Photo Credit: Shannon Stapleton-Pool/Getty Images
In last night’s spirited debate, Mitt Romney made remarks that provided a new “Big Bird” moment for the week -- a few poorly considered and strangely phrased words that set the Internet ablaze. In this case those words were “binders full of women.”
Romney was speaking in response to a question from an audience member about gender equality at work. He said that when he put together his cabinet after being elected governor of Massachusetts, he told his staff he wanted to consider more female applicants who were qualified to do the job. "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," Romney said.
At its worst, it was a moment that revealed Romney as an out-of-touch candidate more interested in filling quotas for women than actually providing equal rights for them. At its best, it was an instant in-joke that wildly entertained those watching -- with “binders full of women” the third fastest-rising search term on Google during the debate time frame, even above “fact check” -- and it continues to engage the Twittersphere even the next day.
The Tumblr “Binders Full of Women” popped up almost immediately, posting a slew of gratuitous jokes related to women and binders -- for instance an image of an old ‘80s-era Trapper Keeper binder with “Women” scrawled on its cover. Several posts riffed off this summer’s meme, “Texts From Hillary,” in one case showing that famous photo of Clinton in sunglasses superimposed with the words, “Romney still uses binders? LOL.”
Over on Facebook, the “Binders Full of Women” page had close to 300,000 likes by Wednesday morning. Its purpose was to turn the joke into a learning opportunity by posting an array of articles and resources concerning equal pay for equal work. (The liberal super PAC American Bridge also immediately bought the domain name BindersFullOfWomen.com to serve as a place for educating voters about Romney’s policies concerning women.)
Pages like “Binders Full of Gays,” “Binders Full of Homosexuals,” “Binders Full of Men,” and “Binders Full of Women Against Romney” were also among the slew of new Facebook pages that cropped up around the joke (with less success).
The odd phrase was trending on Twitter last night, with many high-profile personalities and media outlets taking their swipes. Among those was Vanity Fair, which chimed in, “Newt Gingrich, watching from home: 'Binders Full of Women' is a great name for my memoir.” Zing!
Alesandra Dubin is a Los Angeles-based writer and iVillage’s Chief Election News Blogger. Follow her on Twitter: @alicedubin.