During Tuesday’s debate, the battle for female voters took center stage when the candidates were asked about how they’d address inequalities in the workplace, “specifically females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn.” The question was a softball for Obama. He told the familiar story about his grandmother working her way from secretary to vice-president at a local bank, then hitting a glass ceiling, and pointed out that the Lilly Ledbetter Act was the first bill he signed after taking office. “Women are increasingly the breadwinners in the family,” said Obama. “This is not just a women’s issue, this is a family issue. This is middle class issue, and that’s why we’ve got to fight for it.”
So, with an opportunity to counteract accusations that his party is waging a war on women, what did Mitt Romney say? It’s an “important topic,” which he learned a lot about when he was filling his cabinet as governor of Massachusetts. He noticed all the candidates he was seeing were men, and asked if there was a way to find more qualified women. “I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks?’” said Romney. “And they brought us whole binders full of women!”
The loud, collective Internet guffaw that followed immediately elevated “binders full of women” into the pantheon of debate memes alongside Big Bird and @LaughinJoeBiden, spawning a @RomneysBinder Twitter feed and a Tumblr of Photoshopped shots of women stuck in Trapper Keepers.
Romney wasn’t done. He went on to say that he also “recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce, sometimes you’re going to need to be more flexible.” For instance, his chief of staff said she’d need to be able to “get home at 5:00 so I can be there making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school.”
“We’re going to have to have employers in the new economy, in economy I’m going to bring into play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers that they’re going to be anxious to hire women,” he explained. Apparently, once there’s a big enough demand for workers, employers won’t mind “adapting to a flexible work schedule that gives women the opportunities that otherwise they would not be able to afford.” Translation: With a good enough economy, even women can find work. On the plus side, at least Romney is okay with the idea of women working — as long as they can convince their boss to let them come home in time to make dinner.