The “binders full of women” meme took over the national discourse to the point that it was referred to as “Binder-gate” by Joe Scarborough. One pundit pointed out that he didn't notice the odd phrasing, but his wife did.
And if you go back and watch that portion of the debate, you will hear the real reason why this phrase—which was just really the slip of the tongue—resonated like a high-pitched bell with women.
When asked about equal pay for equal work, instead of answering the question directly Mitt Romney sidetracked the question entirely, and said "If you’re going to have women in the workforce…”
Contrast this statement with the way Mitt talks about his run for the presidency. He almost always uses the word “when” like it's a foregone conclusion that he will win--votes be damned. He acts like this election is a hostile takeover, and he is speaking to a boardroom of people who used to be in power but are now cowering under his gaze just hoping that they can keep their jobs and that he won't declare war against their competitors.
But when referring to working women, he used the non-declarative phrasing “If...” Mitt Romney lives in a world where women don't have to work. They choose to work. Most women live in the world where they have to work to make ends meet. I know exactly one stay-at-home mom, and she works freelance while homeschooling her children.
Mitt lives in a world where you can be the CEO of a company for twenty years and still not know one woman qualified to fill a cabinet position. I can name at least ten women who hold such qualifications and that's in my family alone. Don't get me started on the talented and intelligent women who are my friends and co-workers.
He then goes on to say that he’s going to create so many jobs that employers are going to be anxious to hire women. But hiring women is the foregone conclusion. Who wouldn't want the same productivity at three-quarters of the cost? It’s a free-market dream. But it’s a financial nightmare for women.
So in the light of these statements and the ever revealing truth that the scenario he put forth was a fictional account of the events that he concocted to fit his narrative, it's easy to see that the “binders full of women” comment was a crystallization of the ridiculousness of a man who is unwilling to support equal pay for women.
So this is what we heard. This is why it resonates. “If…” is the dog whistle only women could hear.