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'Binders Of Women' Becomes Viral Sensation


Presidential campaigns have a way of conferring instant popularity on certain people and phrases.


Big Bird.

BLOCK: Joe the Plumber.

SIEGEL: The economy, stupid.

BLOCK: You didn't build that.

SIEGEL: Well now, add another. During last night's debate, it came from Mitt Romney talking about recruiting women to his cabinet when he was governor of Massachusetts.

MITT ROMNEY: 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.

BLOCK: Binders full of women.

SIEGEL: That phrase seems to have captured the popular imagination, at least as far as it's measured by interest on the Internet. NPR's Yuki Noguchi has this profile of the election's latest online sensation.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: Until 9:40 last night, Veronica de Souza wasn't having a banner day. She got laid off from her job as a manager of social media yesterday, and the 23-year-old was in shock. She sat with her laptop, watching the debate, which happened to be taking place at her alma mater, Hofstra University. That's when Mitt Romney said the thing about the binders.

VERONICA DE SOUZA: I had Tumblr open already, because I love Tumblr.


NOGUCHI: That's a site where people can share photos and videos.

DE SOUZA: And I just went to make a new blog, saw that it was free, and I was like, all right. I'm going to take this. Not sure what I'm going to do with it yet, but I'm going to take it.

NOGUCHI: How many minutes would you say elapsed between when he said that and when you'd claimed it?

DE SOUZA: I don't think it was even a minute.

NOGUCHI: The page de Souza snagged was Binders Full of Women. She first posted her own images of women sandwiched in three-ring binders, then opened it up to outside contributions. Within minutes, she received a revamped image of John Cusack from the movie "Say Anything" hoisting binders in place of a boom box. Another looked like an oil painting of Romney holding a binder with protruding legs. There was also Hugh Hefner leaning against racks of, what else? Binders. Within five hours, she topped 3,000 submissions.

DE SOUZA: There was one with Beyonce about putting three rings on it.


DE SOUZA: That's one of my favorite ones. And then, actually, one of my friends Photoshopped the movie poster for "My Sister's Keeper," and he changed it to "My Sister's Trapper Keeper."

NOGUCHI: As of 9:50 this morning, de Souza was up and at it again.

DE SOUZA: I have 1,600 waiting to be read.

NOGUCHI: De Souza says she's also got thousands of very political comments, criticizing her or applauding her as the Democrats' darling du jour. But in fact, de Souza isn't yet sure who will get her vote. And anyway, she says, that wasn't her point.

DE SOUZA: What it came from was a very political thing. But this is not, for me, a political statement in any sort of way.

NOGUCHI: She just thought it was funny and hopes it will lead to a new job - in social media, of course.

DE SOUZA: I have, like, an unhealthy obsession with the Internet. I love it. I love the way it works. I love the way that anybody can do anything. And, I mean, look what happened to me overnight. Like, in an hour, I had 5,000 people looking at what I was posting. And that's insane to me, but great.

NOGUCHI: But she also knows the Web is a place where things live and die quickly.

DE SOUZA: The same way that Big Bird was over in a week, this is going to live out its course. I know that it'll be mostly done in about a week.

NOGUCHI: By then, de Souza plans to be where she was last night, laptop at hand, keeping a close eye on the next debate. Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Yuki Noguchi is a correspondent on the Science Desk based out of NPR's headquarters in Washington, D.C. She started covering consumer health in the midst of the pandemic, reporting on everything from vaccination and racial inequities in access to health, to cancer care, obesity and mental health.

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