Binders full of women

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Former Massachusetts Governor and 2012 nominee for President Mitt Romney

"Binders full of women" was a phrase used by Mitt Romney on October 16, 2012 during the second U.S. presidential debate of 2012. Romney used the phrase in response to a question about pay equality, referring to ring binders with resumes of female job applicants submitted to him as Governor of Massachusetts. The phrase was depicted by Romney's detractors as demeaning and insensitive toward women, and was widely mocked.[1] This prompted the phrase's use for political attacks on Romney's positions on women's issues,[2][3][4] 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."[5] Even while the debate was ongoing, comedic commentary about the phrase had begun to be published online.[2][6]

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."


Internet meme[edit]

By the day after the debate, a Tumblr blog and posts 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.[2][7][8] 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.[9] A parody Twitter account that portrayed itself as a binder owned by Romney attracted 30,000 followers before the debate was even over.[10]

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".[11] 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."[2]

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]


In 2012, Rep. Erik Paulsen of Minnesota's Third Congressional District joked that he had "a binder full of women" in his household, referencing his daughters and wife during a conversation about pay equity.[13] Paulsen went on to describe the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and similar legislation as the product of "frivolous lawsuits".

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.[14][15]

In 2014 a secret Facebook group was set up for women and gender non-conforming journalists and writers, entitled Binders Full of Women Writers. The initial group has spawned a number of sub-groups including journalism specialties, regional groups, or identities. A 2015 Guardian article stated that the group had more than 31,000 members at the time of writing.[16]

In 2017, a former Romney aide recovered the binders Romney was referring to and gave them to The Boston Globe.[17] They weigh 15 lbs, 6 oz.[18]


  1. ^ Parker, Suzi (October 17, 2012). "Mitt Romney's 'binders full of women'". Washington Post.
  2. ^ a b c d "Romney's 'Binder full of women' comment spills onto campaign trail". The Washington Post. October 15, 2012. Retrieved October 19, 2012.
  3. ^ Nicholas, Peter (October 18, 2012). "Biden Sticks to 'Binders' Theme to Attack Romney". Washington Wire - WSJ. Retrieved October 19, 2012.
  4. ^ Killough, Ashley (October 17, 2012). "Romney reacts to frenzy over 'binders' comment". CNN. Retrieved October 19, 2012.
  5. ^ "Binders full of Women". CNN. Retrieved October 18, 2012.
  6. ^ Franke-Ruta, Garance. "Second U.S. presidential debate of 2012". the Atlantic. Retrieved October 18, 2012.
  7. ^ Peralta, Eyder. "Presidential Debate Spins 'Binders Full Of Women' Meme, Fact Checks". NPR. Retrieved October 17, 2012.
  8. ^ "'Binders Full of Women' Spawns Three-Ring Circus on Web". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 18, 2012.
  9. ^ Grossman, Samantha (October 18, 2012). "Amazon's Binder Pages Flooded With Snarky Romney-Related Reviews". Time. Retrieved October 19, 2012.
  10. ^ Phillip, Abby (October 16, 2012). "Internet Takes Off With Mitt Romney's 'Binders Full of Women'". ABC News. Retrieved October 21, 2012.
  11. ^ Schultheis, Emily. "Obama: 'We don't have to collect a bunch of binders' to find qualified women". Politico. Retrieved March 23, 2013.
  12. ^ Phillip, Abby D. (October 17, 2012). "Romney Challenged on How He Got the Binder Full of Women Managers". ABC News. Retrieved October 22, 2012.; "Mind The Binder". The Phoenix. October 16, 2012. Archived from the original on February 21, 2013.; 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 Archived October 19, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus.
  13. ^ "Congressman Erik Paulsen's 'Binder full of women'". YouTube. 2012-10-23. Retrieved 2017-08-18.
  14. ^ Kaczynski, Andrew (February 26, 2013). "Jeopardy Features "Binder Full Of Women" Category". Buzzfeed News. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  15. ^ Fama, Jilian (February 26, 2013). "Jeopardy! Hosts 'A Binder Full of Women' Category". ABC News. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  16. ^ Enders, Caty (2015-08-05). "Binders Full of Women Writers: can a secret Facebook group be inclusive?". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-06-18.
  17. ^ O'Sullivan, Jim. "Romney's binders, still full of women, are unearthed". The Boston Globe. Retrieved April 11, 2017.
  18. ^ Borchers, Callum (2017-04-11). "Mitt Romney's 'binders full of women' are real. They weigh 15 pounds, 6 ounces". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2017-11-10.

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