My Blood Runs Cold: Where Was the Outrage Over Scott Brown In Cosmo?

This article was originally published at Mediaite and is reprinted with permission from the author.

By now you’ve heard: Scott Brown, the Lt. Colonel of the Army National Guard, has just been elected to the United States Senate. Oh, also, he posed nude in Cosmo in 1982. And now that this campaign is over, I have to wonder – where was the outrage?

I have yet to find any. But had a woman candidate done the same, it would have cost her the election. No female politician could hope to make it out of a scandal like that.

Michelle Obama faces daily scrutiny from the media on every one of her wardrobe choices. It’s a national controversy every time she bares her arms – imagine if she’d posed even more bare! (I can practically hear Rush Limbaugh’s tirade already).

Sarah Palin’s background in beauty pageants
was constantly mocked during the 2008 campaign, and remains another
shot to be aimed at her, another reason why she is taken less seriously
as a candidate. “Before Gov. Sarah Palin came flying in from the wilds
of Alaska for the Republican convention in St. Paul, there was a lot of
sniggering in media rooms and satellite trucks about her beauty queen
looks and rustic hobbies, and the suggestion that she was better suited
to be a calendar model for a local auto body shop than a holder of the
second-highest office in the land,” wrote David Carr in the New York Times in 2008.

She was derided as a dumb beauty queen, but he’s praised as a “hunk.”

Monday night on Fox, the Washington Post’s Sally Quinn said that Brown is a “hunk and the fact that he posed “semi-nude” actually “gave him a huge advantage in terms of the public recognition” and that “It made him a recognizable public figure, which he was not before. A lot of women think he’s really cute.”

Gawker has been using Brown’s centerfold image since September.
Wonkette dug up the photo in 2007 and it has been circulating in the
media ever since. And yet, this man has just been elected to the United
States Senate – the fact that he took his clothes off for a magazine
didn’t hurt his race one bit, and the media is at fault for brushing it
off because he’s a man.

It’s a sharp contrast from how the public – and the media – would
have reacted had a woman candidate been in the same situation. One can
only imagine how harshly a woman would be judged in the outpouring of
blog posts and media coverage after a woman politician’s nude photos
were discovered: She’s promiscuous! She’s a slut! She must be
hiding other skeletons in her closet! And probably most importantly:
the media and blogosphere would no doubt question her very
qualifications and fitness for public office.

“Would Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin even be on their town councils
if they had posed nude for a men’s magazine? Of course not- the media
frenzy would have sunk them, but the press is collectively giggling
over Scott Brown’s centerfold,” said Patricia Murphy, Capitol Hill
Bureau Chief of Politics Daily.

“But maybe Scott Brown’s success will open the door for Stormy Daniels to be taken more seriously? If it doesn’t disqualify him, it shouldn’t disqualify anyone,” she added.

Remember when Hillary Clinton showed the tiniest bit of cleavage and the media let loose? Even the Washington Post wrote a lengthy essay debating the meaning of the cleavage and what it said about Hillary’s image – and all she did was wear a low-cut top. And Clinton’s pantsuits were the butt of countless jokes on the 2008 campaign trail — the Washington Post said she was “dressed like a solar flare.”

“Google “Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits” and the thousands of pages
that come up are an amalgamation of gentle mockery, a modicum of
flattery and all-out derision,” the LA Times declared in September 2008.

It’s appalling that the media hasn’t shown more outrage over the now
Senator-elect Scott Brown’s actions, where we most certainly know they
would do so had it been a woman. But perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised –
this kind of sexism has long been rampant in our media system. Sarah
Palin’s background in beauty pageants is routinely mocked. And yet,
these women faced severe criticism for these choices despite the fact
that none did anything as drastic as posing nude in a national women’s

Where a woman’s very morals and character would be questioned in
this situation, Scott Brown is getting a free pass from the media, and
the voters that just elected him. He’s a “hunk,” his behavior was
charmingly “footloose and carefree.”
And meanwhile WaPo’s Quinn lavishes Brown with praise, claiming that
posing in Cosmo gave him a huge advantage — you know, because Brown is
a “hunk.”

Thanks for standing up for women candidates, Washington Post and the rest of the media. Thanks for nothing.

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  • kate-ranieri

    Your article illustrates the sad truth about the superficial, sexist nature of mass media, politics and our government.

  • karmamusings

    Great comment on this morning’s The Takeaway ( “Coakley lost to a Ken Doll.” – um. yeah. And the above shows the truth of it!

  • harry834

    to WashPost’s Outlook-section email. Also pasted the last two paragraphs of this post.

  • crowepps

    First Sarah Palin, now Scott Brown.

    Apparently people don’t want to vote for ‘policy-wonks’ or ‘professional politicians’ but instead for the elective equivalent of a spokes-model. It isn’t important what they know or how smart they are or if they have any experience – what’s important is that they look good on TV!

    Do people think they’re watching a show called “Survivor: Candidate”?

  • jacqueline-s-homan

    The media has played just as big, if not a bigger, role in social engineering. The fact that one’s youth or attractiveness trumps character or talent in the job market and in the political arena says it all. 

    "Imposing the non-benign medical condition of childbirth, on unwilling women at peril to their health, wellbeing, lives, and liberty; is the ultimate form of chattel slavery — a human rights violation under Article 7(g) of the Rome Statute."

  • progo35

    She was derided as a dumb beauty queen, but he’s praised as a “hunk.”
    Well, how nice of you to have noticed! Especially since the ilk of RH reality check went around fanning sexism against Sarah Palin. May this recognition be a wake up call to all the hypocritical leftists who demand rights for certain women but not others.

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • flynnd

    Please. Enough with the nudity schmudity. Name me one male candidate who’s ever been given a pass like Sarah Palin has for actively avoiding press conferences and tough interviews from shows other than O’Reilly and Hannity and the embarrassingly fawning Greta van Susteren.

    Palin tweats, the media posts. Disgraceful.