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My File Cabinets Full of Men

 I completely appreciate why the internet is buzzing about Governor Romney’s claim during Tuesday’s presidential debate that he had “binders full of women.”  But there’s also a part of me that identifies with his statement.

I, after all, have file cabinets full of men.

While Romney said he used the binders to identify qualified candidates for key positions in state government, my file cabinets serve an entirely different purpose.

I use them to store reminders of all the men that are NOT qualified to be in any part of my life.

I started my first file when I was a young girl and a boy told me that men were more important than women because they got to keep their last names when they got married. I was devastated, but I was also angry. As a result, that boy had the honor of being the first male I ever put in a file cabinet.

Over the decades, I’ve filled several file cabinets with men. Some of the most memorable include:

*  The minister who insisted my friend keep the word “obey” in her wedding vows.

*  The agency director who tried to prevent me from getting a management position because I breastfed my baby during a meeting that I graciously attended while on maternity leave.

* The community leader who always referred to me by using my husband’s last name, even though he knew I had never changed mine.

*  The manager who issued a dress code that all female employees must wear pantyhose with skirts or dresses.  (For the record, the dress code was issued during the summer when I was eight months pregnant.)

*  The nonprofit executive who, with a staff of all women, refused to let mothers take sick leave when a child was ill or had a doctor’s appointment. At that time, we were all granted a set number of days for both vacation and sick leave, but vacation was much more limited. The director’s exact words were, “letting mothers take sick leave for their children isn’t fair to the employees who don’t have children.”

* The supervisor who blatantly promoted young, attractive females over more qualified, middle-aged women.

I’ve recently been considering adding another man to my file cabinets. While this man claims to support women, he’s never demonstrated any real understanding of the often life-long battle many of us have faced. He’s skirted around the issues of equal pay for equal work and reproductive rights. And even when he tries to express his appreciation about the need for equality in the workplace, he falls short by indicating that women don’t want to work long hours because they have to go home and fix dinner.

Yes, this week I’m definitely thinking about adding that man to my file cabinets. I’m just not sure if his binders will fit too.

There’s Going to Be Trouble When You Live in a Bubble

Keeping an eye on politics this week  has been as compelling as anything the best Hollywood writers could make up. Mitt Romney, the front-runner for the Republican nomination for President of the United States, actually said that he cares about Americans but that he isn’t concerned about the very poor because they have a safety net.

That’s precisely what he said.  In that exact order.  What happened next, while predictable, was still extremely entertaining.

Some political pundits latched onto the concept that Romney didn’t care about the poor and (gasp) he didn’t even consider them Americans.

Others suggested that he was supporting the notion that government should help the poor indefinitely without encouraging them improve their situations.

And others, particularly those in the Republican party, despaired that Romney is a bad politician who blunders when he doesn’t have a teleprompter.

I have to agree with the latter.  When Romney opens his mouth without a script, his comments seem unsympathetic to the average American.  His latest remarks about the poor just add to the growing concern.

The  doubts have been building with every questionable statement:  his spontaneous offer to bet Rick Perry $10,000 (a very sizable amount of money to the average American);  his remark that he is also unemployed (not funny to the millions without a job or a daily income like he has) and his insensitive language about liking to fire people.  All of these feed into the perception that Romney has no clue about the daily struggles many Americans face.

And there may be something to that. He has, after all, lived in a bubble his entire life.

He grew up in a bubble and doesn’t appear to have left it. That bubble has protected him from worrying about which bills he could afford to pay or whether his children would be able to go to college.  I’m pretty sure that there’s never been any coupon clipping, layaways  or bargain hunting in the Romney bubble.

But apparently the barrier between Romney’s bubble and the rest of the world isn’t impenetrable. Rumblings of discontent about the disparity between the very rich and the rest of the country actually seem to be reaching Romney’s ears. But the layers of film between us are distorting the message, and he just isn’t hearing it correctly.

But Romney’s not alone.

Because of  religion, socio-economic status and even our appearances, many of us live in a bubble and generally associate with, relate to and hear the opinions of people who are very similar to us. And while some people step outside of their bubbles, others never do.

The problem with staying in your own bubble is that you generally don’t hear or understand the plight of those outside the bubble.  I’ve bumped into a lot of those people as they float through life. It’s not that people who stay in their own bubbles are bad people. Bubbles simply distort how they see things, so their view of the world just isn’t accurate.

But who can blame them? Living in a bubble can be deceptively comfortable.

Unfortunately, people who are floating around in their own bubbles are still part of the real world: a world where poverty is not a moral issue, where people still face discrimination and where money is a driving force in determining who has power.

If you are floating around in a bubble,  your hands may never get dirty, your heart may never fully empathize and your head may never understand.

And that’s the problem with Mitt Romney.  It’s hard to understand something you’ve never felt or experienced.  And it’s even worse if you don’t recognize the fact that you’re living in a bubble.

On the bright side, most everyone likes watching bubbles float away and eventually pop.  Even as a child, I found the sight highly entertaining. I’m pretty sure I still do.

No Mitt Romney, It’s Not Envy That’s Making Me Green

I was getting ready for work yesterday morning, when my stomach started churning.

No, it wasn’t morning sickness. At least, not the typical type of morning sickness.

My nausea was the result of listening to Matt Lauer interview Mitt Romney after his decisive win in the New Hampshire Presidential Primary.

Let me restate that.

I was nauseous listening to Mitt Romney respond to Matt Lauer.

Lauer had asked the heir apparent to the Republican throne if it was fair to characterize questions about income inequality and Wall Street greed as “politics of envy.”

Personally, I thought this was a great question, because issues of income inequality are important to me.  How politicians understand and care about the less fortunate is just as critical.

Then Mitt Romney opened his mouth.

“I think it’s about envy. I think it’s about class warfare,” Romney said. ” … you’ve opened up a whole new wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of ‘one nation under God.'”

Envy? Class Warfare? God? Obviously, Romney’s comments were simple pandering:  throwing out key words that his handlers had identified as appealing to potential voters.

Raising the issue of economic inequality has nothing to do with envy.  In fact, it’s just the opposite. It reflects compassion and caring for all Americans, not just a few privileged individuals.

All political candidates, regardless of party affiliation, have more dollars flowing into their campaign coffers than make sense for a nation with a struggling economy and where children are going to bed cold and hungry. So I definitely think we should all be asking questions.

Besides, addressing issues of inequality isn’t anything new.  I thought it was what this country was all about.  Up until the last few years, if America was in a beauty contest, equality would have been her platform.

But there IS something wrong in America.  And it’s not just one or two individuals who can be blamed. It’s the system.

Report after report shows that income inequality is growing while at the same time, the amount of money flowing into politics is greatly influencing policy.  Those with money are controlling policies, and policies drive how money flows.  Most Americans are finding it difficult to break into that exclusive circle. So if you don’t have money, your influence is very limited.

Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed with Romney’s reaction. Then he said something even worse.

“I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms and discussions about tax policy and the like,” Romney said. “But the president has made this part of his campaign rally. Everywhere he goes we hear him talking about millionaires and billionaires and executives and Wall Street. It’s a very envy-oriented, attack-oriented approach and I think it’ll fail.”

Forget his comments about Obama. My mind was stuck on the fact that he thought issues of inequality should occur in quiet rooms.

I was dumbstruck. Then I got nauseous.

The issues of unequal distribution of money and the unequal distribution of power shouldn’t be raised during political campaigns?  They shouldn’t be the subject of public debate? Did he really say that?

Isn’t that what some people used to think of racism? of women’s rights? about gay rights? About all the critical issues that ultimately helped define, and are still defining America? Does Romney really think those issues should also be discussed in quiet rooms?

With my stomach still rolling, I had to ask myself if he doesn’t want them discussed publicly because the current system suits his need and he sees no need for change.  Or does he really just think that people with less money, less education or fewer connections really shouldn’t have an equal voice or opportunity to express their opinions publicly? Or is it both?

With a face green with nausea, not envy, I turned the television off and left for work.

On my agenda for the morning? Giving a presentation on “the Dimensions of Poverty.” The presentation went well. The 50 or so people from various business and social sectors really wanted to talk about the issue. And the room wasn’t even close to quiet.