A belated remark on “binders full of women”

Regular readers should know that I’m no fan of Romney and that however much Obama has been disappointing, I want him to win. I hope that leaves me room to point out, then, that the “binders full of women” thing is kind of bizarre to me. As I’ve pointed out on Twitter, binders are a perfectly acceptable way to store resumes, and if his goal was to prioritize the hiring of women, organizing binders full of women’s resumes seems like a good practical step. In addition, though I did not watch the debate (in part because I can’t bear to watch video of Romney), I’ve heard from several people who did watch it that the “binders full of women” remark did not actually stand out to them and that they were surprised that it became a “thing.”

Why this remark, then, out of all the other stupid things he said? I would venture to say that this was singled out for ridicule precisely because it was a case where Romney appeared to be doing something liberals would like and, indeed, seemed to have his heart in the right place. Anyone could make his conservative talking points sound stupid (i.e., simply repeat them) — the truly astute political move was to make his very attempt to swing toward the center and shed his “severely conservative” persona seem like a laughable and even vaguely creepy thing to say.

It’s classic Karl Rove: attack your enemy precisely on his greatest strength, and then there’s no good way to respond. And I think that it’s actually a positive sign that Democrats are using that kind of tactic, because it shows that they’re willing to fight, that they recognize the Republicans as an enemy. That kind of politicization is in itself a positive step away from the self-inflicted impotence that has beset liberals for a generation.

Overheard remarks

In connection the directed reading over Lacan that I’m supervising, I recently read Jonathan Lear’s Freud, which I assigned to make up for the fact that we can’t literally do the ideal thing to prepare for the reading of Lacan, i.e., read all of Freud 14 times in German. Lear spent some time on Freud’s dream of the botanical manuscript, the interpretation of which hinged crucially on something Freud’s father said about him, in his presence, but not to him: “He’ll never amount to anything.” I recalled that Bruce Fink had also reported the importance of overheard parental declarations in psychoanalysis — and the fact that the crucial declaration may not even be about the child himself or herself (for example, if Freud’s father made the same declaration about the neighbor boy, but Freud had misunderstood it as referring to him), an idea that for some reason struck me as deeply tragic and meaningful.

A chain of associations opened up. For instance, once when I was in grade school, I decided that I should become a spy and hid under my parents’ bed and listened to an odd conversation. Read the rest of this entry »

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