From the “binders full of women” remark to his fumbling of Lorraine Osorio’s name, Mitt Romney’s debate performance was nothing short of terrible when it came to addressing the needs and concerns of women across America.
1) “Binders Full of Women” Really, Now?
His answer just screamed, “Hey, I’m not sexist! I had women in my cabinet!”
So he gave himself a pat on the back for instituting a bit of affirmative action when choosing his cabinet as a newly-elected Massachusetts governor. Anyone could’ve seen that coming, even if it’s not what he actually did.
But instead of standing flat-footed in front of a young woman and millions of viewers, explaining why he opposed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act before it was passed, he constructed a “bridge to nowhere” all his own — shifting the topic to nebulous assertions about the need for a stronger economy. That’s a point no one can disagree with, right?
But “equal pay for equal work” is irrespective of the economy’s health. It goes beyond simply welcoming female faces into workplace spaces. Workplace diversity is one thing, but what happens when women arrive? Often, they’re still not being paid the same as their male counterparts.
That’s precisely why Romney’s “binders full of women” remark likened qualified women in the workforce to brides in a mail order catalog. See which ones you like, make picks and have them report for duty, right? No, that’s not how it’s done in 2012.
It was also another moment for him to say or do anything to get elected — even if he dances around an issue or lies by omission.
Even one of his top advisers admitted his opposition to the bill. Apparently, he wouldn’t make attempts at repeal if elected. So why couldn’t he just say it?
2) Perpetuating Stereotypes of Working Moms
Sure, he described the unique experience of his then chief of staff, who was a working mother with two children still in school. It would be irresponsible to deride her situation and expressed needs.
Yet Romney made it seem that only working mothers have a valid reason for desiring flexible hours and some semblance of work-life balance. Heck, many folks would rather be home around 5 p.m. as opposed to working late nights — and not all of them are mothers. It’s not uncommon for employees to desire a schedule that allows people to handle their responsibilities while contributing to business needs.
Still, many working mothers (and fathers) find other ways to ensure their children are properly supervised and cared for. If they have trusted friends and family members who are available, the kids stay there until it’s time to go home for the evening. If it’s affordable, day care or babysitters are go-to options.
Working mothers are not inherently predisposed to assume all caretaking responsibility for their children, nor should it be assumed working mothers’ job performance will suffer because of caretaking responsibilities. These are unfortunate gender stereotypes that sometimes reflect in hiring and promotion decisions, whether obvious or not. It’s also unlawful per Title VII.
But this response to “equal pay for equal work” doesn’t scratch the surface of the original question. And if this isn’t a reality for women, it creates yet another income gap that being a mother already adds to the equation by virtue of having one or more mouths to feed.
And as for that Paycheck Fairness Act, which seeks to close that motherhood gap? Mum’s the word for Mitt.
3) Blaming Single Mothers for Gun Violence
If skirting around “equal pay for equal work” wasn’t enough, Romney demonized single parents while answering a voter question about access to assault weapons.
According to Romney, children with mom and dad in the home — two parents — will “help bring people away from violence and give them opportunity,” and decrease the “prospect of living in poverty.”
He says we should change the way our culture works with regard to parenting: “But gosh to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone, that’s a great idea.”
Clearly Romney’s playing into conservative tropes of “traditional family values” eroding from America’s social fabric and causing all sorts of ills like violence. So single mothers, many of whom also struggle with wage fairness, access to health care and reproductive resources, are a natural target for shame tactics geared toward cuing nostalgia for the classic “nuclear family” model.
And, on top of that, he blames single mothers for being single in the first place, all while ignoring various countervailing factors. What about the fathers who abandon the child? Or the death of a spouse? The list goes on.
He dare not take a stance against assault weapons for fear of angering NRA allies, so he chose an easier target with less lobbying power. Way to take a cheap shot, Mitt.
4) Disrespecting the Moderator … Who Happens to be Female
Running over a debate moderator just doesn’t bode well generally. It’s seen as rude, unprofessional and even disrespectful.
Whether Romney likes it or not, those feelings are exacerbated when the moderator’s a woman.
Walking towards Crowley in a power stance, throwing his hands up at her in dismissal of her requests to cut statements short or follow speaking order — all measures of Romney’s bad form Tuesday night. He had no interest in following the format. Romney instead playing hellbent on asserting his will to rebut what he considered “lies” from Obama, even if it meant railroading another voter’s question or ignoring Crowley’s pleas to move on.
This came after weeks of Romney gaining ground with women voters after struggling in recent months to overcome Obama’s 18-plus point advantage. In polling that followed the first presidential debate. Romney and Obama were virtually tied with likely and registered women voters.
It didn’t seem like Romney acknowledged that reality whatsoever Tuesday night. If he’s at all concerned with how women voters perceive him, he needed a different approach with Crowley on Tuesday.
That’s not to say he couldn’t respectfully challenge Crowley’s moderating methods, either. She didn’t get a free pass from either candidate. Yet Obama raised challenges to Crowley in a more modest and calm manner as opposed to Romney’s aggressive tone and physical positioning towards Crowley.
And when Romney interrupted her on multiple occasions, it didn’t sit well with many voters. CNN’s focus group during the debate reacted sharply negative to his interruptions.
His behavior with Crowley may provide voters insight into how he’d approach women voicing their issues if he’s elected president. Would he steamroll over women on paycheck fairness and reproductive rights all for the sake of getting the last word? You betcha, if the trajectory of his campaign serves as any indication.
As MSNBC host Joe Scarborough remarked Wednesday on Morning Joe, “you don’t run over a female moderator … It’s problematic.”
5) For Heaven’s Sake, Her Name is Lorraine!
This isn’t as petty as it may seem. Perception matters in debates like these.
Candy Crowley introduced a Latina voter by name — Lorraine Osorio — to ask her question from the audience. And it took Romney not one, not two, but four (yes, four) times to ask how to pronounce “Lorraine” and proceed with the question.
And it wasn’t his answer on immigration that stirred a conversation, if Twitter analytics are any indication. The most tweeted moment of the entire debate, with nearly 110,000 tweets per minute, was Romney mispronouncing Lorraine’s name.
ROMNEY: Is it Loraina?
QUESTION: Yes, Lorraine.
While this fumble might be embarrassing g and ultimately inconsequential, Osorio didn’t pay much attention to it, as stated in her interview with Univision on Wednesday.
Perhaps the name Lorraine or Lorena wasn’t in Romney’s “binder full of women.” That could explain his hopeless name fumbling.