Why I laughed at ‘Binders’…

So I watched the presidential debate last night (right, right, call me on saying ‘nails on a chalkboard’) all the way through. Luckily, early on in the debate I grabbed my laptop and logged in to Twitter. Why lucky? Because that made it so much more fun.

Romney made a comment about a lack of qualified female applicants to his cabinet as governor and his response to this lack was “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.”

Partly, it was the way he said it. His tone of voice betrayed an uncertainty in the phrase he was about to use. That made it a bit amusing, though I have to admit my feeling toward his comment was annoyance with a dose of outrage. Momentarily afterward, people I follow on Twitter posted such comments as:

"#Bindersfullofwomen"

I admit I laughed pretty hard at this one, because it was a surprise and the element of surprise is well-known to transform a non-sequitur statement with no humorous value into what people would call a ‘joke’. Also, I find the song ‘Pocket Full of Sunshine’ somewhat annoying, yet undoubtedly upbeat. Romney’s comment was certainly annoying, and suddenly through association, it became upbeat. However, I believe it was made into a joke by people who caught something seriously important and worthy of discussion in the original statement.

Why is the binders comment more than just a laugh? Why did it get so much attention?

For one thing, Romney’s using principles of affirmative action as his plan for how to extend a hand to women seeking employment. That could never be more than a temporary fix. I see nothing wrong with going out of one’s way to find qualified women to hire, however, the answer lies more so in helping women become qualified in the first place.

What does that mean for me as a woman? Maybe I set my sights higher. What does it mean for educators? To ensure fair treatment of all their female students, to avoid discrimination, to encourage women to pursue high-powered careers in politics, science, research, education, and the list goes on and on. What does it mean for hiring managers? Tell women who are not qualified for a job what steps they can take to become so! What does it mean for community enrichment programs? Seek out necessary qualifications for high-wage jobs and develop classes for women that teach those skills, to help us reach our highest potential.

What does it mean that the women Romney found by contacting women’s organizations had not applied for the position(s) in the first place? Does it mean they weren’t aware of the openings? Does it mean they were intimidated? Or does it signify something else?

I’m feeling good about enjoying humor, and getting to the heart of the issue.

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