Binders full of women

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During the second U.S. presidential debate of 2012, Mitt Romney used the phrase "binders full of women" in response to a question about pay equity, referring to binders with resumes of female job applicants submitted to him as Governor of Massachusetts. This prompted the phrase's use for political attacks on Romney's positions on women's issues,[1][2][3] as well as the development of an Internet meme.

At the debate, Romney said: "I had the chance to pull together a cabinet, and all the applicants seemed to be men… 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."[4] Even while the debate was ongoing, humorous commentary about the phrase had begun to be published online.[1][5]

Internet meme[edit]

By the day after the debate, Tumblr pages had been created illustrating commentary on the phrase, tweets and original works of art had been produced, and a Facebook page about "Binders Full of Women" had received 274,000 likes.[1][6][7] received a barrage of satirical reviews for generic binders, with thousands of users marking the reviews as "helpful", moving them to the top of the review pages.[8] A parody Twitter account that portrayed itself as a binder owned by Romney attracted 30,000 followers before the debate was even over.[9]

Barack Obama referenced the phrase, saying at a campaign stop: "I've got to tell you, we don't have to collect a bunch of binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women".[10] The Washington Post stated: "Mitt Romney's 'binders full of women' comment during the second presidential debate did more than go viral; it put women's issues back in the campaign spotlight."[1]

On February 15, 2013, the game show Jeopardy! referenced the meme with a category titled "A Binder Full of Women" resulting in the audience and contestants laughing after host Alex Trebek read the category. The clues were about famous or powerful women.[11]


Romney's full quote is as follows:

Candy Crowley: Governor Romney, pay equity for women.
Mitt Romney: Thank you and important topic. And one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as Governor of my state. Because I had the chance to pull together a Cabinet, and all of the applicants seemed to be men. And I went to my staff and I said: "How come all of the people for these jobs are all men?" They said: "Well, these are the people that have the qualifications." And I said: "Well gosh, can't we find some women that are also qualified?" And we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our Cabinet. 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. I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my Cabinet, and my senior staff, the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states, and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.

MassGAP response[edit]

Romney's statement that he was the one who initiated the recruitment of so many women was challenged by a coalition of women's groups known as MassGAP, affiliated with the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus. MassGAP issued a statement saying that they had approached both Romney and his opponent's campaigns prior to the election to ask for a commitment to appoint more women to address underrepresentation of women in Massachusetts' government. The group compiled the names of female applicants and offered them to both Romney and his Democratic opponent Shannon O'Brien before the election.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d "Romney’s ‘Binder full of women’ comment spills onto campaign trail". The Washington Post. October 15, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-19. 
  2. ^ Nicholas, Peter (October 18, 2012). "Biden Sticks to ‘Binders’ Theme to Attack Romney". Washington Wire - WSJ. Retrieved 2012-10-19. 
  3. ^ Killough, Ashley (October 17, 2012). "Romney reacts to frenzy over ‘binders’ comment". CNN Political Ticker - Blogs. Retrieved 2012-10-19. 
  4. ^ "Binders full of Women". CNN. Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  5. ^ Franke-Ruta, Garance. "Second U.S. presidential debate of 2012". the Atlantic. Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  6. ^ Peralta, Eyder. "Presidential Debate Spins 'Binders Full Of Women' Meme, Fact Checks". NPR. Retrieved October 17, 2012. 
  7. ^ "‘Binders Full of Women’ Spawns Three-Ring Circus on Web". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  8. ^ Grossman, Samantha (October 18, 2012). "Amazon’s Binder Pages Flooded With Snarky Romney-Related Reviews". Time. Retrieved 2012-10-19. 
  9. ^ Phillip, Abby (October 16, 2012). "Internet Takes Off With Mitt Romney’s ‘Binders Full of Women’". ABC News. Retrieved 2012-10-21. 
  10. ^ Schultheis, Emily. "Obama: 'We don't have to collect a bunch of binders' to find qualified women". Politico. Retrieved 23 March 2013. 
  11. ^ "'Jeopardy!' pays belated tribute to Romney with binder full of women category". 
  12. ^ Phillip, Abby D. (October 17, 2012). "Romney Challenged on How He Got the Binder Full of Women Managers". ABC News. Retrieved 2012-10-22. ; "Mind The Binder". The Phoenix (newspaper). October 16, 2012. ; Viser, Matt (October 17, 2012). "How Mitt Romney had ‘whole binders of women’ for staff positions as governor". Boston Globe blog. ;MassGAP Statement on Presidential Debate. Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus.

External links[edit]