Alexa Petersen | Jeminist: A Jumbo Feminist
Binders full of awkward
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 08:10
At the presidential debate last Tuesday, it got awkward. Surprise, surprise to all involved, Mitt Romney said a lot of awkward things about women. When asked about his stance on equal pay for equal work, he responded that as governor of Massachusetts, he allowed women flexible hours to care for their family — the urgent need to cook dinner was specifically mentioned. He also said that as governor he launched an initiative to look for qualified women to serve in his administration, ordering his staff to provide him with “binders full of women” to choose from. There was another really awkward comment about how gun control relates to having married parents.
Here’s the problem. Mitt Romney’s depiction of women in the debate and throughout the election is blatantly outdated. It’s also offensive, but that isn’t the point. The point is that he doesn’t seem to understand or empathize with the idea that there are other women in this country who don’t act like his wife or his sons’ girlfriends. The idea that a major issue for working women is getting off early to cook and clean for their families is simply antiquated. The idea that a candidate’s response to an equal pay for equal work question in 2012 is talking about how he oh−so−heroically searched high and low to find women for government positions is also just plainly misguided. Women outnumber men in college graduation rates and currently make up a majority of the professional workforce.
So, let’s engage in a little mental exercise, shall we? Mitt, if you were to put women — the “women of America,” if you will — in those binders you speak of, who would be in them? Would it be the perfect wife and loving mother? Would it be the perfect female Republican politician who says her duty to her family and husband matter more than anything? Would it be women who believe in your God? Or at least women who believe in any God? Would it be women who are virgins until marriage and only use birth control after they have had enough children to do God’s work and before they hit menopause? I think this is a pretty good start to what Mitt’s binder would look like. And, unfortunately, I’m pretty positive I’m not in it. You probably aren’t either.
True, Mitt’s got something right in that those women exist. But he’s got something wrong if he thinks the rest of us won’t speak up when we’re not recognized. Because some of us don’t want a husband — we want a wife. And some of us want neither. Some of us have sex before marriage and do so in a perfectly safe and responsible fashion. Some of us put our career aspirations before family aspirations. Some of us — brace yourself — are perfectly morally upstanding, kind and generous individuals who don’t believe in God. And, for the big and ultimate doozy, some of us — we exist, I promise — don’t want to have children.
And we still matter. We mattered before this election and will matter after this election. We matter in the Republican primary, where Romney’s views on us were drastically more discriminatory and restrictive, and we matter in the general election. We matter to President Obama, and we should matter to Romney.
So if Mitt Romney wants to gain respect from women in this election, he must learn to consider us. All of us. Not just the ones who act like Stepford Wives, Ann Coulter or the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Ladies, if Mitt still doesn’t get it, he doesn’t deserve your vote. And without our vote, he cannot win. That, my friends, is American democracy at its finest. Women are watching. And we are voting. Bring it on.
Alexa Petersen is a senior majoring in political science and peace and justice studies. She can be reached at Alexa.Petersen@tufts.edu.