Women in binders


During last week’s second presidential debate, Mitt Romney made a muddled reference to “whole binders full of women.” Is the gleeful mockery, which went viral on the Web, unfair to Mr. Romney? Maybe.

In answer to a question about pay equity for women, Mr. Romney tried to explain what he did as governor of Massachusetts. He meant to say that he had asked for binders full of women’s resumes to help him find female candidates for jobs in his administration.

According to news reports, a bipartisan coalition of women’s advocates presented Mr. Romney, before he asked, with recommendations of qualified women for various posts. To his credit, the Boston Phoenix reported, 42 percent of the governor’s appointments between January, 2002, and July, 2004, were women.

Yet the fuss over the malapropism is not trivial. It’s a binder full of poetic justice for Mr. Romney’s positions on issues that affect women.

Mr. Romney wants to stop funding Planned Parenthood, an indispensable source of health care for many low-income women. He has never recognized the disgraceful injustice done to Lilly Ledbetter, whose equal-pay suit was rejected by the Supreme Court, and he opposed the Fair Pay Act. He opposes abortion rights except in narrow cases.

Mr. Romney does not have a binder full of women. But he has a binder full of women’s issues he intends to ignore, scorn, or obfuscate.