Immediately after tonight’s debate, Megyn Kelly — anchor of Fox News debate coverage — went on a rant about how horrible the questions were, in particular highlighting the focus on women.
KELLY: And the questions! 11 questions asked in all, and some of which will certainly be discussed tomorrow. Topics that we haven’t heard at all in this campaign — equal pay for women, in fact there were a lot of women’s issues discussed…abortion, contraception, women’s pay as I mentioned. Some might argue it was obvious pandering to women because the female vote is so important in this election.
To be clear, there was one question about women. Total pander.
How did the candidates do on that question, which was actually about equal pay for equal work? The President pointed out that he signed legislation allowing women to sue over pay discrimination. He went on to talk about Romney’s support for the Blunt Amendment and defunding Planned Parenthood, correctly suggesting that access to contraception and childcare are critical if women are going to compete in the workplace. DING DING DING. Controlling when and how many children you have is essential if you want to get an education or have a career. And when quality childcare costs more than you make it wages (thanks in part to making 72% of what a man makes), that’s a problem for working women.
Mitt Romney, for his part, stayed away from the question of whether he’d support equal pay policies and instead discussed a trickle-down approach to women’s benefits:
Romney: “What we can do to help young women and women of all ages is to have a strong economy, so strong that employers that are looking to find good employees and bringing them into their workforce and adapting to a flexible work schedule that gives women opportunities that they would otherwise not be able to afford.”
Shorter Romney: if I’m President, the economy’s going to be so awesome, employers are going to have to hire women.
This was the part of the debate that produced the night’s oddest turn of phrase. Rather than embrace equal pay for equal work, Romney related a story about how he tried to find qualified women to serve in his cabinet, but apparently qualified women are really hard for him to find.
Romney: “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.”
“Binders full of women” promptly became a trending topic on Twitter.
But here’s the most telling exchange for me. Romney explains that “if” we’re going to have women in the workforce (if?) they need special accommodations:
Romney: “Now one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort. But number two, because I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school.
She said, I can’t be here until 7 or 8 o’clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o’clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said fine. Let’s have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.”
Because us ladies need to be home in time to make dinner. Please no one tell my husband. But really, why can’t employers just be flexible with all their employees? Isn’t that the point of the question? Equal pay (and benefits, presumably) for equal work? Just don’t be dicks and let all your employees have a flexible schedule so they can be good parents. Dads are people too.
The full transcript of the debate is available now. What was your favorite exchange?