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On October 16th, 2012, the second U.S. presidential debate took place at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. During the debate, an undecided voter by the name of Katherine Fenton asked both candidates about pay inequality for women, to which Romney replied with an anecdote about how he sought to form a gender-balanced cabinet during his governorship in Massachusetts:
“And I said, ‘Well, gosh, can’t we -- can’t we find some -- some women that are also qualified? I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks,’ and they brought us whole binders full of women."
Immediately after Romney’s remark went on-air, image macros captioned with Romney’s “binder” response began circulating on Twitter, as well as the launch of parody blogs Binders Full of Women on Tumblr and novelty account @RomneysBinder on Twitter.
The following day, Redditor elSpanielo submitted a post to the /r/AdviceAnimals subreddit titled “Obama doesn’t use binders,” which included an Internet Husband example featuring Barack and Michelle Obama (shown below) Within 11 hours, the post received over 11,000 up votes and 164 comments. As of October 18th, a Facebook fan page titled “Binders Full Of Women” has more than 343,000 likes.
Also on October 16th, Amazon users began writing parody reviews of various binder products sold on the site in a similar vein to Tuscan Whole Milk, Three Wolf Moon and BIC For Her Ballpoint Pens. These reviews ranged from men complaining about the lack of women in their binders (shown below, right) to women raving about the durability of the binder in which she is filed (shown below, right). Collections of these reviews were shared on news and internet culture sites including Buzzfeed, TIME, The Daily Beast, Yahoo! News, CNET and Gizmodo on October 18th.
News Media Coverage
On October 17th, yet another debate meme in the making was reported by several major news media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal,NPR, Wired, The Atlantic,CBS News and Time, who remarked in unison about the quote’s transformation into an Internet meme. Later that day, Today.com published a piece by writer Helen A.S. Popkin titled “‘Binders Full of Women,’ other Internet memes trump voter issues,” which noted the growing influence of Internet memes in political campaigns. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal interviewed Veronica De Souza, the creator of the “Binders Full of Women” Tumblr, who announced that the blog received over 11,000 followers within the first 24 hours. She went on to reveal that she hoped the success of the blog would bring her new employment opportunities, since she had been laid off from her position as a social media manager just hours prior to the debate.
Falsification of Romney’s Claim
On the same night as the debate took place, David S. Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix revealed that a bipartisan women’s group called MassGAP had prepared a binder with the resumes of qualified female candidates for cabinet positions in 2002 before the gubernatorial election began.
The next day, the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus issued a statement confirming that it was the group that initiated the recruitment plan prior to the election by contacting both Mitt Romney and his opponent Shannon O’Brien. Both Bernstein’s article and the group’s statement were picked up by The Huffington Post and Salon, which further highlighted the fact the “binders full of women” wasn’t Romney’s idea to begin with.
On October 17th, Tiffany Ricci, a union organizer for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, scheduled a small protest in front of the Ohio Republican party’s headquarters where she and four other people demonstrated against Romney’s comment while dressed in binder costumes.. The photos were posted on Talking Points Memo before being reshared on Liberty News Network, Twitchy and political commentator Rachel Maddow’s Twitter account for her television show.
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Wall Street Journal – Binders Full of Women Spawns Three Ring Circus on Web
The Wall Street Journal – Binders Full of Women May Help One Woman Get a Job
Talking Points Memo – Women Dressed As Binders Protest At Ohio GOP HQ (PHOTOS)
Liberty News Network – First Came The Promise Keepers. Now The Trapper Keepers.
The Washington Post – Massachusetts group responds to Mitt Romney on women appointees
Huffington Post – Romney ‘Binders Full Of Women’ Female Hiring Boast Falls Apart