claims.

Many of his appointees were indeed women, but not to key or critical positions in his administration — and although he began with an initial record number, that fell significantly over the years. By the way, MassGAP was credited for the record number of women, not Romney.

I know you’ll read this with an open mind, not a Romney mind, and come to your own informed conclusions.

October 19, 2012 at 6:53 am
(3) Hey says:

I love how every one knocks Romeny no matter what. I wonder what important group of swing voters Dems will claim falsely claim Romney is rude or insensitive toward next. I love how this “author” sites a media outlet as one piece of evidence that this isn’t media created. Delightfully inept. I am thankful 52% of likely voters disagree with the above biased comments falsely accusing Romney.

October 24, 2012 at 4:25 am
(4) Tanja Cilia says:
November 8, 2012 at 7:22 pm
(5) Micheal says:

Really no matter if sοmeone dοеsn’t understand afterward its up to other viewers that they will help, so here it occurs.

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