Perhaps anticipating the flurry of unflattering Internet memes lampooning Gov. Mitt Romney’s ham-fisted response to a question about equal pay for women, some high-profile supporters of the Republican nominee took to Twitter on Tuesday to demean the young undecided voter whose perfectly reasonable question set the Web ablaze.
Some of the tweets were culled by the liberal watchdog Media Matters, which posted screen captures of the comments late Tuesday. One comment invoked the flippant “feminazi” label in reference to the questioner, identified as Katherine Fenton, who asked what the candidates would do to close the wage gap between men and women.
“In what new ways do you intend to rectify inequalities in the workplace?” Fenton asked. “Specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn.”
The query provoked an almost instant response from the conservative author Matthew Vadum, who tweeted, “[Fenton] brings up the feminazi leftist lie that women don't get paid equally.”
Fox News personality Greg Gutfeld compared Fenton to Sandra Fluke, adding, “I haven’t seen a man grovel before women since ‘The Bachelorette.’”
Fenton, who appears to be in her early 20s, has not responded to the criticism.
Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center, said it was particularly “distressing” that some of the pundits were painting wage inequality as liberal propaganda.
“I guess it's easier to mock Katherine Fenton than examine the evidence that backs up her point,” she said in an email message. “Women are paid less than men, both the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau back this up. Mocking the woman who asked the question won't help the country narrow the pay gap for women. Only addressing the problem will.”
In response to Fenton’s question, President Obama cited the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which loosens the statute of limitations for employees who believe they have received a discriminatory paycheck.
Romney responded to the question with an anecdote about the lack of available female applicants when he was pulling together his cabinet as Massachusetts’s governor.
“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 added.
The poorly worded response led to a deluge of “Binders Full of Women” memes that continued to flood the Internet through Wednesday morning. The domain name bindersfullofwomen.com was reserved almost instantly and now directs to a website detailing Romney’s voting track record on women’s issues.
The Obama campaign wasted no time capitalizing on the phenomenon, purchasing a promoted tweet that labeled Romney’s anecdote as “empty.”
David S. Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix challenged the veracity of the anecdote, writing in a blog post that the now-famous binder was not requested by Romney but in fact presented to him by a bipartisan Massachusetts women’s group.
Since the campaign season began, Romney appears to have developed a distinct talent for inspiring viral Web shenanigans. The torrent of Big Bird memes sparked by his stated intention to cut federal funding for PBS during the first presidential debate has only recently begun to die down.
At the very least, Photoshop users across the nation have something to occupy their time -- at least, until the candidates meet again next week.
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