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Mitt’s Binders

I don't write about politics often. I want this blog to be a politically neutral place. Sometimes, though, the political touches my life in a way that I do want to share. After all, you know we must be a political family, what with our debate jelly beans and all.

A couple months ago I wrote about Mitt Romney's quote regarding the “dignity of work”, which I found deeply offensive. Today the Internet is on fire with binders full of women. But if we dig beyond the hilarity of women, three-hole punchers, and binders, the content of Romney's answers regarding women were deeply disturbing.

First let's consider the simple fact that a longtime CEO and elected official didn't seem to have any idea where he might find a qualified woman so he had to “ask” special interest groups; women's special interest groups. Even though women are disproportionately under represented in the upper echelons of business and government, I find it hard to believe that Romney hadn't found one or two qualified women in or near his circle in 25 years. I'm a stay-at-home parent and I know that men are disproportionately under represented in my field and I certainly spend more time chatting with moms than dads, but after a mere six years I have run across a handful of stay-at-home dads… Thank goodness Romney had those binders full of women.

But…it seems like he didn't ask for the binders. They were offered to him.

More subtly, I found Romney's tone with Candy Crowly (the moderator), to be less respectful than his tone with President Obama or Jim Lehrer. He was more likely to interrupt her and to continue interrupting her. He was more dismissive of the things she said. Also, when I scanned the transcript, it seemed to me that he gave less direct answers to the women's questions. He was more likely to ignore what they said, slide around it, and do the classic debate pivot to what he wanted to talk about when being questioned by a woman.

Amanda Marcotte has a wonderful short piece about Mitt and women here.

But let's look at the section on pay-equity. Mitt Romney said:

My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school. She said, I can't be here until 7 or 8 o'clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o'clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said fine. Let's have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.


That looks good right? Nice and supportive. Except… Between the lines. Of course she should go home early and cook for her husband and kids because that is what women do. It's where they truly belong and everything should be done to help them be there. I believe in flexible schedules and I certainly think that the American workplace puts too much stress on getting the job done and ever increasing hours and not enough focus on balanced work and family time. I just wonder how Romney would have responded to a male chief of staff with the same request…

So that's not so great, in my eyes. It looks okay, but if you contemplate both his binders of women and his slippery non-answer on pay equity you can see easily extrapolate that Romney doesn't see women as qualified as men in the work place. Better to get them home so they can cook dinner…and if they have those flexible benefits they don't deserve to make as much as a male counterpart, right?

There's one more here that I think deserves attention:

…in the economy I'm going to bring to play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers they're going to be anxious to hire women.


Why women specifically? Because the magical Mitt economy will be just so darn good that all the men will be employed and employers will be so desperate for more employees that they will be willing to settle on women? Even though we are, apparently, only 72% as qualified as men? I missed this statement on my first run through the debate. It was last night, re-watching it with the kids, that this part of the answer leapt out at me. Watching I noticed that even the way Romney's body language seems to show how little he regards women as truly valid members of his society.

What about his answer on gun violence and banning assault weapons? Romney said:

We need moms and dads, helping to raise kids. Wherever possible the — the benefit of having two parents in the home, and that's not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone, that's a great idea.

And again, this looks good at the initial overview. I do think we need better supports in place to get parents good, quality time with their kids, and we know that kids with involved parents tend to do better in the long run. But to lay the burden of gun violence at the feet of single parents is insane – especially since several notable shooters (Aurora for a recent example) are from homes with married parents. Where are all these disgruntled children of single parents slinging their assault weapons through the mall?

You can read a great piece about Romney and gun violence here.

We know that single parents tend to be (again) disproportionally moms. I'm not negating the single dads out there, but I bet Romney was actually trying to evoke the image of single, teenage, “welfare” moms. Let's get those girls married! Let's slip around this issue of banning assault rifles and focus on getting those pesky, drive-by causing, single moms under control. Never mind that he wants to evisscerate Planned Parenthood and our rights to abortion – programs that prevent single parenthood – as well as the social programs that keep single moms able to give loving care to their families.

Romney's position on birth control and abortion is scary.

And every woman should make sure she knows what is really going on, not what he says.

Mitt Romney has binders full of women, or so he claims. And I think that if we tweak that silly comment just a little bit, we arrive at the real truth. Mitt Romney has binders for women. He wants to limit my access to health care for my reproductive system. He wants me to find a magical balance between being a productive member of employed society (provided I can find someone anxious to hire me) and keeping that husband fed and children appropriately cared for.

Romeny's positions on issues that directly affect women are hard to pin down. Should we have the dignity of work? Or aren't we qualified? Should we be staying home with our kids so they don't go shooting up the public or should we get our butts to the office (as long as we are home to cook dinner, of course)? I'm confused.

What I'm not confused about is who will be the better President for the women who live, work, and love in this great country of ours. It's not Mitt Romney.


Fact checking fun at Forbes Facts

I used this transcript to make sure I was hearing Romney and quoting him correctly.


Princess Power

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Princesses are a reality in the world of parenting – especially if you have a daughter. They are on stickers and band-aids and everything else. Even if you try to keep them out of your house, they are at friends’ houses. What do we do about our Princesses?

Let’s think about this though… Are Princesses really as bad as many people would have us believe? I’m not so sure. I think we leap too quickly to obfuscate Princesses because of the potential that our daughters and sons learn a negative message. In reality, I think it’s all in the interpretation and the message you choose to share.

Papa-Bug and I were talking about this. After all, consumerism and marketing aside, we have heartily endorsed Brother-Bug’s vehicle & ‘Cars’ obsessions. What if all Sister-Bug cares about is Sleeping Beauty & Snow White? How can we buy licensed characters for one kid and deny the other kid?

In the course of this conversation, we segued into the broad topic of helping our daughter learn to use her power. Papa-Bug said (to paraphrase) “I find the Princess Power to be a little scary – it’s so subtle.” That idea raised a red flag in my women’s studies brain.

Scary? To you, a privileged white male? Interesting.

Before I delve further, let me state that I deplore the physical representations of the Princesses. They are painfully thin, some of them laughably so. But I’m not her to talk about what they look like. That is a related, yet different topic of discourse.

Let’s get back to those scary princesses. Why are they so scary? Because they are powerful. Because its a subtle power, often difficult for someone raised to believe in the “powerful might” to put their finger on. Because the princess manipulates and uses her power through biology and desires that subdue the powerful might. Because it’s a power that a man can not posess nor fully understand.

This power – the power of looks and biology (read: sex) – is a power that women have used for millenia. When women were chattel, posession of father then husband, it was all the power they had. The Goal was marriage – until very recently it was the only truly viable goal and option for the majority of women on the planet. It is only within the last half-century that Barbie could become an astronaut.

So women developed this power. Good, bad or beautiful, they worked with what they had – their bodies – and evolved complex habits and rituals to keep that power intact. I’m going out on a historical limb here, but assuming that most children’s stories were likely concocted by a mother trying to get a child to hear a lesson and/or settle down…Mothers told stories to their daughters that featured young women (princesses) who presevered in the face of hardship to attain The Goal (the prince and marriage).

Princesses are powerful and they always achieve The Goal.

We want our daughters to be powerful right? So did whoever came up with these age-old tales to help their daughters learn to use the power that they had. And what a power it is! History is full of tales of beautiful women who use their skills to subdue the mightiest men. No wonder it’s scary.

Fast-forward through bloomers at the end of the 19th century, sufferage, women in factories in both World Wars, and a Feminist Movement that brought us ever closer to equality. We have lots of possible goals now – wife or astronaut, teacher or congress-woman. I’m not here to say that marriage and baby making is The Goal anymore. But even though women’s options have increased and our horizons have broadened, Princesses are still powerful.

My favorite Princess. Grace Kelly.

And if we deny our daughters knowledge of and access to that Princess Power, are we not cutting them off from some amazing aspects of Womens’ History? If we take away that power, what do we replace it with? We can talk and write and discourse for hours about the power of the empowered woman, and advocate for the ERA, non-gendered toys, and positive role models for young women… But those are lacking in the magic and mystique that appeals to little children. Why don’t we accept that Princesses are here, historically important, and that they aren’t going anywhere? How can we find ways to show our daughters how very strong and cool a princess can be?

I am choosing, as a parent, to embrace Princesses for all their might. I’m going to celebrate their strength. When my kids are older (because you know that Brother-Bug is as much or more into Princesses than his sister is) I will show them historical Princesses and we will talk about thier role in the world. We will enjoy Princess movies and Princess tales.

I will not villify something that has so much potential for teaching strength and courage. I will not tell my daughter that ANY woman is bad/evil/wrong, even if she is pencil thin with gigantic eyes.

I will point out how cartoon women’s bodies are…not accurate.

I WILL play dress up with my Princess-loving children.

Because Princess costumes are FUN! Much more fun than an empowered feminist dress-up set – what would that even look like?


I have more thoughts on Princesses, so keep your eyes tuned. Princess Ariel (from Disney’s Little Mermaid) is one of my new favorite feminist figures. Wonder why? Stay tuned!

Also, I realize this is potentially inflammatory for lots of people. I welcome your comments as long as you keep said comments in the spirit of inquiry, conversation, and polite disagreement. I will delete any comments that are mean or disrespectful.