Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Binders Full of Feminists

Binders full of women.

Yep. What may be one of the greatest rhetorical gaffes in history may have accidentally illustrated just what's wrong with all the politically-correct feminist tripe. The hoops politicians have to jump through to win women voters are getting out of control—and I'm not talking embroidery hoops here.*

The glass ceiling can't flatten
our ambition ... or this hair!
See, Romney made the "binders full of women" comment when discussing how he worked to hire women. This is after being asked a bogus glass ceiling question about how women make "72% less" than men for "the same" work. I mean really. Let's party like it's 1989. Or let's ask questions like Hillary Clinton is running (not just taking the fall for Obama's foreign policy failures a couple of weeks too late).

Back to the point at hand, Suzie-Audience-Member wanted to know how *sniff* the workplace *sniff sniff* was still SO UNFAIR *gasp sniff sob* that women made less and how that *humph* dirty capitalist Romney could live with himself. *sniff*

This puts Romney in a position where he has to sound like a jerk to answer the question.

Q: How did you work to get WOMEN good jobs?
A1: I looked through a bunch of qualified women HR compiled for me?
A2: I tried to fill all positions with women?
A3: I didn't, because clearly I hate women so much?

This isn't forced. No really.
None of these answers really sounds great, because when you ask someone what extra steps they went to to hire women, they're going to tell you all the extra steps that hiring women took, which makes it sound like hiring women is this great and inconvenient chore, and may or may not be indicative of actual events. If you ask a sexist question, don't be surprised when the answer sounds sexist.

Next, Romney explained how he worked to give women more flexibility in their hours because they asked for it. Despite the blogosphere's righteous indignation that any woman would possibly want to leave her office and make dinner, this is actually a great policy.

Just saving the world here.
See, last week I watched my younger siblings because my parents left town, and I'm the only family member around. So, for three and a half days, I pulled "double duty" as a law student and a suburban mom. And guess what? It was hard.

Let's not get carried away. On a full day, I have a whopping 3.4 hours of class. This is a far cry from the eight-hour standard work day. Yes, I also have homework, and no, those class hours aren't all consecutive. But from the start of my first class to the end of my last one is a span of just over six hours. It's a pretty "flexible schedule."

Defenestration: history/vocab
jokes in the making.
I'd then head back across town to beat rush hour, and say hi to my sister, who had gotten a ride home from school. I'd pick up my brother from football practice, we'd eat dinner (which my sister nicely made, even though I like cooking), and I wouldn't do any law school homework, because I'd want to talk to my siblings. We joked about defenestration and denominations and other intellectual things, because my siblings are awesome and hilarious. And guess what? They're not even MY kids.

I'd like to get married and have kids and get to spend time with them. And yes. I'd be willing to sacrifice a few rungs on the legal ladder to do that. And no, it's not because finger-painting is way easier than litigation.

What I've just said would get me all sorts of hate mail from feminist groups if feminists read fashion and economics blogs (don't worry - I lost them at "stilettos"). But let's stop and think about this for a minute.

I don't do nature swings.
I'm a woman. Not to brag, but I'm a pretty smart and driven woman at that. I'm not really into touchy-feely "spend your precious moments on people you love" sentimentality. And I'm not allowed to give up any of my ambition to have kids, because it would be some sort of insult to the feminist movement.

Well guess what? If we're all about empowering women, let's actually empower women, and not just a bunch of angry butch bloggers stuck in some parallel universe where the only way to get hired is to eschew skirts, fight for sex-based quotas, and then be indignant when businessmen look through "binders full of women" to make hiring decisions per your request. Let's quit acting like being a powerhouse in the corporate world is the opposite of being able to whip up a delicious dinner and help your kids with math homework.

Admittedly, I'm happy to have career options open to me as a single 20-something female. But it's insulting to women who broke into industries and gracefully juggled families and career aspirations in much more hostile environments to pretend that my world is full of discrimination. I have lots of opportunities—so instead of complaining that they're not good enough, I'm going to say thank you and take advantage of them. I want kids, I want a career, and I'm willing to sacrifice the latter for the former. So sue me.

Oxymoron? Hardly.
If women can balance a career and a family, but would like more flexible work hours to do so, shouldn't we let them make that choice? Or are we going to pretend that women are only worthwhile if they abandon all family life to throw themselves into a career?

Feminists are putting women in either/or binders. Romney and other capitalists are letting them out.

I drove kids to school and learned the law in:
Black below-the-knee pencil skirt, teal semi-sheer sleeveless button-up blouse, black cami, black blazer, black rhinestone hoop earrings, gold and gunmetal watch, gold geode-inspired ring, and black and cream snakeskin pumps.

Oh, you stitch those flowers girl. 
*For those of you wondering, an embroidery hoop is what ladies (and probably a few men) use to stretch a piece of embroidery out so they can continue beautifying it. They are readily available at craft stores and when Pinterest finds out they exist, it will be a big day. Here's a picture. 


  1. Are the "Binders Full of Women" similar to the "Joy Book" on Big Love?

  2. You know I adore you, dear heart, but I have to tell you that you've constructed a passel of straw feminists and beaten them to death.
    Characterizing the feminist movement as "politically correct tripe" and feminists as "angry butch bloggers" who hate great shoes and making dinner is sort of a tired, worn-out rhetorical tactic. I realize that a lot of that might have been hyperbole for comic effect, but there are better ways to make your point--that the "binders full of women" comment was innocuous--than caricaturing the arguments of those who were concerned by the governor's remark.
    You may know this: I consider myself to be a feminist.
    You definitely know this: I LOVE men. And cooking. And shoes.
    I thought the "binders full of women" comment was kind of a weird thing to say, but it didn't really bother me.
    I'm not blind to the fact that many women make career choices which lead to lower wages.
    I AM sort of concerned that a potential employer might make decisions about my salary based on my lack of a y chromosome and his preconceived notions about what my career choices are therefore likely to be.
    I AM of the opinion that women the world over often don't get the respect they deserve, and that disrespect extends to the workplace.
    Let's talk about those concerns, and not about the putative butchness/inadequacy in the kitchen of those who raise them.

  3. Rosie,

    Thanks for your comment.
    My reply is two-fold:
    1. Yes, a lot of things are for hyperbolic comic effect. I apologize if my snark ever crosses the line.
    2. I am actually frustrated with a particular breed of feminist - namely, the ones lampooned above. Considering how difficult it is to pin down (excuse the pun) that term, though, I think there's some confusion.

    I certainly have ideas that some may (and have, in the past) labeled "feminist." I care deeply about equal opportunities for women in education and in most industries (but I'm not convinced that 50/50 m/f ratios are the best bellweather - particularly in industries where many women would rather NOT work for any number of personal reasons).

    But I also think at least in the US, the bulk of those battles have been won. I'm now ready for a new phase of feminism - one that recognizes that you can love men and cooking and shoes and still do a killer job at work. Namely, I want a feminism that looks a lot more like you, and a lot less like the bra-burners of 1969.

    Allow me a brief anecdote:
    All summer, I was the only woman in my workplace (there was one other woman who worked there, but she worked alone, in a completely different department). My work environment was 83% male, and every single man working there made substantially more money than I did for the same work. Occasionally customers commented about my sex.
    On the surface, this looks like blatant sexism, and the exact problems women (and a number of men) have fought to fix.

    In reality, I worked at Jos. A. Bank, selling menswear, which is a job that does not appeal to many women. That store had been trying to hire a woman for a long time, and none had applied - so I benefitted from my sex. (It's also in retail - which as an industry doesn't usually struggle to hire women, and other locations in Texas had more women than ours did, including female store managers.) I made substantially less money because I had no previous experience in retail, and everyone else was a veteran salesman. And yes. I had customers who told me I had nice legs. But that wasn't my boss's fault.

    Granted, I'm young, and have been richly blessed with opportunities. But the fact that I'm allowed to go to law school, and that I'm only barely in the minority, the fact that I went to a college with far more women than men, the fact that American women are earning increasingly more than American men - all of these facts seem to be saying that we may not live in a perfect world, but women are getting a lot more respect in the workplace. In light of that, I think we have more room to be women. So feminists who insist on treating women like men seems to be both outdated and inefficient. And as an economist and snarker, I love a good jab at the inefficient.

    My gripe is not with all who'd label themselves "feminists," but only with the ones I described above. Were all feminists women more like you, the world would be a far more equal (and dare I say - stylish) place.

  4. Hm. The difficulty here, of course, is that you made less money because you were less experienced. The very real problem that women in this country have is that even in positions in which they are exactly as (and sometimes more) qualified as their male colleagues, they make less. In fact, they make 72% on the dollar compared to their male counterparts (not 72% "less," a factual error on your part). Just a thought!

  5. Hey Anonymous,

    Thanks for pointing out my statistical error - I'll take $0.73 over $0.27 on the dollar any day!

    The problem is when women make less money than men for the same work - but I don't think that number is often reflected in statistics. For example, in my job I was paid both a lower hourly wage and less commission based on experience, but I had the same job title as men with more experience who were in a higher hourly and commission bracket (we were all "sales executives"). Considering the disparity in experience is not readily apparent from our titles, it looks like I'm getting paid less for the same work - and since there's no way to see experience from our job titles, that would have been misrepresented in a statistic like the one above.

    I'm not saying the world is a neat and tidy little place where the sun always shines and chocolate has no calories. I am saying that the sun might be shining more often than we think - and that cloudy days may be caused by something other than a tremendously biased sky. My own (limited) experience indicates there are more factors at play here. When I've retired from a long and illustrious career, I'll be better able to assess workplace and payroll inequality. Until then, I think the forecast indicates it's only partly cloudy, and I'm grateful for that.