Mitt Romney’s talking about being handed “binders of women,” a quote from the second Presidential debate, is not on its face all that funny, no matter how much it’s gone viral. But as a signal of a bigger picture, it seems to people meaningful.
In the wonderful depths of Mad Men in dealing with personal and social issues of the 1960s, the very first episode of the Emmy-winning series is on point. The execs at Sterling Cooper are about to meet prospective client Menken’s Department Store. In advance, Don Draper asks whether there are any Jews at the agency, and Roger Sterling laughingly doubts it. But at the meeting, there appears “David Cohen from the Art Department”, a nebbish who Roger has actually dug up from the mailroom.
This probably isn’t exactly how it went when Romney realized that as the new chief executive of Massachusetts state government, it would be appropriate to fill some of the jobs with qualified women. But what people are keying on is that it sounds a little like that. Do we have any women around here who are really qualified for these demanding jobs? Does anybody here know where we start to look for them? Hence, the binders of women.
By 2003, Massachusetts had been known for more than two centuries as the home of extraordinary women. While Abigail Adams was long gone, she should have offered a hint of the possibility that one of the most educated and vital states in America might include women of note and achievement. If you believed that they were actually out there, and weren’t some rare and exotic creature like a unicorn. And if you had a clue where to look—outside the mailroom or the binders.