Were Scott Brown and Gail Huff's Comments on Women Sexist or Just Dumb?

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
March 27 2012 5:45 PM

What Should We Make of Scott Brown and Gail Huff's Comments on Women?

U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) respects "strong-willed women" who teach him how to cook.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

It’s no surprise that here at DoubleX, we’re constantly on the lookout for sexism. And yesterday, Republican Senator Scott Brown—who’s vying with political superwoman Elizabeth Warren for the Massachusetts seat—said something sexist. In fact, the thing he said with a masterful assist from his wife, Gail Huff, was so sexist, so absurdly chauvinistic, that it was basically a caricature of sexism, a scenario right out of some poorly edited workplace training video from the 1990s. In a perverse way, the silliness of the comment almost makes you wish for something better, a really toothsome sexist statement that would inspire more than just a sad shake of the head. Instead, we’ve crossed over into the land of political stupidity, and that’s a development that should concern Massachusetts voters far more than the nature of Brown’s stance toward women.

J. Bryan Lowder J. Bryan Lowder

J. Bryan Lowder is a Slate assistant editor. He writes and edits for Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section, and for the culture section.

Here’s the thing they said, via the AP:


Brown said he's used to being surrounded by "strong willed women" and Huff said the family, including Brown and the couple's two daughters Ayla and Arianna, have open discussions around the kitchen table.

"The girls, now that they are 23 and 21, have very, very specific ideas about what they do and don't believe and they chime in with a lot of great ideas, and it's wonderful for both of us to be able to bounce things off of them because their generation sees things very differently," Huff said.

Brown declined to be more specific about the family discussions, but when a reporter asked Huff to name an issue that she and the couple's daughter have educated Brown on, Brown chimed in and said "how to cook."

"Yeah, how to cook, how to sew, how to clean," Huff added.

We can agree that it is sexist to imply that all the ideas in a woman’s head have to do with the domestic arts. But let’s allow for a moment that Brown and Huff were joking, because, surely, they don’t actually believe that their own daughters are so limited. Why in the world would you make that kind of joke? When much of the very event you’re speaking at has to do with spinning your questionable record on women with assistance from Olympia Snow in a more favorable direction (Brown has recently been touting his supposedly brave bipartisan support for reauthorization of the shouldn’t-be-controversial Violence Against Women Act), why would you undermine the whole point of the thing with this inane mess?

The only answer I can see is a disturbing lack of political sophistication, and if I were running against an opponent as savvy and formidable as Warren, that’s something I would be projecting in spades. But who knows? Maybe the Brown daughters—who I expect are rather personally embarrassed by this gaffe—will be able to help mom and dad out with some very pointed “ideas” regarding their intelligence next time they all gather round the kitchen table.  



The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers


Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.


The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
Dear Prudence
Oct. 23 2014 6:00 AM Monster Kids from poorer neighborhoods keep coming to trick-or-treat in mine. Do I have to give them candy?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
Oct. 22 2014 11:54 PM The Actual World “Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.