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.
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.
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