More to Presidential Debate Than Issues

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) speaks as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (L) listens during the second U.S. presidential debate in Hempstead, New York, October 16, 2012.
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) speaks as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (L) listens during the second U.S. presidential debate in Hempstead, New York, October 16, 2012.
June Simms

U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney held the second of three nationally televised debates on Tuesday. The two debated issues including the economy, energy and foreign policy during a town hall-style meeting at New York's Hofstra University.

Jennifer Sclafani is a visiting professor of linguistics at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She says the debate was very different from the first presidential debate two weeks ago.

"Last night I would say that we really saw the president back on offense and taking control of the floor, both figuratively and literally. And of course Romney was also quick on offense and concise in outlining his own position for most of the debate. So he described very succinctly what he saw were weaknesses or broken promises in the president’s performance," she said.

Professor Sclafani says the linguistic style and communication displayed was only one of the things that set this debate apart from the last one.

“Even more than linguistic style, some of the differences that really stood out to me were actually non-linguistic. Here we had a town hall format in which questions were fielded from the audience and candidates were not physically confined before a podium as they were in the last debate," she said. 

She says this allowed the candidates more freedom to walk around and to engage with the audience and each other. And she says it resulted in some heated non-verbal exchanges.

“The candidates didn’t just get in each other’s conversational space by interrupting each other, but they actually got in each other’s physical space. If you had muted the volume on the debate their movements across the stage were almost reminiscent of a boxing match. So you saw them engaging in this non-verbal physical dance throughout the debate. And it was very obvious in terms of their physical movements when they were being verbally aggressive towards each other because you could see it reflected in their physical movements," she said.

Although the president’s demeanor and the physical layout of the debate stage were major points of difference between the first and second debates, one verbal comment by Mitt Romney did seem to take on a life of its own on social media, picking up thousands of responses on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook. 

Romney was responding to a question from a female audience member about pay inequality in the workplace. He said that during his time as governor of Massachusetts, he had worked with women’s groups to help him find qualified women to fill cabinet positions on his staff.

“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," he said. 

Professor Sclafani explains what Mitt Romney meant by “binders full of women.”

“That reference to binders of women, when I first heard it I thought of an actual three-ring binder that had several resumes from women that he was looking through when choosing leaders in his team," she said. 

She says there are a couple of reasons that the comment may have received such a negative response.

“Many people took offense to the use of this term for two reasons. This idea of connecting binders and women together can either objectify women or take away their humanity and just present them as pieces of paper that are bound in this physical folder," she said. 

She also says the wording also brings to mind the discourses of feminism and the women’s movement in the United States.

“I think many people, especially women, perceived this specific choice of word[ing] of “binders of women,” as being reminiscent of an idea that women are actually bound in society, and they are not free," she said. 

One social media user tweeted that in order “to solve the problem of pay inequality we don’t need more ‘binders full of women.’ We need more ballots full of women.”

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Janine from: Las Vegas
October 17, 2012 10:38 PM
I think it is ridiculous to discuss the term binder. That seems self explanatory. Looking at resumes....Lets look at the real issues, jobs, inflation, illegal immigration, education, the crazy high tax rates, the heavy burden of regulations on business, the increasing invasion of big government on our rights and lives and Americas standing in the world! The rest is a smoke screen designed to make people lose focus of what is real!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs