Pop Theory: Binders, Binders Everywhere

Nearly two weeks away from the election, all this binder-speak has me wondering, “What kind of binder would I fit into?”

What kind of binder would you fit into? Or, are we into shattering the “binder form” altogether?

Romney’s unfortunate phrase, which Melissa Harris-Perry noted was the former Massachusetts governor’s own unintentional acknowledgement of utilizing affirmative action, has been meme’d-to-death and yet it symbolically can be used to think about the critical, seemingly subtle, ideological differences between women — especially between, say, a queer lesbian woman such as myself and the “waitress mom” (this election’s version of the 2008 “Grizzly mom”).

Voter suppression laws withheld, women, who comprise a majority of the US population, will determine this election. But not all women are the same, especially in terms of ideology — which is why it is important that each and everyone of you think critically about your individual values and which candidate, if any, you feel would best represent those values in office.

As a queer-lesbian-feminist woman, I’m finding it quite difficult to determine if any candidate deserves my vote, especially an “etch-a-sketch,” or “flip-flop” candidate whose values seem to change more frequently than the direction of the wind. My incredulity with political candidates in regard to their fickle-mindedness is the reason why I left politics: I gave three years of my time to doing (mostly) fieldwork for Al Gore in preparation for the 2000 election. Witnessessing how the political polls and pundits puppeted him around disgusted me. I was done with American politics after that election.

The domination of special interest groups has resulted in the pigeonholing of voters. The HRC has done a boffo job (why, yes, I’m being sarcastic) at establishing the two “gay” causes as revoking DOMA and DADT, the latter of which was achieved a little over a year ago. In my last column, I, evoking Fran Lebowitz, spoke about the irony of craving admission into such institutions and touting that admission as “freedom.” The point is that candidates have pigeonholed everyone in the LGBT community as prioritizing these two issues, marriage and the military. A consequence of this is that queer-lesbian-feminist women, or any queer who sees these two issues as bandages for larger societal ills (like universal healthcare and US militaristic imperialism), are not being accounted for in this election. We have no binder, or, better put, the candidates really don’t give a shit about us. Why? We have no political currency. The “pink dollar” is held in the hands of white gay men, who, ironically, comprise the smallest percentage of out LGBTs. Perennial gay white dude Joe Salmonese, the former head of the HRC, is co-Chair of Obama’s re-election campaign.

Black lesbians, nota bene, make up the largest percentage of our “out” community. What kind of political power do they hold when neither candidate will even mention increasing the minimum wage? When it’s open season on affirmative action? (The white woman is the perfect conservative pawn.) In the second debate, Romney subverted revealing his opinion about equal pay for women with the now notorious “binders full of women” anecdote. Obama spoke of signing the Lily Ledbetter act, which allows women to sue for equal pay — but this piece of legislation should in no way be construed as legislation mandating equal pay. No ladies, you must sue for it.

Ah, America.

Queer people, again, as I noted in my previous column, are substantially poorer than our hetero-counterparts. This means our political gravitas is, well, anything but deep. I don’t have a pragmatic solution for this issue unless patriarchy and all its shitty ramifications magically disappear. Sorry, people.

But I can say this: think carefully about who you plan to vote for this election. Voting is our right. Try not to be a single-issue voter. For instance, if you’re a proponent of the food movement, you probably know that this movement encapsulates a handful of issues: from animal rights and environmental conservation to fair trade practices and corporate regulation. And don’t let anyone pressure you into voting one way or the other, or the other. If you want to vote for a third party candidate — say, the Green Party’s Dr. Jill Stein — don’t let anyone convince you that you’re “throwing away” your vote or that your vote help’s the ideologically worse candidate. A vote for Jill Stein, for instance, is not a vote for Romney — this faulty line of thinking presumes that had you not voted for Stein that you would have automatically voted for Obama.

Vote early, and vote often (!). And, if you’re voting by absentee ballot, send in that shit ASAP!

What issues / values determine how you vote?