Binders Full of Women: Ladies and Gentlemen, Your New Political Meme

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TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP / Getty Images

President Barack Obama listens to the Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney during the second presidential debate, the only held in a townhall format, at the David Mack Center at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, Oct. 16, 2012.

If the vice-presidential debate last week will be remembered for incumbent Joe Biden’s denunciation of malarkey, the defining catchphrase of Tuesday’s presidential debate was Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women.” In an evening full of surprising comments (“gangbangers,” anyone?), the former Mass. governor’s odd turn of phrase inspired thousands of tweets with the hash-tag #bindersfullofwomen, dozens of internet memes and even a song.

Asked whether he supported equal pay for women, the Republican candidate recalled an episode from when he served as governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007. “I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men,” he told the town-hall audience of undecided voters.

“I went to my staff, and I said, ‘How come all the people for these jobs are – are all men.’ They said, ‘Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.’ And I said, ‘Well, gosh, can’t we – can’t we find some – some women that are also qualified?”

“And – and so we – 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.”

The phrase was the third most-searched term on Google, according to Politico. The Facebook group Binders Full of Women had attracted 32,000 likes by the end of the debate and 212,000 likes in the following six hours. The rehashed twitter account @Romneys_Binder has gathered more than 13,000 followers. @RomneyBinders, meanwhile, has more than 30,000.

But the clearinghouse for all things Binded has to be the Binders Full Of Women Tumblr, which in the 12 hours since the debate has collected dozens of internet memes, including one with the Austin Powers movie series villain Fat Bastard shouting “Get in my binder” or one with Playboy Magazine Founder Hugh Hefner holding a binder and saying “Oh sure, I’ve got hundreds of them.”

According to a report by the Boston Phoenix, Romney was actually given a binder full of women when he entered office, but it was prepared by the bipartisan womens’ group MassGAP, which was lobbying for more women in senior leadership positions in the state government. The article points out that the percentage of women in senior-level, appointed positions actually declined during Romney’s tenure from 30% to 27.6%.

The web domains and .net were quickly bought and set up with Democratic campaign ads by the Obama-supporting Super PAC American Bridge, Politico reported earlier.

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