During Tuesday’s debate between President Barack Obama and presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a young women asked a question about what each would do in response to the inequality of pay between men and women in the workforce. In Romney’s response, he claimed that when looking to fill cabinet positions in Massachusetts he had his staff compile ‘binders full of women’ as potential candidates for those jobs. Research into this claim has shown that he did not initiate this task, it was actually a non-profit effort to get more women into government positions. His comment has gone absolutely viral- there is now a Binders Full of Women website, tumblr, Facebook page, Wikipedia page, and an urban dictionary entry. Pictures on product descriptions for 3-ring binders have been added depicting political messages such as “Bain Capital outsourced my job to China, and all I got was this lousy binder!”. I might even be a binder full of women for Halloween! And the list goes on so long that there are now stories about how viral Binders Full of Women has gone.
Responses have included-
- Outrage at Romney twisting the truth
- Mocking Romney’s attitude in the first place
- A uniting of women nationwide to send Romney a binder full of women who are voting for Obama
- A rebuttal ad from the Romney campaign and
- Disparaging the 24-year old pre-K teacher that asked the question.
This overwhelming response highlights an important message that should be repeated over and over: women matter. Women are not second class citizens and they should not be an after-thought when bringing people together to govern a population that is 50% women. Women should be considered for any position they are qualified for and paid the same as any man with the same qualifications. They should also not be lumped together as one giant blob to tap into just to reach a quota. Women, like any human being regardless of gender, should be respected and considered for their strengths, knowledge, and skills as individuals.
What can sexuality educators do with this media frenzy? In a safe, intentional learning environment this can be a valuable teachable moment to discuss gender, power, and equality. This is an opportunity to talk about the value of inclusivity, and self-worth. You could have participants do an art project of a binder full of you, with pictures of an individual throughout their lives. You can talk about how gender relates to relationships and whether both people have equal rights in that relationship. You can also show how one question about job pay asked in a presidential debate can spark millions of freak outs about gender inequality and how maybe that will institute change and motivate action.