Governor Romney and the Ladies Fair


Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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118 Responses

  1. Avatar Kazzy says:

    This echoed my thoughts exactly. By attempting to reach women, he doubled-down on many of the things that are most inhibiting to women’s equality, particularly the societal assumption and pressure to “make dinner for the kids”.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

      I think that the President has less influence upon societal assumptions and cultural pressures than even the price of gas.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

        Oh, yes, submitted wholly. But he didn’t have to reaffirm those assumptions and pressures.Report

        • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kazzy says:

          And if he ignores them, he gets seen as an out of touch Colbert stereotype. (e.g. “I don’t see gender”) Like I said, he can’t win with this.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kolohe says:

            Sure he could.

            He could say that the demands on women often unfairly outweigh those on men. As such, this sometimes requires a different approach to recruiting, hiring, and retaining women. While it would be ideal if we could level the playing field outside of the workplace, for the time being we must do what we can to account for this unlevel playing field inside of it.

            Going with , “Well, dem women need to get food on the table so how dey supposed to work?” was sub-ideal. And not even close.Report

          • Avatar Sam in reply to Kolohe says:

            He can’t win? What if he says, “Look, I was wrong when I opposed the Lily Leadbetter Act. It is a travesty that women doing equal work aren’t paid equally, and I have every intention of pursuing policy which rewards women for the work they do.” Maybe the Social Conservatives would have punished him but who else are they going to vote for?Report

  2. Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark says:

    I think equally effective was Romney’s trope that he would make the economy so strong that eventually employers would have to settle for women employees…Report

  3. Avatar Anne says:

    Great post Tod and pretty much exactly what was going through my head as I listened to Romney. His answer just reinforced my belief that he does not care and does not have a clue as to what is important to women. I mean really they knew of NO women qualified for cabinet posts?! I think what that means is that Romney, and his apparently all male team, don’t believe that women are qualified for the job. It reads to me like he went searching for “token” women to put in his administration because well you know women should be home making dinner for the kids.Report

  4. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    “if you’re a woman I suspect the biggest takeaway is that the Governor and his transition team knew of stacks and stacks of men they thought were qualified to manage people and departments, but couldn’t think of one woman. ”

    And that dirty bastard proceeded to go and ask for help finding some. I mean, the unbelievable cheek of that man, to admit that this was an area where he didn’t have much knowledge; the sheer gall of actually recognizing a problem and looking for guidance about solving it.

    I mean, far better if he’d just bulled ahead, saying “of course there ain’t no fillies for the job, they’re all back home raisin’ kids just like they’re s’pose ta be!” Because then he wouldn’t be so disingenuously acting like he cared, right? (I mean, it’s obvious that that lying sack of lying lies couldn’t possibly actually care.)Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to DensityDuck says:

      Asking is an acceptable option if you don’t have a better option.

      That he didn’t have a better option is troubling.

      This man worked in business for how long? He couldn’t think of a single qualified woman he could select for his cabinet?Report

      • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Kazzy says:

        Beth Myers, Romney’s chief of staff, had worked on his campaign. This is Romney; he lies even when the truth would help him.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to MikeSchilling says:

          owch. that’s… that’s just brutally dumb. D.U.M.B.Report

        • Avatar Kolohe in reply to MikeSchilling says:

          People that you bring in to run the campaign are generally not the people you bring into run the government. David Plouffe for instance never worked directly for the current administration (only part time as an outside consultant) and Axelrod only did for a short time and then only as a political adviser.

          But facts don’t matter and I’m just being whiny.Report

          • Avatar DRS in reply to Kolohe says:

            Facts DO matter and your defense of Romney would be better if you started using them. However points for recognizing that you’re being whiny. Now stop twisting people’s words around and come up with a rational defense.Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to Kolohe says:

            Hiring trolls as cabinet secretaries seems like a poor idea, yes.
            Mark Penn was all through Clinton’s business, for a long long time.Report

          • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Kolohe says:

            “Wow, I had to do this expensive, time-consuming, high-powered search to find any qualified women, and the whole time there you were in the next office over. Who would have thunk it?”Report

      • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Kazzy says:

        Yeah, asking is better than ignoring the issue, but there’s an element of wearing a condom while teaching to it.

    • Avatar Kim in reply to DensityDuck says:

      Is it just me, or is anyone else kinda offended that he needed to go to women’s groups?
      I’m sorry, but where I’m from, you call in subject matter experts. You want the best
      negotiator, you pull in ten negotiators, and you Find The Best One.

      He wasn’t (I don’t think) trying for The Best Woman. Or the most Feminist one.

      Condi Rice didn’t get pulled out of no NOW binder.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to DensityDuck says:

      Let me share a personal anecdote that I think is related…

      My school makes a big deal about Halloween. Last year, I noticed a lot of families opted to keep their children home on this day as they didn’t recognize the holiday or they did but did not celebrate it the way our school did. The families that I knew that did this were all African or African-American. I was confused and a bit concerned about this. A wondered if there were subcultures within the black community that did not recognize Halloween and if this was something that ought to make us reconsider our celebration. But I didn’t know for sure.

      Fortunately, I had made close acquaintance with a woman who was both a parent in the school and an educator herself (at a different school) and whose family was among those who did not celebrate the holiday. I reached out to her, shared my observations, and asked her help on better understanding the issue. It turns out that the difference was more along religious lines than racial lines.

      Regardless, I think it would have looked bad if I, the “Coordinator for Diversity and Inclusion” in my school, had to reach out to a group like the local chapter of the NAACP to get this question answered. How qualified could I be for the position if I didn’t know enough black folks personally and well-enough that I could first ask them?

      How qualified to be President, how qualified to address women’s issues can someone be if they and their underlings can’t think of a single qualified woman?Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kazzy says:

        This speaks more to his history as a businessman than anything else.

        He went through his businessland as a businessman and didn’t see this – you know, as a supposed businessleader and all that – until he left business for politics.

        What, in all his years at Bain, taking over other companies and whatnot, he never had a case where he had to make a decision about a company policy and some woman executive wanting to take longer for maternity? He never thought of this as a problem or an issue or even noticed it until he got into politics?Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to DensityDuck says:

      Actually, no. The group of women, MassGAP, had begun putting together the ‘binder’ of women with skills for cabinet-level positions in the State Government before the election.

      They gave Romney the binder.

      And by the end of his term, the numbers of women in executive positions had declined to levels lower then when he was sworn in.

      Now I’m might glad he did opt to use that binder. But he didn’t recognize there was a problem, he was told — by women — that there was a problem. And he put women in charge of departments he felt ‘suitable’ for women, not departments he thought important.Report

    • Avatar Michelle in reply to DensityDuck says:

      DD–Romney’s binder gaffe was embedded in a big fat Romney lie. He didn’t actually request a list of qualified female candidates:

      So, not only did he not know of one women he could invite to be part of his administration, but also the only reason he got his “binder of women” was someone else provided it. He’s clueless.Report

  5. Avatar MikeSchilling says:

    From the National Review piece Tod links to:

    the only 40-year-old woman Jack Nicholson has ever seen naked is Kathy Bates in that horrific hot-tub scene (emphasis added).

    Tod is right, Republicans. Shut up, now, while there still might be a few women without cable, cell phones, or mail service who don’t know exactly what you think of then.Report

  6. Avatar Kolohe says:

    This is what I mean when I say this question was a classic Ackbarian trap.

    Romney is going to receive no credit for anything he said or did.

    The President receives no blame for doing only doing the bare minimum 15 pieces of flair on his first day of office, and discussing Pell Grants.Report

    • Avatar Sam in reply to Kolohe says:

      Can you explain what he deserves credit for?Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Kolohe says:

      I don’t necessarily agree. I think in political debates, you *want* questions that force you to tackle in-the-room elephants.

      For example, the two most obviously slighted questions of the night were the one (to Obama) saying “I voted for you 4 years ago, I’m very disappointed, why should I even consider voting for your now?” and the one (to Romney) saying “A whole bunch of this mess is from before Obama, so how do I know you’re not the next Bush?”

      Each guy used the questions to(somewhat) separate themselves from story lines that made them look bad, and each came off looking stronger because of it. (In fact, I though the “Here’s why I’m not Bush” answer was by far Romney’s strongest of the night, and was the most compelling reason he gave all night to consider voting for him.)Report

    • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Kolohe says:

      Romney is going to receive no credit for anything he said or did.

      Fishing fact checkers! Why can’t they just be gentlemen and take him at his word?Report

    • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Kolohe says:

      Speaking as a female, Romney deserves no credit for this.

      Honestly, there wasn’t one intelligent capable woman on his campaign staff? Not one that he’d ever noticed in all his years in business that he might consider tapping for a cabinet post?

      And while I, as a parent, think flextime is important, guess what? My husband is the one who gets home in time to make dinner. Obama’s reply that this isn’t a women’s issue but a family issue was dead on target. He didn’t need more than that to bring the contrast home.

      Oh, and Mitt didn’t actually answer the question. What would he do to rectify the pay gap? Apparently nothing. Somehow, magically (because govt doesn’t create jobs!), the economy will become so strong once he’s elected that business will be desperate for workers and therefore willing to bend to ‘lady issues’ like fair pay and reasonable work hours.

      Argh. I wasn’t planning on voting for him anyway, but this makes me want to go out and canvas for Obama.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to bookdragon says:


        The strong position for women would be not only stressing the importance of flex time, but stressing how important it is for all parents. Men do the child-care thing, too. They go to soccer games and plays and pick kids up from music lessons. They stay home with sick kids. Heck, some of them are single parents, raising the children without a mom in the house at all.

        Sometimes, feminism means pushing for equal rights for men, even when they don’t realize the need them.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Kolohe says:

      Do you really want to make Office Space references in support of candidate Bill Lumbergh?Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Kolohe says:

      Apparently it’s not even good enough to stop being wrong; you’re now required to never have been wrong in the first place.Report

  7. Avatar Roger says:

    Romney botched this question just as badly as all the others. He lost all his momentum in my opinion last night. I cannot imagine voting for this guy.

    The interesting thing is that he could never have told the truth, which is that on the whole women are paid fairly but that they have different career goals, interests, skills, work habits, tradeoffs and risk tolerances.Report

    • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Roger says:

      And they throw like girls!Report

    • Avatar Sam in reply to Roger says:

      Hey ladies, good news! Roger says you’re getting paid fairly and that it’s your own damned fault when you’re getting paid less for doing the same work!Report

      • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Sam says:

        Yeah, the fact that guys with kids don’t get mommy-tracked is obviously just women’s own fault for having the bad judgment to be born with XX chromosomes.

        ::rolls eyes::

        Conservatives really are just bad at this.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

      I think there is two things at play…

      Looking at women’s aggregate salaries and men’s aggregate salaries runs into the very issues that Roger rightly highlights.

      But they cannot explain the entirety of the gap that exists between men and women who do the same job, with the same credentials and same experience.

      So, really, it depends on what you’re looking at. Will the average female salary equal the average male salary? Not likely. But should male and female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies have great disparities in their pay? No.Report

      • Avatar Sam in reply to Kazzy says:


        Point of order: why would we ever, EVER, compare salaries in a general way? Why wouldn’t we compare within professions between similar people?Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Sam says:

          Unless they are playing loose with their language, I often here people say that women, on average, earn X% of men. If they are talking about position specific averages, I stand corrected. But it doesn’t always appear that way.Report

          • Avatar Roger in reply to Kazzy says:

            Sam and Bookdragon,

            Did you even read the question above that was asked of Romney that I am responding to? It is exactly as Kazzy states.

            The facts reveal that women work substantially fewer hours than men. They choose substantially different professions. They tend to work indoors. They rarely ever choose hazardous, dangerous jobs (I believe the work fatality stats are over ten times higher for men). Finally, they tend to prioritize other things other than work, especially as they age (and who can argue with that, seems to me they are choosing right, no?) .

            When you adjust for these factors, there is no wage differential, indeed, younger professional women tend to make more than men.

            And for the record, Bookdragon, people who disagree with you are not necessarily “conservatives”, they may just be better informed. I am not really sure of the latter, but I clearly am not the former.Report

            • Avatar Sam in reply to Roger says:

              You’re comparing unlike people in unlike professions and then dismissing the complaint. Compare like people within like professions and then get back to me.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Roger says:


              Do you have numbers to back up the factors you outline explaining 100% of the gap?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                I also think it is worthwhile to examine how many of those factors are ones that women naturally choose and how much are the result of larger forces.

                Using child rearing as an example, how much of the decision to stay home and raise children is one that women would make voluntarily in a vacuum and how much is because of broader social pressures (including a history of getting less pay)? I’m confident it is a “both/and” situation but I don’t know to begin dividing the pie.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Kazzy says:

                This is rather clearly the larger issue, and it’s much harder to figure out how to use policy to correct it. Affirmative action helps, but early education and a general changing of cultural norms would be far more effective.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                As JB said above, there is little to nothing POTUS can do about the *real* issue.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Kazzy says:

                Which is not to say that he shouldn’t say something about it. In fact, I think you can easily make an intellectual case that a great deal of sex segregation in jobs is due to the distribution of domestic responsibilities, that it would be a good idea for us to think about fixing that distribution in our own lives, and that it’s not the FBI’s job to make husbands do housework or pick the kids up from school.

                The problem, of course, is that Democrats don’t want to hear about the first part, Republicans don’t want to hear about the second part, and no presidential candidate is non-robotic enough to get anyone to laugh at the third part.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                Oh, yea. The President can prove a powerful symbol. But he can’t push legislation or enact an executive order to shift societal norms.

                I suppose we could elect a female POTUS. That might move some needles.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                When was the last time that a President successfully pushed for the changing of cultural norms (as opposed to switching sides when opinion polls indicated that such would be a smart move)?Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jaybird says:

                Actually, there was a decent amount of evidence that Obama supporting gay marriage actually moved the needle among black people by a heavy chunk (basically changing it from 40-60 opposition to 55-45 favorability).Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Jaybird says:

                See my comment immediately above.

                To your specific question, though, I can’t see how it matters. We should have presidential candidates who don’t lie, who admit the limitations of their power, and who are especially willing to take moral stands on issues where they believe their base is wrong.

                That we don’t have such candidates and never actually will doesn’t really detract from the argument.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

                women who make more money than their husbands do less housework.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Kazzy says:

                For this to be true, there would have to be evidence that it’s only women who’ve opted for a child-rearing break that are paid less; and women in similar positions who’ve not had children would show no pay gap.

                I could be wrong here, but I’ve certainly never heard of a study demonstrating this. Have you?

                But I have had the experience of being paid less then men I supervised (also a violation of state law, union rules, and federal law,) and when I asked why, was told ‘they have families.’ Those men I supervised where hired on the same day as I was, and had less experience. Go figure. They had families; so me, a woman without a child at the time, should get paid less.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to zic says:

                that’s when you walk.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Kim says:

                No. I got a big raise. Doubled what they were legally required, since they did not want me to walk, since I was very, very able.Report

              • Avatar DRS in reply to Kim says:

                zic rules. Good for you.Report

              • Avatar kim in reply to Kim says:

                and this is why zic is happy, and there’s a whole boatload of folks without chutzpah who aren’t. 😉Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Kazzy says:

                Friend passes this along:


                She says it’s the canonical finding in the field.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Kazzy says:


                Here is a great place to start.




                From there if you search GENDER you will find a plethora of studies, facts, charts and such on hours worked, occupations chosen and such. Perry brings this up as a regular topic.

                I agree with Ryan’s professor.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

                Thanks, Roger. To what extent do you think the self-selection is a function of societal norms, pressures, or segregation (some of which may no longer be active but which still resonates via legacy)?

                In a nutshell, do women tend to choose to teach because there is something about women that makes them want to teach or because spciety sends a message that that is a more appropriate career for them? Again, both/and is my guess.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Kazzy says:

                I agree it is a bit of both. I will say that women are different, and I really, really respect balance in one’s life. Most of the really successful people I know were screwed up human beings. I’ve seen the top of the corporate ladder, and it is not someplace a balanced person with a family and normal personality would ever want to be. Kind of like politics.Report

              • Avatar kim in reply to Roger says:

                *snort* “you want how many goats? WHERE?”Report

            • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Roger says:

              You know, I almost would have apologized, except that I read further and saw that your basis was AEI studies. Somehow a conservative think tank doesn’t strike me as an impartial source (especially given some of the other articles on that site).

              For myself, I have seen the difference in engineering – a more than full-time profession in which I have an advanced degree. I’m not even sure it’s conscious discrimination so much as a boy’s club atmosphere and the impression that women ‘just don’t look like engineers’, so while we get put on display when someone wants to score diversity points, we don’t tend to get the same opportunities for networking and advancement.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to bookdragon says:

                Actually the links take you to studies and data from the labor department, the Wall Street Journal the Bureau of Labor statistics and so forth. The blog was originally Mark Perry’s, but last month it was absorbed by AEI, of which Mark is a member.

                If you know of problems with the data please share.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to bookdragon says:


                I get your hesitation there, but the AEI report was by Mark Perry, who is a fine economist, and not a political axe-grinder.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

        When I was in college in the 80s, discrepancy between men and women at the executive level was explained in terms of the rat moving through the snake in a way I found quite compelling.

        The sex of an executive no longer mattered, conservatives argued, but because it had mattered for so long it was going to take a decade or so for young women to be properly educated, and for women in the workforce to gain the experience their male counterparts had. By the mid-90s everything would be equal.

        That argument made a lot of sense to me. So too, I must confess, have all of the subsequent arguments. They’re all quite logical.

        Still, a generation later it’s hard not to shake the growing sense that there’s something else at play here.Report

    • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Roger says:

      My good friend, a Harvard demographer, says:

      “In a nutshell, there is not much evidence of within job pay discrim. Gap is 25-30% ish, 2/3 of which is due to occupational sex seg, most of rest to firm sex seg.”

      She said that in a text message, which is why it appears the way it does.Report

  8. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    Here’s the thing that I keep thinking- they keep trying to sell Romney as this high-powered corporate boss archetype and, aside from the fact that he keeps coming off as Bill Lumbergh, don’t a lot, maybe most people, kind of hate their boss?Report

  9. Avatar zic says:

    For the ladies, Obama says, “cover their reproductive health-care costs.” Not just contraception, but preventive screenings.

    Now apparently this is controversial for those withe certain religious beliefs. I presume those same folk are solidly pro-life. Yet it’s the most pro-life actions a president has taken. Come to find out, when women don’t have to pay out-of-pocket for contraception, they have fewer abortions.

    Romney, on the other hand, belongs to a church where every member who happens to be male is a member of the priesthood. And no woman need apply.

    For the ladies, and the men who love them as partners, not chattel, who’s got your back?Report

  10. Avatar Damon says:

    “The obvious response – the only response for a conservative Republican – was to say some variation of this: “As a champion of the free market, I believe everyone should be paid exactly what their contributions are worth – no more, and no less. That should be just as true for women as it is for men, and discrimination should never be tolerated.”

    I would have also accepted “The study was bogus and that has been well documented” but that wouldn’t have been the “best” answer, would it?Report